By Daysi Calavia-Robertson Newsday
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Newsday takes a look at the unique business of specialized holiday "window painting" and how some artists can cash in big time during the Christmas season.
For Long Island artists who run decorative window painting businesses, the holiday season is a gift.
"It's the time of year when window art is the most popular," said Marianne Wegener, owner of North Bellmore-based MW Designs NY.
"Everyone wants to celebrate . . . and covering their windows with festive designs is an easy way to attract attention and business. It's a high-profit time for us."
Wegener, who studied design and technical theater at Syracuse University, said the season kicks off in September, when businesses request Halloween, Thanksgiving or fall-themed designs, and runs through mid-December, when Christmas, Hanukkah or winter wonderland artwork is in demand.
She averages about 70 jobs over the holiday season, "and the number of actual windows painted is easily double that."
Melissa Digiose, 41, of Ridge, said her custom art business, MD Design Studio, gets so many window art requests during the fall and winter she can't always take them all on.
In addition to businesses that want their windows painted, Digiose gets calls from people who want holiday art on the windows of their homes.
The spike in clients and the condensed time frame bring in big bucks that can help these businesses stay afloat during less busy months, said Wegener, who supplements her off-season income by doing custom chalkboard art, wanted by restaurants for menus or couples for weddings, as well as wallpaper designs, hand-drawn stencils and murals.
For Digiose, window art is an add-on to her other more profitable year-round services, which include canvas painting parties and residential wall murals.
Thomas Shinick, an entrepreneurship and marketing expert and adjunct professor at Adelphi University's business school, said companies could also increase profits in the off-season by creating package deals that include lower rates for holiday projects if clients agree to decorate their windows at different times of the year like Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter.
"These artists and entrepreneurs need to drive the point home to their customers that Christmastime is not the only time to dress your windows," he said.
"They shouldn't show off for the holidays and have boring, naked windows the rest of the year. They should create an expectation for people to want to swing by the store and see what design is up. It should always be fresh and fun."
Rates at MW Designs run from $125 for a residential-size door up to thousands for a diner or showroom with more than 20 windows. On average, clients can expect to pay about $300 for about five hours of work.
Digiose, who studied art at The Academy of Art in San Francisco and the New York Institute of Technology in Westbury, said her rates start at $50 a window, but "can easily become pricier" depending on the size of the project, the level of detail and the distance she has to travel.
While some artists work in reverse on the inside of the windows, others paint on the outside with weatherproof paints.
For businesses, "customization is important," said Maria Carulli-Ponzio, marketing director at Peak Performance, a physical therapy business that has been an MW Designs client for a couple of years for its four locations.
"Marianne has painted a bunch of cute snowmen doing different therapy exercises and many other fitness-inspired window murals, which our patients constantly compliment," she said. "It's fun holiday decor, but it's more than that because it's highly tailored to what we want to show as a business, that we're willing to invest money into something beautiful and unique and that we're proud to be a part of the community."
Some businesses, like Steve Candon's State Farm Insurance office in Franklin Square, decorate their windows year-round.
"You only have a few seconds to grab someone's attention with any type of advertising," Candon said. "This is something that people seem to really enjoy, and they're always kind of looking forward to the next design."
For Scalice Land Surveying in Lindenhurst, Digiose created 16 custom windows featuring snowmen and penguins wearing hard hats and clutching clipboards and surveying tools.
"I've pretty much done it all -- dentist offices, pet grooming shops, pizza places, the Wyandanch firehouse, and lately, more and more homes," said Digiose.
Plainview resident Gloria Geraci, managing director of a legal recruitment firm in Manhattan, took her inspiration from a neighborhood diner. "I noticed all the windows were painted and they just looked so lovely, so I thought
'Hey! I would love this at my house!' "
Geraci paid Digiose $325 to paint her front door and six windows. The door features four colorful, scarf-wearing, carrot-nosed snowmen collaborating to place a golden star on top of a Christmas tree, and the windows sport big red ribbons.
"When Melissa was painting the snowmen, people kept passing by and stopping to talk to her, which is kind of a bummer because I was secretly hoping to take credit for it myself," Geraci said laughing.
"It's definitely been a big hit in the neighborhood."