Fine art and photographic printing company moves to downtown Dearborn, opens storefront art space

After more than 20 years of running their business out of a handful of different Dearborn storefronts, Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren made the difficult decision to close their physical location in east downtown Dearborn. Stormy Records, at least as we came to know it, was no more; the business still operates on the internet, selling vinyl records, CDs, and more across various websites and online platforms.

In winding down their storefront, Weber and Hultgren made a call to long-time customer, friend, and fellow Dearborn business owner Chris Bennett. Bennett, who owns and operates Image Works, which first opened in Dearborn’s Monroe shopping district in 2018, had always casually mentioned the appeal of moving his business to east downtown Dearborn. And Weber and Hultgren knew just the space.

“I’m a vinyl collector and I used to come to Stormy a lot, got to know Windy and Carl pretty well. I always said that I wanted to move to this side of town,” says Bennett. “The artist studios, the galleries, the Arab American National Museum, Blick — there’s a lot going on down here.”

Now Bennett finds himself in the thick of it, having moved Image Works into the old Stormy Records storefront earlier this summer. Image Works provides high-resolution fine art, photographic, and custom printing jobs, museum-quality reproductions that can range in size anywhere from 64 inches- to 10 feet-wide. High-resolution digital captures allow artists to display their work online. And he can restore and digitize old family photographs, too.

Moving to east downtown Dearborn brings him closer to the burgeoning community of artists there and in Detroit, he says, like those at the nearby City Hall Artspace Lofts. And being on busy Michigan Avenue doesn’t hurt either.

“We’re a niche service but with Detroit’s exploding art scene, we definitely have a lot of artists with needs that we can fill,” says Bennett. “The new space is providing us with more exposure and it’s nice to add some more vibrancy and color to the area.”

Image Works has renovated the old storefront, including new lighting, signage, and a fresh coat of paint. In making the renovations, Bennett credits the Open Door Dearborn business grant with helping to make the improvements possible. Funded by the East and West Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities, the Open Door incentive provides grants to small businesses in their beautification efforts.

Bennett has also made significant improvements to the storefront’s large windowed entrance, building a small exhibition space for metro Detroit artists. Dubbed The Window Project, the gallery is designed to catch people’s attention as they pass by the shop. An opening reception for the gallery’s first exhibition, Lumens by Gabriela Baginski, happens this Friday, Dec. 17.

The Window Project at Image Works has its first exhibition up now.

“We’re trying to do large artworks so it’s visible from the street, so it catches the eye of people in their cars or just passing by,” he says. Although it wasn’t explicitly intended, The Window Project has good timing given the COVID-19 pandemic. With the gallery facing the street, Bennett says that people don’t even have to come inside to enjoy the art; they can do so from the comfort of their own socially-distanced bubbles. “It’s definitely not a traditional exhibition space.”

Bennett hopes to expand to include a more traditional exhibition space someday soon. But for now, The Window Project offers an innovative approach to displaying local artists’ works.

Inside, the work continues; Bennett recently purchased a new printer so that they can print even larger pieces. He hopes to continue growing the business, still just a few years old, and providing resources to the metro Detroit artist community — resources and opportunity.

“Everyone we have lined up for The Window Project right now are metro Detroit artists,” he says.

Image Works is located at 13306 Michigan Ave. in east downtown Dearborn.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.