By: Nancy Baker Faul
Romy Simpson, a native of Colombia, South America is the current co-owner of Negrotto’s Gallery. She was recently recognized as one of the Top 50 Business Women in Mississippi by the Mississippi Business Journal. Simpson’s volunteer efforts earned her the 2009 Volunteer of the Year award for the American Advertising Federation and her professional accomplishments will be highlighted during Spotlight on Success put on by The March of Dimes on November 16th. The gallery has won the prestigious award of Top 100 Art & Framing Galleries in the United States by Décor Magazine and the 2007 Chamber of Commerce Tapestry Award.
Her family has lived in the United States for over 45 years. Romy joined the Army in the 1985 and was sent to Germany as one of her assignments. She’s always been adventurous and while serving in Europe she modeled, traveled, and took college courses. While in Germany, she fell in love with Butch Simpson, her future husband and the father of their five boys –Paul, Joseph, JP, Joshua and Luke. .
Romy and Butch make a great team at Negrotto’s. Butch is a task oriented and structured military man, and Romy is a creative energized woman with a diverse background and culture. Butch became one of only two Certified Picture Framers on the Gulf Coast, and Romy went to every event of the Biloxi Bay Chamber and the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce to promote the business. She also started Open House Saturdays, which has become a Negrotto’s tradition, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. where a “Meet & Greet Local Artists” is typically held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“I don’t know how I ever made it through basic training, but I know that every opportunity given to achieve teaches you a life lesson. You have one chance to do the best that you possibly can. Military life may have helped me choose Art as a direction in my life. We had been to so many countries and big-city galleries. My husband and I didn’t realize that in South Mississippi people weren’t celebrating cultural differences as we did in the Military. We had entire months dedicated to Black, Asian Pacific, Hispanic, Native American and other celebrations. When we introduced the 1st African American Art and Heritage Exhibit, we had news coverage. The new styles and concepts at Negrotto’s were making a difference. Last year almost 400 people attended the 6th annual event. I truly feel that we made a significant impact in the artistic diversity and the acceptance of cultural differences. People enjoy the difference of our Art at the gallery, and that is very exciting.”
Romy has a marvelous sense about art which has never failed her. Artists brought their work to her for themed exhibits which created the ongoing diversity of the gallery. She also actively searched for artwork that wasn’t represented in other galleries on the Gulf Coast, such as African and Chinese silk art, artwork from Tibet, Hispanic heritage pieces and other non-traditional works that have helped make Negrotto’s the premier gallery on the Gulf Coast.
She used her business savvy and attention to detail to make decisions about what she wanted to display in her gallery and when to take an opportunity presented. In early 2005, Negrotto’s merger with Jere’s Frame Shop proved beneficial for all concerned. The client list expanded and the generous information shared by the owner of Jere’s Frame Shop, as well as their experienced and Certified Picture Framer, Eva Byington, were the true beginning of growth of this fabulous gallery. After Katrina, Negrotto’s Gallery & Custom Framing simply did not have enough room. They expanded by taking the spot next to their location. Then, in 2008, Master Jeweler and Ceramicist Gerrol Benigno of B & B Artworks joined Negrotto’s as an in-house artist and jeweler. “The business keeps growing and it seems to have taken on a life of its own -which I love because I can be involved with charity work and support many non-profits.”
Negrotto’s is very much a family business and the Simpson children are learning all about it from mom and dad as they grow up. The two eldest sons work part time at the gallery, and already have many hours of hands on experience. Quite often, their younger brothers pay a visit too, and can be seen sitting at a table or on the floor of the gallery, studying, doing their homework, and occasionally cleaning windows or vacuuming!
When asked what she would be doing if she were not the owner of Negrotto’s Gallery, Romy said without hesitation…”Teaching!” She taught Spanish pre-K thru 6th grades at St. James School, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Romy has a degree in Early Childhood Education and one in Business, as well as a third in Liberal Arts. “Seeing the children’s faces when they finally understand what you are trying to teach them…that is what I love.”
Romy credits her successes with a combination of her Army service, her upbringing and family influences, her husband who gives her total support, and the incredible dedication of the staff at Negrotto’s. “Butch pushes me to see things through and he never lets me quit.God has opened so many doors for us. It is very important for me to give back to the community and I am able to through the gallery’s resources and the commitment of the staff,” Romy said. She would like to acknowledge the staff by name, her partner and long time friend Rick Conason, Andrew Breland, Nancy Gonzales Creel, Carlton Karnes, Joseph Simpson, and Paul Simpson.
Please stop in at Negrotto’s Gallery located at 2645 Executive Place off of Eisenhower, north of Edgewater Mall, and see all the beautiful, original local and international art. You may find just the perfect touch for your home or office! You can contact Negrotto’s by calling 228-388-9640 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.