60 years removed from the founding of the Jefferson Place Gallery, many of the memories are condensed to vignettes: a blurry snapshot rich in color. Some just add to the texture.
Alex Dematatis was the owner of 1216 Connecticut Avenue NW, the first location of the Jefferson Place Gallery. When Alice Denney put a rental deposit on the second floor unit that would become the Gallery, a rug shop inhabited the first floor, and photographer Fred Maroon inhabited the third.
Suzy Maroon, the wife of the late photographer, recalled a story her husband once told her about Dematatis. Every time he would pay Fred a visit in his studio, he would carefully go through the studio, turning off each light along the way. By the time Dematatis closed the door, Fred Maroon would find himself standing in the dark. It was a sly prank, in as much as it was a shrewd way to pinch some pennies: utilities were included with the rent.
However playful he may have been, he was also a supportive landlord. As Alice Denney recalled, in preparation for an opening of Robert Goodnough’s exhibition of paintings in the fall 1960, she had a real sense of dread that no one would show up. Goodnough was relatively unknown in DC, unlike in New York, where Alice first happened upon him “moderating debates” at the Cedar Bar in the late 1940s. So she called up Dematatis to see if he could help out. As president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, he was in a position to help. He basically called a meeting of members to be held at the gallery the night of the opening.
Denney provided the sherry for the opening. Cheap sherry, watered down, and decanted into more-expensive sherry bottles. Dematatis wasn’t the only one who knew how to pinch a penny. Between their efforts, Goodnough was none-the-wiser, and reportedly was impressed by the turnout.