May 19, 2011
Keego Harbor entrepreneur’s metal art sale focus heavy on WebBy Melissa

Handmade scrap metal sculptures and the Internet seem like an unlikely pairing of old and new technology, but the combination is working for a Keego Harbor entrepreneur.

Vladimir Gendelman already was running his own Web design shop when he was captivated by a brand of metal artwork, H&K Sculptures, which are made in Germany and sold through gift shops and other venues in the United States.

Gendelman liked the kitschy objects, which use odds and ends of scrap copper and steel to form characters ranging from baseball players to Santa Claus. In 2007, on an impulse, he contacted the distributor and created a no-frills online store to sell H&K artwork. The first iteration of Metal Imagination, as he dubbed the company, didn’t even have an online checkout process.

“I was afraid they wouldn’t sell because they are rather expensive,” said Gendelman, noting that H&K pieces average $80 to $90 each. “But I liked them so much that I wanted to be involved with them somehow.

“And they took off like crazy. When people started calling to buy, I said, ‘Oops,’ and redid the website.” Even during the recession, Metal Imagination sold thousands of units a year, Gendelman said.

Some sales are to individuals, but a significant chunk of the business involves corporate sales.

Because many of the H&K sculptures are suitable as office or desk art, and many pieces are functional — like wine bottle holders and business card racks — they’re popular as business gifts, the 36-year-old entrepreneur said.

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