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Local couple to buy Strecker-Nelson Gallery

By Bryan Richardson

On Jan 27, 1990, K-State lost 57-85 to the University of Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum.

Also on that day, Fort Riley soldier Kevin West met KU student Alyn Pennington Our because one of his friends invited a former girlfriend to Manhattan to watch the game.

“The former girlfriend didn’t have a car,” Kevin said. “My now wife did.”

Alyn drove her friend to the game, where she met Kevin.

Kevin and Alyn will celebrate 25 years of marriage on Dec. 28. The anniversary gift has already been purchased, and it isn’t silver. “He’s buying me an art gallery,” Alyn said. Alyn and Kevin West are buying the Strecker-Nelson Gallery from Barbara and Jay Nelson. They will officially take over on April 1.

“We’re looking for something new to do in the next part of our lives,” Alyn said.

Jay Nelson said Alyn and Kevin each have skill sets that will help them be successful.

“One of the things that gets forgotten about the gallery business is it’s a business,” he said.

Alyn will handle the art, and Kevin will handle the numbers.

“We each have our own lanes, and we don’t overlap, which is a good thing,” Alyn said.

Alyn earned bachelor’s degrees in art history and French from KU and a master’s degree in art history from the University of Delaware.

Kevin, who retired as a lieutenant colonel at Fort Riley in 2009, recently completed his master’s degree in financial planning from K-State.

Kevin said he will draw on the analyzing skill sets he picked up in the Army, but his time at K-State gives him the confidence to make gallery ownership work.

“Two years ago, we would not have felt comfortable,” he said.

The Nelsons, who bought the art gallery from Julie Strecker in 2000, discussed their intentions to sell the business to The Mercury in September.

They said the ideal owners would be a couple in their 40s or 50s who could maintain the gallery for the next 20 years.

Alyn, 50, said she and Kevin, 49, read that article.

“We immediately contacted Jay,” she said. “We made the decision that’s what we’re going to do after reading that article.” Jay said they had another interested party at the time from Kansas City, but the potential buyer’s interest went away. He said he liked having a local couple continue with the gallery.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We’re going to have half a year together before the shift.” The Nelsons declined to disclose the terms of the sale. The Wests are buying the business. A separate buyer is purchasing the building.

Alyn grew up in Emporia, and Kevin grew up in the Kansas City area, but they made the decision to live in Manhattan while living at Fort Riley.

“My wife one day says, ‘When you retire, we’re living in Manhattan,’” Kevin said.

They have two sons: Andrew, a K-State sophomore, and Stephen, a Manhattan High freshman.

“Manhattan is almost the perfect middle- America small city,” Kevin said. Alyn said the gallery will continue its focus on Kansas and regional artists.

“Our goal is to continue to have this wonderful gem here in Manhattan,” she said. The Nelsons will put together one last show, which will open on Jan. 27.

The Wests will have their first show on April 7.

“All along, we’ve been a little intimidated, but it’s also truly a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Alyn said.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that all started because of a rivalry between two universities.

“The Hawks and I both won,” Kevin said.

“Aww,” Alyn replied.

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