Old Fort Wayne is Highview Art & Collectibles’ new niche

Steve Cebalt has prospered by finding an unserved niche in public relations in Fort Wayne. Now he hopes to do the same with second-hand art.

Cebalt, 53, opened Highview Art Collectibles Shop, 929 E. Coliseum Blvd., this month as an expansion of Highview, his public-relations firm that has long specialized in cultivating nonprofit organizations as clients.

He aims to carry three main lines of merchandise: Vintage and antique Fort Wayne collectibles, most of which are large enough to be elements of decor; second-hand art, obtained, for example, from auctions and trade-ins; and new items purchased from wholesalers.

“I’m doing for art what book drives for books; I’m getting it back in circulation,” he said.

In his crowded showroom, there are pieces of Fort Wayne’s past, particularly advertising displays, but he also sells prints of famous artworks of the last 100-150 years, second-hand art and, at the consciously campy end of the spectrum, steel signs sporting humor designed for the walls of man caves.

He’s taken an uncommon route to selling art and collectibles. He wasn’t drawn into opening a gallery by a lifelong love of art; instead, he wanted to diversify his sources of income and challenge himself in a new field. The art and collectibles business is what he finally settled on.

“I never had any particular interest in art or collecting,” he said. But he does have a longstanding interest in history. That helped him zero in on Fort Wayne collectibles as part of his new business.

“My whole career has been built on finding a niche nobody else serves,” he said.

The art and collectibles business actually coexists with his public-relations firm. He, one longtime employee and two interns both work in the shop on their marketing and public-relations projects, ready to interrupt their work and wait on customers who come to shop.

The store will expand after July 4, when he takes over space now occupied by an adjacent store that is selling fireworks. When that happens, he will have 2,000 square feet of display room and 500 square feet of storage.

“That will give me room to move and room to do everything I want to do,” he said.

“I didn’t do this for fun; I wanted to make my business stronger,” he said. “But it turns out that I’m having a lot of fun at it.”