Students turn business owners with Avant Garden |

Students turn business owners with Avant Garden

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune Andrea Bensen, left, and Adam Wexelblatt opened Avant Garden in March catering to college students, but they are finding their art supplies are in demand, too.

When Adam Wexelblatt and Andrea Benson decided to open Avant Garden in March, they approached it as a learning experience.

The “alternative student store,” as it’s billed, represents a fitting venture given the background of the couple who have been together for four years.

The store, which takes textbooks on consignment, is run by two students. They’re hoping to seize the Lake Tahoe Community College market, filling a retail niche in town where Rain Urban Apparel once stood in the Town and Country Center. That shop – which has also catered to a young demographic – moved to Heavenly Village.

“We were there all the time (at the college), so we knew what was missing,” Wexelblatt said Sunday, glancing around the 1,300-square-foot space.

Wexelblatt, who delivered pizzas before going into business, has a passion for the arts – in particular oil paintings.

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In addition to textbooks, the store offers a wide assortment of painting supplies, and he put his own works on the wall.

A reception at the store last Saturday featured the paintings of South Lake Tahoe resident David Salazar.

Wexelblatt, 21, and Benson, 20, plan to host painting workshops throughout May at 6 p.m. – still-life on Thursdays and figure models on Sundays.

The store opens Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. Closing times are still undetermined. Art lessons start this week.

The young entrepreneurs wrote a business plan, but left open the opportunity to modify it as they undergo that first challenging year of being in business.

“We’ve done better than we expected,” said Benson, who worked at Geoffrey Beene as an assistant manager before venturing out with her mate in the business world.

One of the bigger surprises has come from the tourists, who have shown up to visit the cyber lounge near the Avant Garden coffee corner.

Avant Garden can be reached at 530-544-3116.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 541-3880 or via e-mail at

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