Sylvia Rombis and Litsa Spanos have a special connection.

Spanos is president of Art Design Consultants Inc. (ADC) in the Pendleton Art Gallery in Over-the-Rhine. Sylvia Rombis owns Malton Art Gallery in Hyde Park. Both are career-minded and passionate about their profession.
And they have another common bond: They’re sisters.

Their family moved to Cincinnati from Greece when the girls were little. Growing up, they never imagined the paths their professional lives would take.

Spanos earned a degree in education before finding her calling in the art business. She started ADC, which specializes in original art in office settings, 15 years ago. She wanted to work closely with artists and bring them into a larger community. The gallery helps clients choose art that will best represent their businesses, then frames, delivers and installs it. Spanos strives to pull everything in an office together to create “a unified, professional look.”

Rombis also took an indirect route to the art world. She completed a degree in marketing at the University of Cincinnati, following her father’s advice of doing something “practical.” He patiently continued to support her as she then followed her heart and enrolled in design school at UC.

After 13 years of working as a designer for U.S. Shoe Corporation and Nine West Group, a lucrative position that required frequent and sometimes international travel, Rombis decided to make a career change that would allow her to spend more time with her husband and son. She purchased Malton Art Gallery in Hyde Park Square just five years after Spanos launched ADC.

Both galleries have proven to be successful. ADC was named by Decor magazine as the number one art and reframing retailer out of 8,500 retailers in the country in 2006 and 2007 — once for profitability and later for marketing. When ADC opened, there were just 12 artists in its Pendleton complex. There are now 150.

“It has been a journey and it has been a challenge,” Spanos says.

Both sisters believe much of their success grows from client relationships.

“It’s important to create a personal connection with customers because people trust us with important and valuable things,” Spanos notes. Rombis adds that honesty is the most important way to establish trust with a client. Once customers take artwork home, they will know if they were sold something they don’t truly love.

“If their heart doesn’t connect [with the art], they won’t come back,” Rombis observes. “If they love the art, 99 percent will come back and become collectors. You can’t ‘sell art,’ because art collection is about connecting the right art and the right client.”

Although their day-to-day jobs are different, the sisters collaborate in many ways. From bouncing ideas off of each other to sharing artists and works of art, Rombis and Spanos pool resources to give clients the best they have to offer.

Rombis believes she and her sister have “a healthy competitiveness” that strengthens their relationship. They understand the highs and lows of the art business, and each sister enjoys seeing the other succeed just as much as when she herself succeeds. Spanos calls the sisters’ shared success and ability to work together “a very wonderful thing.”

Spanos and Rombis’s love of original fine art is an inspiration for both of their businesses. Rombis was drawn to art because of the contrast between creating a product for millions of consumers and purchasing something one-of-a kind. Traveling around the world for U.S. Shoe Corporation, Rombis saw art of all kinds and realized that “art is the most liberating thing you can do.” It’s created by an artist to fill a unique need, and it’s truly great when someone else also connects with it, she adds.

The sisters plan to continue to help connect local artists, residents and businesses, following what Spanos says is the best way to work: “Stay true to what you believe in, love what you do and make it happen.”