Meet Jim Hollenbeck and husband Robert Byhre. From the moment they met, by a funny coincidence, they have embarked on a life full of travel, art and food.
From public relations to professional exhibits, they are renaissance men, blogging about their trips and food and everything in between. Their Palm Springs home has become an exhibit in itself and after numerous inquiries about where they got their art pieces, they decided to make it a business and have started TooGays.com – featuring many one of a kind and certainly unique pieces found upon their travels. Their motto is that everyone can own art, and they should.
We chatted with these two about running a business together, art and the best tips for travelling. Visit them at www.TooGays.com
How did you guys meet?
Jim: I think we were destined to meet. A friend told me that a friend of his was moving to my neighborhood in San Francisco and asked if I would show him around. He gave me his friend’s business card. I threw it in a drawer and blew it off. A couple of weeks later I was chatting with an online friend who asked if he could call me. I gave him my number which I never do. He called. I ignored it. He called again and left his full name. My online friend turned out to be the same guy whose business card I had in my drawer! He had bought a home one block from mine. He came over to my place the day he moved in. I hadn’t even seen a photo of him before. When I answered to door, I was blown away. I knew it was going to lead to something. We got married 18 months later. That was 17 years ago!
Robert, what is your background?
Born and raised in Wisconsin. Spent part of my college years in Great Britain. Moved to San Francisco when I was 30. Became a partner in an exhibit and display business. I still work in that industry today.
Jim, what is your background?
Born and raised in the Bay Area. Started taking college courses at UC Berkeley when I was 13. Left home when I was 17. Started my own business in Southern California at 18. Was recruited by a publicly traded national competitor in San Francisco when I was 19. Got a reputation as a marketing guru which led to starting my own consulting firm at 21. That was the begging of the Hollenbeck Group which I still run today.
Along the way I had various outside ventures, including becoming an international fashion designer, owning a video shopping company, partnering in a major dot com in the entertainment industry and recently launching an online art gallery, www.toogays.com with my husband.
How did you both come to Palm Springs? What do you love most about Palm Springs?
Jim: Six years ago we just decided it was time for a change. We considered moving to either Palm Springs or Barcelona. We loved the warmth of both the people and weather in Palm Springs. So, we sold our house in San Francisco and made the move.
What made you decide to go into business together?
Jim: Robert’s business partner embezzled from him in his last company. Robert took his clients and started Hollenbeck Exhibits as part of Hollenbeck Group.
Being husbands and running your daily lives, is it ever a struggle to conduct business together?
Jim: It’s been extremely easy. We each have separate responsibilities and almost always agree on joint decisions.
You two have traveled all over, literally. What do you love most about travelling? What are some of your favorite traveling destinations?
Jim: The excitement of seeing something new. Robert is the adventurous one. He’s been to over 70 countries and has introduced me fun of exploring new cultures. Favorite travel destinations include London, Barcelona, and St. Petersburg Russia where we got married.
Do you have a funny story about one of your trips?
Jim: Well there was the time Jim gave psychic boob readings on a sailing ship in Monte Carlo’s harbor. Women were lined up for the experience.
What are the top three things to remember when travelling?
Don’t stress. Take a deep breath when something goes wrong because it will. Make sure you buy a cell service package from your local carrier before you travel overseas. Contact your credit card companies in advance of travel so they don’t think there is fraud and put a hold on your card.
TooGays promotes collection of art, making obtainable and appropriate for the everyday man. Why is it important to invest in art?
Original art is a reflection of your own taste. Unlike big box store art, it is unique, has value, and tells a story. It also supports the artisan that created it.
What makes you choose an art piece to include it on your site?
It has to speak to us in some way. We also look for art that is a really great value that we can pass on to our customers.
How has the art world changed since you’ve started collecting?
It’s certainly more global and new online tools make it easier to authenticate our finds in real time.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Biggest Pet Peeve about the other:
Robert can be messy, but it’s now confined to one room. Jim has a tendency to see a glass as half empty but Roberts optimism balances it out.
Robert – reading 30 magazines a month. Jim – cooking gadgets.
Most Romantic thing the other has done:
Robert sent me a love letter almost every day for the first five years of our relationship. Jim bought me a Rolex for our first Xmas together. I’ve never taken it off.
Favorite art piece you own:
A six foot tall bookcase (shaped like a man) that Robert’s mother bought us as a housewarming gift
Beyonce or Gaga:
Both of us are Gaga.