Monday, March 13, 2017

Shop Mom and Pop

Say it ain't so....

Over and over again, I hear about the closing of brick and mortar, mom and pop shops. You would think that 8 million locals plus millions of visitors would keep the independent stores open in NYC but this is not the case.

Last year, NYC and its artists lost both NY Art Central (111 years old) and Lee's Art Shop (65 years old).


2014 was a bad year for the independents as well with the loss of Pearl Paint (81 years old and my personal favorite), Sam Flax (95 years old), and the Antiques Garage flea market (a relative baby at 23 years old).


And truthfully I am still mourning the loss of the original Chelsea outdoor flea in 2005.

More sad news. Tinsel Trading Company (which already had moved a number of years ago from its massive location in Chelsea into a small space on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side) has lost their lease and will be closing soon. They are seeking a new location - fingers crossed.


In such a short time, we have lost so many creative New York institutions that had survived and thrived for so many years.  While rising rents and "progress" are certainly at least partly to blame, the fate of these stores was no doubt also impacted by the influx of big box shops and, of course, the availability of art supplies on the Internet.

At the same time, due in part to the changing face of the craft industry, a gazillion (accurate count) small, independent craft shops have closed across the United States. The stores that remain open face serious competition from, yet again, the big box shops and the Internet.

Sense a pattern?

I am writing this post now as a reminder to myself -- and to my readers -- of the importance of supporting the independents. The local stores. Neighborhood joints. Even if it means paying just a little more or traveling just a bit further. So go shop mom and pop. We can do this people. One store at a time!

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention the last eight years of too much government telling small business owners what they can and cannot do...

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I love to shop at a store in "Old Town" called Mrs O'Leary's. She always has high end classes and the latest art supplies. I know she and her daughter attended CHA in the past, but not sure about this year, since I haven't been in since Christmas. Thanks for reminding others to shop the local small business markets. They need all the help they can get.

Beanie Mouse said...

Pearl Paints closed????? Oh cr*p!! I loved visiting that store! We've seen similar over in the UK (more with local butchers/independant cafe's etc) but am happy to report that in the last 12 months, we've had an additional TWO art stores start up in my home town. One's a tiny little art & pottery place and the other is a large discount art supply chain (Cass Art - who have half a dozen stores in London & I'm familiar with)

Shelby Pizzarro said...

Sad new, but a good reminder to "shop local". We used to make a special trip to Pearl when I was in art school. We have a small store here...hopefully it will continue to stay open.

Sharon Y said...

This is scary and sad. Such an important topic for crafters and artists everywhere.

Shop local people! This supports your community and the owners family.

Yes, in some cases you will pay more than online or in big box stores but you receive so much more. Personal service, the ability to touch and feel the product before you buy, if you are lucky there are classes, and let's not forget the fellowship by hanging out with like minded people.

We as a community (of artists) can push back against the tide of communicating through our devices and keep the personal connection between humans alive. Face to face contact and conversations. Human touch. Listening. Learning. Snail mail.

Shop local and support the hub of expression and connection!

And . . . . She steps off the soap box.

Thanks Seth for talking about an important subject. Hugs!

Redanne said...

It is very sad indeed and it is just the same on this side of the Atlantic too! I know and appreciate it is quick to buy on the internet but there is nothing like the joy of going into a craft shop and looking and touching the products... and talking to knowledgeable crafters... Anne x

Cec said...

I remember going to A.I Friedman on a couple of my visits to NYC. Also went to a store called Kate's Paperie and an art supply store nearby. Mind you my last visit was probably 8 years ago so I am sure lots has changed since then.

This is such a shame but happening everywhere. There are very few bricks and mortar stores here. Other than Michaels we only have one in our town and it tries to cater to scrapbookers. Even a city the size of Toronto has very few.

I don't even think the problem is cost as much as it is convenience. For most, it is all about the ease of ordering online. People with busy lives don't have to run around to shop when they can sit at their computer and do it and it arrives on their doorstep. I love to see what I am buying up close and personal but my opportunities for that are becoming more and more limited as are yours by the looks of things. Technology can be a good thing but it is failing us in so many ways.

Cec x

Pamela Gerard said...

Sad. These are the unique places that give a city character. Same thing here in San Francisco. i used to pop into FLAX art store about ten minutes from my house and since it has been gone there is no where to buy my art supplies so i have to order online. I have been to all the NYC spots you mentioned when visiting and they will be missed.

Fliss said...

That's very sad news for NYC Seth and it sounds like what has been happening over here in the UK as in my town we've lost 3 of the independent traders in the last 5 years due to a couple of very large craft retailers (all much more expensive too) opening huge stores in the nearby area.
On top of that greedy landlords keep upping the rent so that people can't afford it and we're being deluged in pound stores (like your dollar stores).
I too have to order stuff online as there's nowhere remotely near that sells what I need except paint and very basic stuff.
Fliss x

Craft Addicts - Tracy Evans said...

This is such sad news. I know this feeling first hand as I used to have a craft shop of my own for nine years and I know the difficulties all too well that the small shops face. Such a sad time. We need to support our local independents or they will all be gone. In the UK local towns are all but disappearing and I am losing the shopping experience I used to enjoy so much many years ago. I always support our local shops as much as I can and hope that others will do the same before it's too late. Great post Seth. Tracy x

Jennie -The Artistic Stamper said...

As a small independent craft store owner I totally understand this post and say thank you for highlighting it! One day there will be no craft stores to go to except the big box stores! That will be a sad day :( use it or lose it we say . Thanks Seth for speaking up x

Squiddy said...

OK, so which shop in my town stocks your goodies? It's not large enough to support an art/mixed media retailer. One of the picture framers (we have 2) has a limited stock of paints mediums and paper, and that most excellent lady gave away the "offcuts" of matt board, but she sold up, and the new guy is extremely reluctant to bring in a large pot of black gesso even with a definite order for it! The next possibility for supplies is 75 minute+ drive, and by the time I've got there and back, petrol & parking costs as much as postage from online. Fortunately one art shop chain in the country has a full online presence so if I'm in that town I can visit, and if not, I can order online. But for the "slightly unusual", it's online from overseas, every time.

Jo Murray said...

Things are much the same here in Australia....AND small galleries are not doing well either. A sign of the times.

Michele Unger said...

Thanks, Seth, for the timely reminder to buy local! I have a small art store in my town that I frequent but maybe not quite enough. It would be so inconvenient if they closed. I will spend more there after your well expressed post.

NANCY LEFKO said...

I agree, Seth. I'm still missing "Ink About It" that closed in, what was it, 2015? It was such a fabulous place to teach with amazing customers/students. And every time we turn around another small shop here in New England is closing. They don't have the storied histories of the shops in NYC, but boy, it still stinks!

Jennifer from Stamplistic said...

Great article Seth. I own a Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook store in Ohio, Stamplistic. The $20 one spends online or at a big box store, because it's only $20... means the world to us. Being personal, touching and feeling a product, and getting an education on the product which only the small stores still do, has got to mean something. I can not imagine a world where the only choices are the big box stores and online. Even it's it not my store, PLEASE SHOP LOCAL, and independent.

Cindy said...

Yes, it's so sad. My dad was a commercial artist in NYC, and used many of those stores in the old days.
(I still use A.I. Friedman in Port Chester, where a good friend of mine works in the art dept. Hoping it will stay open.)
Thank you for the article.

The Creative Beast said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this decline in local art supply stores Seth. I am currently working in a 'mom & pop' art supply store that caters to a big we'll know art college (Art Center of Pasadena), but the store branched out by adding a toy department to gain more business. However, I can see that they are struggling to make ends meet, so I don't know how long they will be able to remain open. It is a bit of a drive to get to this job but I recently heard that another art store I planned to apply to that is close to home for me is considering going out of business as he was unable to find someone to buy the store from him =( There is yet one more small art supply store that is open between the two I've mentioned and it seems to be going strong so far, but who knows? It might be a matter of time before they all close and art students will be forced to buy their supplies online, or the campus bookstores will have to stock supplies for them...big box stores such as Michaels are fine for general crafters but not so great for fine artists, and we DO prefer to browse and handle supplies to get a feel for how they will act when we use them. I don't know how online retailers can afford to run their own business with shipping costs on top of having a warehouse to store goods - is rent for a warehouse cheaper than a store??!? And how do they afford better deals and markdowns on the product than a brick and mortar store?? I do not understand how it works and I do worry that everything will eventually have to be bought online instead of having stores with people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they sell so you can ask questions and learn about the products.

Art @ Home said...

It is so sad. I try to go downtown to my favorite Indie art supply store. We're lucky to have two wonderful ones here in Birmingham. Maybe the new administration will be more favorable to small businesses and their struggles.

Thanks for the post and the reminder to buy local!

Nan said...

I have a favorite indy store, Urban Scrapbooker in Edmonds, WA. The owner, Brooke Snyder, has stocked her store with so much more than than the name implies. And she keeps abreast of trends, so one can find just the right thing for that special project. Her classes are reasonable, too. Thank goodness for Brooke and her store!

myrepeatingpatterns.wordpress.com said...

WE have one Sam Flax left in Orlando. I go there every chance I get and of coursed I can't leave without buying something. You're right, we must support our Indy art stores!

Robert said...

Great reminder to shop small, Seth! My foster son, Erle, until recently managed an art supply store right by The School of Visual Arts (I don't remember the name of it). The store's owner lost his lease because the building owners wanted to do something else with the property and the store closed. Simple as that! Thanks for the reminder that the simplest and cheapest for the consumer is certainly not always the best!

angharad said...

I can tell you, as the owner of the Urban Craft Center in Santa Monica (we closed 5 years ago now) that owning a retail business in general is a hard line of work. One of the biggest challenges? People who would window shop with us, then go home and buy the same thing online for much less. Online shops do not have prime retail rents, or the employees and their significant costs, or the thousand little local taxes and fees that go into having a brick and mortar store. And it is soooo hard to get people out of their houses and cars. They would rather drive home from work, put on their PJs and binge watch netflix while buying the stuff you sell online. I know this, because I do it myself. In order to get people to buy local they have to feel connected, and how do we do that now? Really, I'm asking. How do we do that these days, when we all have our heads down looking at our phones? :( This is one reason I take workshops, to put me in touch with artists and their products, and to foster that connection.....

Caterina Giglio said...

I so agree, there comes a time for paying full retail and supporting local business. I sincerely hope that Tinsel finds a new home..

Theresa said...

Seth, thanks for speaking up for the little guys of retail! That post smarted more than a little. Last year I lost the lease on my 8 year old brick and mortar vintage and local art gallery because re-gentrification of the neighborhood made my landlord decide to raise my rent over 30%. ow.

On the positive side, I am not tied down to a 7 day a week schedule and my personal art practice is flourishing, but it has been a tough, tough transition.

I still do business online and at shows. I still have wonderful customers who tell me that they miss the shop. Ironically, a lot of those same people hadn't been in to shop in over a year. If they had I might still be there! Support your local treasure before it's gone. They can only stay in business if you give them the business!!!

artistsjournal said...

So important to support all local small businesses! In our little Alabama town, three Walmarts have opened, thanks to a complicit City Council. I am even more determined to shop my mom and pop stores.

Elizabeth mcentee said...

I worked for a few years at Pearl Paint. It was quite the experience. Retail is a really tough gig for the employees, working holidays, no time off during the back to school rush, barely making minimum wage. But it was a wonderful, fun, crazy, wild time and I am very glad to have been part of the history. I was sad to hear that it closed.

A.I. Friedman said...

We aren't closing! We appreciate that you would be disappointed if we did though! https://blog.aifriedman.com/2017/03/17/a-i-friedman-not-closing/

butterfly said...

I got so sad reading this - I know you mentioned it when we chatted recently, but seeing all the lost stores laid out in a list like this really brings it home sharply. Glad to spot the good news from A. I. Friedman just above though!
Alison x