Just months after it lost its only bookstore last year, the Bronx has now lost its sole dedicated art supply store.
Borough residents gathered in front of the Artist & Craftsman Supply store at 3961 White Plains Road on Friday, April 21, as the store closed its doors for the final time at 5 p.m.
Many, like Raphael Schweizer, were local artists saddened to lose the only convenient store just two-and-a-half years after it opened.
Schweizer said that while there are Michael’s stores in the area, the large arts and crafts box store does not carry the extensive stock of high-end products serious artists use.
He likened the loss to that of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Bay Plaza, which shut down at the end of last year.
“Just like it was important to have a dedicated bookstore in the Bronx, it’s important to have a dedicated art supply store for canvas, brushes and paints,” he said. “The Bronx is the most affordable borough in New York City, and artists take refuge in that and live here.”
Schweizer, who is also active in the Bronx Park East Community Association, said the store’s Wakefield location was not ideal.
He said he would love to see an art store open someplace closer to the center of the Bronx, maybe in the Pelham Parkway or Fordham Road area where there is extensive mass transit options.
Artist & Craftsman Supply maintains 35 employee-owned stores nationwide, mostly along the east and west coasts.
However just six now remain in New York state: one in Harlem, four in Brooklyn and another in Franklin Square, Long island.
Robert Dingman, the senior regional manager for Artist & Craftsman Supply, said it was not a sudden rent hike that led to the closing, but ongoing concerns about financial viability.
“We’re sad to have to close this store down,” Dingman said Friday afternoon after closing shop. “We’ve given it a pretty good effort but currently we’re not financially positioned to continue. But hopefully in the next ten to twelve months, we can start looking at a new location and the Bronx is high up on our list.”
Rally participant Francine Alheid of City Island teaches watercolor paint classes in the north Bronx. She said she worried about where she and her students would get their supplies.
“It’s difficult to go all the way into Manhattan, and it’s hard to find exactly what you need online,” Alheid said. “To not have this facility here, it’s very upsetting to me. It’s just another thing not available in the Bronx.”
Also attending the rally was 13-year-old Alisha Ayala, who said she had planned to take classes at the store and said she was devastated to hear it was closing.
“I bought my first sketchbook here because I had a passion to draw,” she said. “Now that it’s closing down, that’s a lost opportunity.”