It was a nice summer day the first time I visited Artist & Craftsman, a few months after it opened. I needed supplies for an art project and decided to explore the store while picking up the materials. Before entering, I would have described the store in one word: unassuming. It is wedged between a Footlocker and a discount clothing store on the busy street of White Plains Road and is easy to miss if not you’re paying attention. Once inside, I was shocked to discover the store exceeded my expectations. I went back a few weeks ago but this time I spoke with Alice, the assistant store manager, Devin, a clerk, and Carlos, a clerk, to find out more about their experiences while working at Artist & Craftsman.
When was the grand opening of Artist & Craftsman?
Alice: This location opened May 1st. We’re coming up on the one year anniversary.
Do you have anything planned for the anniversary?
Alice: We’re thinking about doing a one year anniversary exhibition that features the artwork of staff members and other local Bronx artists. We’ll utilize the classroom area and turn it into a gallery space for the evening. It’s still in the works.
Since opening, what has the response from the community been?
Alice: It’s been really positive. Especially since we’re offering classes and they’re pretty affordable. Every day we have someone coming in saying they’re happy we’re here.
Devin: Newcomers are intrigued by the space, along with the array of products we have. It’s good to know that we have what people need to get things done. Whether it be for school or a leisure project. I think that’s the beauty of this particular spot. Customers don’t have to go out of their way to (have the chance to) create.
Carlos: This neighborhood is a little more family-oriented so a lot of parents come in with their kids. The kids are always excited to run around and look around at everything.
What are some challenges you have been facing?
Alice: As a company we don’t really do advertising outside of word of mouth and social media, so establishing ourselves is one of the biggest challenges.
Devin: For me, I’m stilling learning about certain mediums and products. When a customer asks about a particular product that I may not be familiar with, it helps me learn why they want it, why they use it, and what they create with it. It builds inspiration both ways.
Carlos: Spreading awareness, people from the Bronx still shop in Manhattan for art supplies and they don’t need to go that far. They come here and are surprised because they didn’t know we were here and how convenient it is.
What does it mean to you that you work at the only art store of this caliber in the Bronx?
Carlos: It feels good to know that we are a good resource for the community. Aside from the art supplies, we have classes. We also provide a network of artists of each other, you meet people, get more exposure and we’re surrounded by products that we’re enthusiastic about and invested in, so when you’re telling customers “I love this,” you’re not insincere, you don’t have to lie and pitch products to people.
Devin: It is a growing network of people that come in. Even art legends have come in here to shop and when they see the store it’s a huge thing because they grew up out here. Being that this is a first for us, it’s truly incredible. To see legends feel the same feelings that newcomers or new artists feel. It also means support for each other. I feel like that’s one thing with the Bronx, we don’t get enough credit for the culture that we put into the world. They take away things that we use to interact. I grew up out here, I used to go to (P.S) 21 Park, they took away the basketball courts because of drug dealers, so it’s beautiful to have another outlet so we don’t have to be out here in the streets.
What are some of the classes you offer?
Alice: Painting and drawing are our main classes. Aleathia Brown teaches Paint and Sip, it’s basically revamping an old item of clothing by painting on it, maybe tearing it and adding fabrics scraps with a little sip on the side. If you’re 21 and older you're definitely welcomed to take that class and enjoy a little conversation and wine on the side.
We’ve had a gentleman come in who does soap making from scratch so we’re trying to set that up. Someone has inquired about calligraphy classes and another about knitting and crocheting. We get our instructors from the community so if someone comes in and says we want to teach this or take this, we’re very open. We just need to find the instructor.
If someone is interested in teacher a class here, how do they go about that?
Alice: They can call or stop by the store for a teacher consent form. They would also have to come up with a lesson plan, how much they would charge and the supplies. Some supplies we can donate to them depending on what they need.
What are the most bought items?
Alice: Knitting and crocheting items, Montana spray paint cans, Copic markers and leather paint to customize their sneakers.
What are your favorite products?
Carlos: I’m a watercolorist, so I nerd out over paper, watercolor and paints.
Alice: The Williamsburg oil paint is gorgeous but I can’t just pick one (product).
Do you have a site where you put art up?
Alice: On Instagram, @artsandcraftsmansupply_bwp.
Are you engaged in any art projects?
Carlos: We all have art shows on our spare time. Devin takes commission on the side for customizing sneakers and jackets.
Alice: We’re all working artists, so we’re trying to get our work exhibited. Which can be difficult, especially in New York City, it’s very competitive.
How do you guys see this growing into something bigger?
Alice: I think the fact that people are still surprised at our presence here means that once we really get a foothold, things are going to get better. Hopefully we’ll have more students, families, and people who are interested in taking classes. We’re going to expand our roster of teachers. And then there are partnerships, we do outreach. Our store manager, Shak, is responsible for outreach. We go to colleges, schools, art galleries to talk to people. I think it’s all uphill.
Visit the Artist & Craftsman Supply store located at 3961 White Plains Road, Bronx NY and let them know we sent you there to redeem a 10% discount on your next purchase!