Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Dick Blick Art Materials store is being prepared for opening in Central Square. Its Seattle store has a sign suggestive of the creativity within. (Photo: Java Colleen)

Maybe Pearl Art & Craft Supplies couldn’t make a go of Central Square. It shut the doors on its massive 579 Massachusetts Ave. store in late January 2010, calling it one of the chain’s “underperforming” properties.

Dick Blick Art Materials, though, thinks Central Square is perfect. A construction team is readying part of the former Gap store at 613 Massachusetts Ave. — a block from where Pearl Art used to be, and empty since January 2009 — with tight deadlines suggesting a fast opening.

Blick is a 100-year-old, family-owned chain of 31 stores in 17 states, including a store in the Fenway’s Landmark Center. People stopping by the Central Square location thinking about jobs are directed to that store at 401 Park Drive, Boston. If hours there provide any model, Cambridge’s newest art store could be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when hours will likely be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Reviews of Blick online range from the ecstatic (it’s “a haven for creativity” with a “great selection of materials” that can do “amazing” custom print work, and it warrants from some a “thank you just for being there whenever I need something obscure”) to the angry and disappointed, much of it having to do with bad interactions with staff:

The staff is awful! If these kids — all of them college students — are being paid more than minimum wage, I would be absolutely shocked. I’m not even sure if they’re art school students, because if I have any sort of question, they usually have no idea what anything is, how to use it or whether they have it. Granted, it’s a big store, but everyone is extraordinarily apathetic and clueless. Be prepared to sit in line for 10 minutes every time you buy something here.

Pricing also can also be an issue. The company website touts its approach as buying in bulk from manufacturers to “pass along the savings” and cites its “wide selection, promotions and competitive prices” as making Blick “the largest discounter of art materials.” It even has a low-price guarantee to match lower advertised prices or coupon. But several commenters online note that prices advertised on the Blick website aren’t honored in the bricks-and-mortar stores and call store prices expensive enough to drive them instead to a Utrecht. And not only will this new Blick have a Utrecht nearby, at 1030 Massachusetts Ave., but Artist and Craftsman Supply directly across the street in Central Square at 580 Massachusetts Ave.

The competition was suggested last year as a reason Pearl — generally considered as having lower prices — couldn’t derive enough profit to keep the store open.