Sunday, June 16, 2024

Artist Jylik Donell Buissereth hefts an “alabagster” rock with handles at Artist & Craftsm​an Supply in Central Square on March 1. (Photo: Artist & Craftsm​an Supply via Instagram)

The Artist & Craftsm​an Supply store is closing in Central Square after almost 20 years, its employee-owners announced via Instagram on Dec. 20.

Rent costs are the location’s primary reason for closing, store manager Tirzah Maroun said.

“Central Square and Cambridge are changing overall,” and a decrease in foot traffic that began during the Covid pandemic, coupled with an increase in online shopping, makes costs “unsustainable, given that we don’t quite need the same amount of square footage that we once did,” Maroun said.

The store’s last day of operation at 580 Massachusetts Ave. is Jan. 15. A liquidation sale, with 30 percent of the original price on all merchandise, is underway.

Employee owners at Artist & Craftsm​a Supply made even their 580 Massachusetts Ave. entranceway a vibrant addition to Central Square. (Photo: Artist & Craftsm​an Supply via Instagram)

Artist & Craftsman is “hoping not to be gone for long, much less for good,” Maroun said. The employee owners hope to find a new space of ​​3,000 to 6,000 square feet in either Cambridge, Somerville or Boston and are soliciting real estate leads to make it happen.

The store’s absence will be sorely felt. Users flooded the the store’s Instagram with comments and memories of what the store has meant to them over the years.

A place that supported artists

Cambridge-based artist Chris E. O’Neill shared on the post that he’s been frequenting the store for more than a decade, when he was “a broke art student” at the Art Institute of Boston (now Lesley University’s College of Art & Design).

“A&C always felt like a real signifier that Central was a real center for the arts and artists, ” O’Neill said in a message to Cambridge Day. “A place to see like-minded people across the aisle and get tips and info from the staff about new tools and materials. Especially after Pearl Paint went out of business, it was really important to feel like there was a place in the city that supported artists, was independent and cared about more than just selling things.”

O’Neill called that “For the longest time, they had small rolls of paper near the pens and markers that you could use to test the tools before you purchase them, and I’d leave a little test sketch on the roll with my signature. I remember being a young artist and seeing that they’d posted my sketch on their Instagram one day when that app was in its early days and felt like I’d ‘made it’ in the local scene. That was a big deal to me!”

Supplies can be tested before purchase at Artist & Craftsm​a Supply in Central Square. (Photo: Artist & Craftsm​an Supply via Yelp)

Their Cambridge storefront has been operating since 2003, and has become a staple of the Cambridge and Somerville arts community.

The store “has been a longtime friend of Gallery 263,” said Allison Gray, communications director of the nonprofit at Putnam and Pearl streets in Cambridgeport.

“For many years, Artist & Craftsman helped [Gallery 263] by donating art materials for special events … The gallery benefited from being down the street from this location, as artists frequently visited the gallery before or after shopping for art materials. In turn, Gallery 263 often pointed artists to Artist & Craftsman. The gallery will feel the loss of this symbiotic relationship,” Gray said. “On a more personal level, the staff and board of Gallery 263 loved shopping at Artist & Craftsman for their own art supplies.”

One of several

The announcement comes at a time of several other permanent closings in Cambridge, from the Mary Chung’s restaurant and Darwin’s Ltd. coffee shop chain to the Central Square Starbucks.

“The future of Central seems really sad to me,” O’Neill said. “Without A&C, it’s steadily becoming just another strip of bars and restaurants and chain coffee spots. I hate the thought of trying to buy art supplies online, since testing and touching the materials is such a huge part of knowing whether something will be useful to you.”

Anyone with information about a potential new space is asked to reach out to the Artist & Craftsm​an Supply team by email (​​[email protected] or [email protected]) or phone.