By Alec Clayton
You’ve heard of the perfect storm – how about the perfect set of circumstances with the result that Olympia, which did not have an art supply store, now has one that is thriving.
Brothers Nick and J.B. Baldridge moved to Olympia from Denver. They had a little money set aside, and they wanted to start a new business venture but didn’t know what. “We moved here not knowing what we wanted to do,” Nick said. They walked around downtown to get a feel for the place and hopefully some idea about what kind of business they could start. Nick, an artist, had been commissioned to do a drawing, and he needed to buy a sketch pad. And he discovered there was no art supply store in Olympia. The only art supply store in town had closed a couple of years earlier. So the brothers began to investigate the possibility of filling the gap.
“We did some research and came up with a business plan,” Nick said, and on Sept. 11, 2010 they opened Olyphant Art Supply in a tiny space on Franklin Street, and exactly a year later they moved to a much larger space at 117 Washington St. NE between 4th Avenue and State Street, the building shared by the studios of Mansion Glass and artist Tom Anderson.
Sitting in the gallery in the back part of the store a little more than a year later, Nick said, “The whole store was smaller than the gallery area of this store,” his arm gesture taking in an area one could imagine looking like a closet when crammed with supplies.
The old store was 650 square feet; the new one is 2100.
In addition to a complete stock of artist’s materials — paints, brushes, pastels, canvas, paper, whatever may be needed for drawing, painting, calligraphy and printmaking — Olyphant has a small gallery space with rotating exhibitions of work by local artists, and they have classes for children and adults, and self-directed figure drawing sessions. The art classes are free, and artists who would like to teach a class are encouraged to talk to either owner or to fill out a form on their website.
The figure drawing sessions are every Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. Other class schedules may vary.
At Olyphant they encourage people to go local. As much as possible they buy American-made products. In the planning stages is a buy-local, in-store kiosk where customers can order supplies they would otherwise buy online, thus keeping money in circulation locally. It will be a virtual store, Nick said. “It will include most everything you can get online with the advantage of local customer service. We will match any online price on orders of $50 or more. We hope to have it up and running by 2013. People will have access to everything they’re used to while still supporting local business and the local economy.” He said that close to 90 percent of the money spent online goes to big corporations and much of it goes overseas, while around 70 percent of all money spent with local merchants is circulated within the local community.
Olyphant also has a frame shop with “custom, high quality frames at a much, much more affordable price, lower than anyone else in town as far as I can tell.”
Whether you’re a beginner, a hobbyist or a professional, in need of that special acid-free paper or hoping to take a painting class, Olyphant is likely to have what you’re looking for. And if they don’t there’s a good chance they can get it for you.
119 – 5th Ave SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:30am – 7:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm