There’s no mistaking what Artist & Craftsman Supply sells.
It’s all over the walls, ceiling and floor of the building it occupies on St. Helens Avenue.
Paint fills the space in a kaleidoscope of colors.
“It puts people at ease,” manager Michael Rives said. “This isn’t one of those high-brow stores.”
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The paint also comes in tubes, cans and other containers — ready for artists to purchase when the store on St. Helens Avenue opens Nov. 25.
“We’re trying to appeal to artists and creative thinkers,” Rives said. “So we wanted to make it exciting for them.”
The 5,000-square-foot-plus retail space is the latest of the Portland, Maine-based chain’s 34 stores.
Company founder Larry Adlerstein discovered the historic 1928 Wagner Motors building himself on a scouting trip. Locating in unconventional retail spaces is part of the company’s philosophy.
According to information from its nomination to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, the building was designed by architect Silas Nelsen with a Mediterranean influence. It has decorative twisted cord columns and scrolled dentil molding.
Historical preservationists needn’t panic about the paint job. Rives and his staff didn’t cover any unfinished wood or the original brick floor.
“Some people were worried about us coming into a nice, white historical building and us painting the walls crazy colors,” Rives said.
Some of the original wood beams are 21 inches square.
“We’ve never had a store close. But if we did, this building could be painted and look like it was but with all these improvements,” Rives said.
The building’s most recent tenant was an antique store.
“When I saw a picture of this building and how beautiful it was, I thought, ‘I have to manage that store,’ ” Rives said.
Adlerstein started the company in 1985. The employee-owned chain’s nearest outposts are in Seattle and Portland.
The Tacoma store has five employees. Rives hires only people with an art background or a passion for art.
“Everybody has a specialty,” Rives said. “I’m an acrylic painter.”
Rives, a University of Puget Sound graduate, began working at the Seattle A&C store in 2009.
“We’ve been hearing for years that there wasn’t anything like us down here,” said regional manager Sarah Weston. “This building was a big part of it. Larry (Adlerstein) was down here renting a car and saw the lease sign and thought it would be perfect.”
“We like taking on spaces that are not traditional retails spaces,” Rives said. “The contractor said the building hadn’t been updated since the 1920s.”
For the past month, employees have stocking shelves with paints, dyes, tints, papers, pastels and watercolors.
Easels, tables and canvases, including DIY canvases, will be for sale.
“This whole room is going to be loaded up with our custom wood panels that people are really crazy about,” Rives said, gesturing to the back room.
A car-sized freight elevator goes to upper floors occupied by Dystopian State Brewing Co.
An upstairs area will be stocked with frames, portfolios and other larger items.
A small furnished space will allow art product demonstrations.
One area that hasn’t been painted over is the large mural on the building’s exterior northern wall.
“People are very protective of that mural,” Rives said. “We’re not going to touch it.”
Artist & Craftsman Supply Tacoma
Where: 616 St. Helens Ave, Ste 102, Tacoma
Information: 253-272-1311, artistcraftsman.com