All good things must come to an end, and so it is that S&S Art Supply at 1633 Main St. will be closing its doors for the last time on Dec. 20. One of Columbia’s few locally owned, independent suppliers of materials for artists, S&S has helped play a role in the revitalization of Main Street, with co-owner Eric Stockard helping organize and promote the popular monthly First Thursday events that regularly draw hundreds of arts patrons to the area.
Despite the First Thursday series’ success in attracting crowds to Main Street, it’s the artists themselves that are needed to keep S&S afloat, and the store has simply not been able to compete with the online and big-box retailers that are claiming increasingly larger shares of the market.
“As with any small business, the cost of acquiring everything we need to keep the shelves stocked is hard to meet, especially when we don’t want to limit ourselves to just one brand of any specific material, but cater to the preferences and needs of each artist,” Stockard says. “Also, people automatically think that the big-boxes are the best deal, but often their prices are higher when you actually compare them.”
S&S opened in the summer of 2009 on Rosewood Drive but moved to Main Street a year later in order to be part of the growth in the area.
“We would not have thought [initially] of opening on Main, but after the construction and improvements, we started coming to the First Thursdays and heard about the Tapp’s Center, the Nickelodeon and the Mast General Store,” Stockard says. “The area is also closer to the USC campus, where a lot of our business comes from, so all of a sudden there were all these good reasons to move the store.”
Though his business did not thrive at the level that others on Main Street have, Stockard, whose wife Amanda Ladymon also puts in time at the store, does not view its closing as a failure. (Full disclosure: Ladymon is also a Free Times contributor.)
“We are a family business, and part of the closing is for the family, as we now have our second child on the way,” Stockard says. “We got a lot out of this ... we also got to know about half the people in town, and Columbia will probably miss S&S more than we will.”
This is not to say that the Stockard family has not enjoyed its time downtown.
“It has been great being a part of the wonderful things happening on Main Street,” Stockard says. “I have 100 percent faith in its future. I like the energy and the direction that First Thursday is going. There are new restaurants opening and other places popping up. Main Street business is booming.”
In fact, Stockard will remain a part of the boom after the closing, moving on to work for his father Brian at The Cigar Box, a cigar boutique and lounge with locations on Main Street and Rosewood Drive. The lounge offers items you cannot find online: leather seating, a walk-in humidor and, in the downtown location, a pool table and televisions for watching games and other events. Stockard says they are also looking into the possibility of getting a beer and wine license.
S&S will host its final First Thursday exhibition on Dec. 5, featuring local artists Thomas Crouch, Kelly and J. Spencer Shull (who operate together as JellyKoe), Evelyn Wong, Andrew Thomas, Sabrina White-Mackin, Amy Windland, Gwyn Pevonka Jones and Robin Gadient. The store will also be offering deep discounts on much of its inventory as well as various fixtures and shelving in order to clear everything out by the closing on Dec. 20.
While it is a sad day for supporters of local business, S&S Art Supply should be celebrated for its contributions to the redevelopment of downtown Columbia. Whether you’re an artist or not, the closing in December presents a perfect opportunity for you to do so.
Numerous Main Street businesses will host events and display art from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday as part of the monthly First Thursdays on Main series. Visit firstthursdayonmain.com for details.
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