My Favorite Place: Jerry’s Artist Outlet, West Orange

If you live in Baristaville, and were the kind of kid who had to have the 120-color box of Crayola crayons, chances are you’ve clocked some at Jerry’s Artist Outlet in West Orange. The 7,500-square foot art supply discounter, located in the Essex Green Shopping Center, turns 10 today. And although the anniversary sneaked up on owners Allen and Bonnie Shefts, they’ve pulled together a little party, with balloons, snacks and raffles, from noon to 5 p.m. today.

There are many contenders in the world of arts and craft supplies, from Montclair-based Rock Paper Scissors to the big box stores A.C. Moore and Michael’s. And the world is filled with online competition too, from MisterArt to PearlPaint. Allen Shefts was actually Pearl’s CEO between 1977 and 1997, and he was involved in one other venture before affiliating with Jerry’s Artorama and opening his own family business at Essex Green.

Jerry’s stands somewhere in between the big box store behemoths and the intimate boutique art supply store, Flannery’s Corner, which closed in 2006. It’s big enough to have a huge variety of items in stock, but it’s staffed by real artists, who can tell you why a Kolinsky watercolor brush sells, discounted, for $286. (It’s made from mink.)

“We carry stuff I’ll turn once a year,” Allen says.

The philosophy of the store is simple. “You want to know my attitude?” says Allen, with his slightly challenging Brooklyn accent. “If you’re not nice, I don’ need you here, whether you work here or you’re a customer.” He can get a little ornery if you call him Jerry.

Bonnie puts it like this: “They want to be coming here. They’re not here because they have to get shoes for Janie’s wedding. I feel like we feed people’s spirit.”

Jerry’s is located at 495 Prospect Avenue, West Orange. 973.669.0995.

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  1. This place is great. I have several friends (and a wife) who would be pleased as punch if every gift they got from now until eternity was a series of Jerry’s gift certificates.

  2. It is a good place with people who know. Alas, I had an untoward experience with the attempted return of a cheapo frame whose glass broke when I was trying to extract it through the back, past those little metal tabs. Didn’t at all like the guy’s attitude. He of course refused to take it back. He prolly didn’t like my demeanor, either, but under the heading of the customer is always right, and since I was not abusive or offensive…..Haven’t been back since.

  3. Completely off topic, but “The Customer is Always Right” is the worst marketing phrase ever created.

    Not knowing the situation or the store’s policy on this particular item, it may have been completely out of the clerk’s control to take the frame back (open packaging, damaged product that was intact when sold, etc).

    Back when I used to work retail, that sounds like the exact sort of problem I would have recommended you contact the manufacturer about.

  4. “Alas, I had an untoward experience with the attempted return of a cheapo frame whose glass broke when I was trying to extract it through the back, past those little metal tabs.”

    You get what you pay for. A “cheapo” frame.

  5. In my experience, people who regularly use the phrase “the customer is always right” use it because they are frequently unreasonable and obnoxious with sales people/store owners and wield it as a way of trying to justify conduct that they and everyone else knows is b.s.

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