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.