There’s not much day-to-day bustle at S&S Art Supply on Main Street.
On a weekday last month, owner Eric Stockard helped a handful of customers who dropped in throughout the afternoon — a mother and son buying art supplies to make crafts for their home-school lessons, a retired art teacher looking for some frosted mylar sheets.
A customer browses what’s left of S&S Art Supply’s inventory. Supplies are being sold at deep discounts to clear the shelves before the store closes this month.
Swing music plays on a Pandora radio station while Stockard’s wife, Amanda Ladymon-Stockard, amuses their 1-year-old daughter, Lily, near the cash register.
Rows of colorful art supplies line the walls below local artists’ paintings. But there are gaps on the shelves left by many of the store’s last remaining items that have been sold at deep discounts in preparation for the store’s closing this month.
Last summer’s back-to-school business was so good Stockard could afford to buy himself a funky old truck to fix up in his spare time and haul away loads of cardboard from the store.
This summer’s back-to-school business was so bad Stockard is shutting down the business he started four years ago with his father, Brian.
“We had a blast. We had a good time,” Stockard said. “Time to go make some money.”
After a year of business on Rosewood Drive, S&S moved to the 1600 block of Main Street in July 2010.
Three and a half years later, slow sales and high costs have the Stockards clearing their shelves and making plans for a future that won’t include S&S.
“I think with some retail businesses … the only reason why they stay afloat is because they have a lot of family money and backing that we just don’t have,” said Ladymon-Stockard, an adjunct professor of studio art at USC. “We were breaking even four years in, but it wasn’t sustainable enough.”
Now, the local arts community prepares to mourn the loss of a Columbia creative staple. The closing of S&S leaves downtown with just one other independently owned arts supply store, City Art on nearby Lincoln Street.
“It’ll leave a hole,” said Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia for Arts and Humanities, which supports and promotes the arts in the city.
S&S has been “a hub” for the community’s creative needs, Snelgrove said.
Ken May, executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission, considers S&S to have been “an important part of the kind of renaissance on Main Street.”
“We regret that they’re leaving,” he said. “Just knowing those people and being able to walk in and say, ‘Could you get me this?’ and they would order that — having that kind of customized service is attractive, and it comes with a price.”