I Guess Pratt Is Having an Art Store War?

by Leighann Morris on August 23, 2012 · 14 comments Gossip

Image courtesy of Pratt.edu

Pratt students thought they had sufficient art supplies when the Pratt Store opened in 2005, but then, this March, Utrecht opened up one of its mammoth chain art supply stores just a few doors down. Since then, Utrecht has polarized the Pratt community, and some worry that it will run the Pratt Store out of business. We spoke with staff at both stores, and the local community, and man, have we got a scoop. Sort of.

It seems that the Pratt Store is royally pissed off with its new neighbor, who moved onto Myrtle in April after renting space from the Pratt Institute. We spoke to one of the Pratt Store’s student employees, who told us that the store was instructed to discontinue Utrecht branded items and sell off all of its art supplies, in a decision made by the Pratt Institute to avoid creating competition between the two.

“Their marker boards are ours!” the employee cried, after telling us that Utrecht took inventory from the Pratt before the new store opened. “And they didn’t even have enough room for it! They brought it all back the next weekend.” The alleged result: the Pratt Store is left with its “business failing” (the Pratt Store was unable to give us figures), and a load of stuff that “doesn’t sell”, like stationery and cards. Ouch.

Apart from moving uncomfortably close to the Pratt Store, our student employee insider is annoyed about the poor customer service that Utrecht offers: “They’re rude. I guarantee if you go into the store, they’ll watch you. They’ll follow you round.”

We did a test, and no one followed us around or watched us, but Utrecht did answer a few questions we had for them. When quizzed about taking inventory, Utrecht responded with: “We have worked with the Pratt Institute to take on some of their items, yes.” Hmmm.

The response from the community is mixed. On the web, things have got pretty heated. On Myrtle Minutes, an anonymous user expressed his anger for the new big vendor in town: “[We] really don’t need the counter girl flirting so people will sign up for their Utrecht card ARTDUMB!”. Whatever that means, it’s probably bad. Over on Brownstoner, the comments are a lot clearer and more diverse, with welcoming responses like “the more the better” and “this is great news!”, along with outbursts from Pratt Store haters that believe the store is “terrible” and “way overpriced” with “no organization, limited selection and poor service.” Commenters have also pointed out that Utrecht was founded in 1949 by two brothers from Brooklyn, and their paints and gessos are made in Brooklyn, so really the store probably deserves a space on Myrtle.

Is the Pratt Store doomed? Will it be closed down because of its shinier, more popular neighbor? Was Utrecht’s lease part of a grander Pratt plan to end their store? If so, is that plan in any way evil? No one wanted to comment on the Pratt Store’s fate, so only time can tell. But we’ve got a feeling this art store war isn’t over.

  • http://twitter.com/penispalace friendship person

    real artists go to michaels

    • kira anne

      you have got to be kidding. you must not be an artist. Micheals is WAY overpriced and all crafty junk….

      • http://twitter.com/upierrenoel Uri Pierre Noel

        Pretty sure that was a joke kira

  • the_bees_knees

    Something similar happened with the in-house art supply store I used to work at in an art school in Philadelphia, only with Blick instead of Utrecht. It was impossible to compete with Blick’s newly built megastore several blocks away. Our sales were dismal, and students constantly complained about our high prices, even though it was really out of our control, as Blick is like Walmart and can buy large quantities of stock, enabling them to get discounts from manufacturers.

    Our store was eventually bought out by Blick, who put their own mini store in the school. As employees of the college, my co-workers and I had really great benefits: three weeks paid vacation, paid sick days, personal days, great health insurance. After the buyout we were laid off.

    What really pisses me off is how Blick treated us. Before the contract was signed, they led the college to believe that we would be keeping our jobs in the new store as employees of Blick rather than the school. After having us interview, they refused to hire any of us. Here’s to hoping the Pratt store soldiers on.

  • http://jdsiazon.wordpress.com/ JD Siazon

    Pratt cut a slick deal with Utrecht which allows the retailer to attempt a monopoly of all art supplies sold to Pratt students while Pratt Store will discontinue selling such things relegating itself to just hawking dorm crap and sundry Pratt memorabilia. This article though completely overlooks Apple Art Supplies which is a family-owned business just outside Pratt’s gates on Dekalb Ave.

    • Will Brand

      Our office is a block away from Pratt, so we know Apple. The reasoning behind not including them was that Apple simply isn’t on the same scale as either the Pratt Store or the new Utrecht, and wasn’t brought up by anyone Leighann talked to (IIRC). Given that Paddy and I both buy stuff there all the time, though, probably a silly oversight.

      • http://jdsiazon.wordpress.com/ JD Siazon

        Pratt also has plans to occupy all of those defunct retail spaces flanking the Associated Supermarket. The former shop owners were basically evicted or so I was told.

        • anthony cudahy

          True, I believe that they are going to begin to build on top of them to create new student housing. Places like New Grace and Bergen moved down Myrtle, while the corner bodega’s management moved across the street. Hyun’s went out of business, but you have to wonder whether they could have survived regardless with the, what, five bodegas that opened within three blocks of them on Myrtle this past summer (and countless new, bougey restaurants)? Was walking down Myrtle that summer and thought I was in Williamsburg.

          • http://jdsiazon.wordpress.com/ JD Siazon

            Not Williamsburg but rather some extremely commercial youth oasis …

  • http://www.douglasfiliak.com/ Douglas Filiak

    Went to the Pratt store a couple weeks ago for a couple basics and they barely had anything at all – just a bunch of Pratt shirts, craft supplies, and portfolio cases. Still the guard at the door eyed us like a hawk the entire time. Then noticed a shiny new Utrech on the next block. They were fully stocked and then some, also very accommodating. Sorry Pratt store.

  • http://twitter.com/_chrishamby Chris Hamby

    my understanding is that the Pratt Store building was always intended to be temporary, and that Utrecht will be taking its place. I think they have grander schemes for that site.
    I don’t think they’re building at the Associated site – that whole stretch is owned by the same private landlord and from what I remember he’s holding out on redeveloping his property to take advantage of the new higher densities permitted there.

    • http://jdsiazon.wordpress.com/ JD Siazon

      Thank you for clarifying that Chris.

  • callie17

    Yeah, hate to say it, but experience at Utrecht is almost universally more pleasant and accessible than the Pratt store. Their staff is friendlier and more helpful. Their hours are more predictable. Prices make it reasonable to actually create art. Only thing I miss is having better access to some of the more specialty items, but Pratt is still carrying the more industrial and sewing supplies. I’ll still visit both, but I’m pretty stoked to have a Utrecht so close by for Saturday morning emergency Montana runs.

  • Amanda

    If Pratt is renting out the space to Utrecht, they obviously are phasing out their store.

    I’m sure they don’t personally run the Pratt Store and it is run by some sort of licensee / contractor. Getting rid of it will take some burden off the school and hopefully having a national art supply chain benefits the community and students.

    Where do you buy Pratt tees in the future though????

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