Charette going under?

My friend posts this report on an exchange during a recent shopping trip to Charette...

For those who are interested, Charrette will be going out of business by 30 June, according to the woman who waited on me. There is a 50% sale on stock for members. They apparently didn't give the help much notice, but I noticed that the store was very quiet (no customers) the last few times I was there. Lots of good stuff will be a little harder to find. I'm not sure what's planned for the copying operation which is a separate company.

he adds later

A little more on Charrette. The Charrette Store is closing. The company was bought by Pittman. Charrette corp. will disapear. The new company will be out of the art supply business. The copying company in the Charrette building will remain there for two months, then move-somewhere.

Neighborhoods: 

    Topics: 

    Free tagging: 

      Comments

      Nearby alternatives for window-shopping art supplies

      By on

      Artist [& Craftsman] Supply by the Central T is my favorite for prices and employees.

      Then there's Pearl across the street, which has more stuff.

      And a walk up the street towards Harvard is Utrect, for pretty displays of colored markers and such.

      Charrette's going out of business

      By on

      This news is definately sad.
      Charrettes, became an institution in Cambridge, Mass in the late 60's when it was started by two Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) students who were working at the GSD art supply store. They convinced their suppliers to help them set up shop. In 1969 when I got to Cambridge from Italy, the only store of this type that I knew was in NYC.

      Anyway, here was this store, in cambridge, selling everything from drafting boards to oil paints. It had a small store on Brattle Street in Cambridge, and it had a large Warehouse farther north on Mass Ave. near a Sears.

      If you wanted supplies, it was THE place in the US to go if you were looking for "anything from oil paints to pallets, to HB lead and lead holders". Koh-i-noor, either loved or hated these guys, becasue they had the corner on the drafting supply market

      In 1988, I worked on computerizing the Cambridge firm of which I was a partner. Charrettes came in and did a bang up job of selling us our first workstation for $20,000. That included a plotter. I think they saw, all of us coming.

      Anyway the original owners did very well. At one point they decided to open a store in the Carribean. AS YOU KNOW THERE IS GREAT DEMAND IN THE CARRIBEAN FOR DRAFTING SUPPLIES. It is greater even than the demad for vacations.

      I am sorry that they let it get away from them, intentionally or otherwise.

      It is interesting, that painters still paint with oil paint, graphic designers, and industrial designers, still draw, architects if they know how to design, and still sketch their thoughts. On line, I checked out the stores in Manhattan. The store I knew isn't there any more. BUT there are a lot of new ones.

      Charrette

      By on

      Thanks for your kind words about Charrette, the company founded by Blair Brown and I in Cambridge in 1964. The company started as a supplier to architectsand slowly expanded to encompass a range of supplies for engineers, commercial designers, fine artists and industrial design. In 1997 we sold the company. Sadly things rapidly changed. Now, 2010, the "blueprinting" business, originally founded by Fred Stone and further developed by Bob Beal and then Peter Bentinck-Smith is called Service Point, none of the eleven Charrette retail stores exist, the wholesale framing supply business was sold to a small Rhode Island firm and the product business is called Pittman. Blair and I were trained as architects and strove to manage a company that would make us proud. We felt that if properly run, profits would be a bi product of our efforts and those of our 800 colleagues, at the time of the sale. Apparently that was a luxury that the new managers and owners could not continue.

      up
      10

      Sorely missed

      By on

      I first went to the Woburn store when I was in Jr High and continued regularly through college. later in life I went at least once a year and always left full stocked up for the next year. I will miss the store dearly as it was the only place convent to those of us on the North Shore of Boston. Now those of us in need are in a void that has to try to get into town or web sales both options suck for differing reasons.

      up
      10

      It's definitely sad

      By on

      It's definitely sad. When I first arrived in Boston in 1986 to attend Mass College of Art, there were at least four major art supply chains (in addition to Charrette, there were also Utretch, Pearl and another chain whose name escapes me all these years later), as well as Mass Art's store (which itself later became a Charrette) and dozens of independent art supply retailers. Now there are virtually no independent stores, and Utrecht and the super-expensive Blick are the only chains left. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, with so many retail transactions now being conducted online (there are also fewer book stores, record/CD stores, and the like, with people buying many of these items online instead of going into a store as well). But, while buying a book online from Amazon is an easy and attractive transaction, art supplies are different. There is nothing like going into an art store and seeing all of the colours, feeling the textures of the watercolour paper, etc. You cannot replicate that experience online, and it's sad, as an artist and a lifelong consumer of art supplies, that this experience is becoming a thing of the past.

      Employee Thanks

      Dear Lionel,

      It was an honor to work as a salesperson (#976) for your company while as a HS student (Art & Design) and early collegiate (Pratt Institute) between 1978 and 1981. Not only did I earn a decent part-time salary, but gained a world of experience, an employee discount and collected numerous friends (from both sides of the store's Third Avenue counter) over that duration.

      Know that I'd left NYC transferring to Cornell to secure my B.Arch degree and, shortly thereafter, the first of multiple State RA licenses. Our firm remained loyal Charrette customers...at least until we went 98% CADD like the rest of our profession.

      I've only the fondest of memories and highest respect for the many talented people that came through our (that's a collective, "our") front door. I never did sell my supposed Charrette stock, but have that certificate stored safely away with other mementos from such simpler and care-free days. -RKR ([email protected])

      up
      10

      Fond memories of Charrette

      By on

      Dear Lionel--
      I was sorry to hear of the demise of this fine company.
      I was a sales rep for the Detroit branch and had the privilege
      of going out on the road with you one afternoon. We visited General Dynamics, as I remember, and an architectural account where you regaled me with the story of Eileen Grey as we waited in their appropriately furnished reception area.

      I was especially proud to represent your company once I got to know you. I have often thought of your "Help 2000"(it was called something like that) concept of assisting people in need with a one-time gift of $2000. Although this was a personal, not a corporate, program, I felt that it said a lot about your approach to dealing with people and your sense of responsibility to the community at large.

      I've since returned to my original profession of school library media specialist. The world of books is changing just as fast as the world of art supplies did. It's an amazing time that we're in; we need to cherish our old memories of the concrete as we look forward to the new life of the abstract.

      Thanks for an enriching job opportunity.

      Charrette- a cornerstone of my life

      Hi Lionel:

      I worked as a saleperson at the Charrette 54th street store during 1978. It changed the course of my life. I had come there after dropping out of the Pratt Architecture program and figured that I needed to stay in touch with the profession but had never worked in an architect's office before. I was about 19. I loved working the front counter, although I probably spent too much time helping people. Kurt Vonegat would drop by every once in a while to buy writing implements. One day, a young guy with wild hair came inside in somewhat of a panic. He came right up to me and asked: 'Are you able to draw elevations in ink?' Never having inked drawings elevations before, I naturally said yes. This guy, who turned out to be Peter Shelton of Shelton Mindel Associates and I spent the next 3 weeks (after hours of course) drawing the elevations to the 'skyscraper' at No. 1 Fifth Avenue for a landmarks presentation. It was my first architecture job and lead the way to all the others and lead me to eventually (2 years later) returning to Pratt and getting my B-Arch. I now (at 53) run my own architecture firm called Hargidon on the northshore of Mass. Thank you Lionel!

      Charrette's

      By on

      I to was sad to hear. I spent a good part of my wages as a waiter at Charrette while attending the Boston Architectural Center. Great place, all those architectural model materials. The whole building was great with BTA and TAC plus the Design Center. All that is gone. That was the mid seventies for me.

      up
      11

      "pitman company"

      By on

      charrette, after being bought and sold a FEW times after Lionel and Blair sold it, was sold to the Pitman Company....

      That's the same question we

      By on

      That's the same question we have been asking our selves why buy to then let it go down.

      ...for the same reason good

      By on

      ...for the same reason good companies like Simmons Mattress went down: the new american banking frauds.

      charrette closing

      By on

      Went to the Woburn store last Sat. Closed! Even the parking lot was cleared of asphalt.Tumbleweed blowing around. Couple of trucks at the loading dock. BUMMER!

      Gift Certificate

      By on

      I have a $50.00 gift certificate to Charrette's. Has anyone heard what to do with that?

      Fear Not

      By on

      You just never know.....Charrette may rise again.....

      The Pitman company (Pitman

      By on

      The Pitman company (Pitman bought out charrette and absorbed them into their company) was just purchased by the AGFA grafics division of AGFA.... so things may greatly improve as far as customer service. (Sorry I dont ever see them reopening the retail store.)

      My favorite art supply store

      By on

      I first heard about Charrette when I was a student at RISD. When I was working for an industrial design firm in the late '70s I used to buy all of my art supplies at the upper east side Charrette store that was on East 54th Street, as I recall. When that store had to be closed due to demolition--I believe for the Lipstick building--I started buying my supplies at the new Charrette on lower Lexington Ave. There was also a store in the late '80s that opened just off Fifth and was on 45th Street, if I have the address correct. I also bought some items at the New Haven store, but never went to the Cambridge store. All three stores were a pleasure to shop in and I outfitted my design studio primarily with purchases from Charrette. I still have the many W+S chairs, the Luxo lamps, the large Vemco drafting machine, just to mention a few items. I saved all of the old Charrette catalogs from the past that I had. One of my favorites has the red Charrette van on the cover.

      I noticed last year that when I went to the web site to order some items I was directed to the Pittman site and figured the company had been sold.

      It was great to read other designers comments here and to see how many appreciated the stores when they were still with us.

      Say it ain't so...

      By on

      I too was a design student at RISD in the mid-seventies. On a fairly regular basis I would go to Charette and wander around for an hour or so just checking it all out. I loved The Art Store on the Hill right there in Providence too. Is it still there I wonder? I moved west after school (pre-internet on-line stores) and so had to familiarize myself with other resources. Really missed my trips to the Cambridge store. Did buy several items via catalogue and eventually internet. I loved the virtual browsing. Their merchandise was always top quality and they had everything you could imagine. However, in today's world of internet resources, I can see how difficult the competition must be. Even so, it's really sad to see a place like that disappear.

      Great to see another RISD

      By on

      Great to see another RISD student here commenting on Charrette and it sounds like we were at RISD at the same time!

      The art store in Providence that you may be referring to was "Oakes on the Hill" which was located on Thomas Street adjacent to the First Baptist Church. I was last in Oakes in 1984 and I don't know when they closed, but it was a wonderful art store during my time at RISD.

      Charrette closing was like a death of a close friend

      By on

      I first heard about Charrette when I was a student at RISD. When I was working for an industrial design firm in the late '70s I used to buy all of my art supplies at the upper east side Charrette store that was on East 54th Street, as I recall. When that store had to be closed due to demolition--I believe for the Lipstick building--I started buying my supplies at the new Charrette on lower Lexington Ave. There was also a store in the late '80s that opened just off Fifth and was on 45th Street, if I have the address correct. I also bought some items at the New Haven store, but never went to the Cambridge store. All three stores were a pleasure to shop in and I outfitted my design studio primarily with purchases from Charrette. I still have the many W+S chairs, the Luxo lamps, the large Vemco drafting machine, just to mention a few items. I saved all of the old Charrette catalogs from the past that I had. One of my favorites has the red Charrette van on the cover.

      I noticed last year that when I went to the web site to order some items I was directed to the Pittman site and figured the company had been sold.

      It was great to read other designers comments here and to see how many appreciated the stores when they were still with us.

      pitman has just been

      By on

      pitman has just been purchased by Agfa's graphics division last month so its undergoing major changes yet again.

      NEW source for your supplies!!

      By on

      i managed the Charrette retail store up to its untimely demise in august 09. i am glad to see so many positive memories of the store and the company. Charrette's closing left a huge void in the availablity of quality art supplies in this area. fortunately, i have been lucky enough to have been hired at Artist and Craftsman Supply, a small but quickly growing employee owned company based out of Portland, ME. We have just opened our 17th location on rt 1 in Saugus. The selection is vast and pricing competitive. art supplies are again abundant on the north shore. i hope to see many familiar faces!

      the original Charrette NYC store

      By on

      In the mid to late 1970's, I worked for the West Side Highway Project in downtown NYC. Our supplier for all our architectural and graphic design materials was a store on East 54th Street on the main floor of a brownstone. I had not heard of it before and found its name, Charrette, quite unusual but soon learned working with architects and urban planners on deadlines for projects just was the word meant.

      Then the brownstone store closed. The managers were let go and a new, modern facility was opened in the 30's I think on Lexington or 3rd Avenue. I only went in it once. I had too many fond memories of the old store. In fact, I still have the Luxo lamp I bought there. It is a bit worn out but works like a charm. I loved that store. It is so tied into my own history as a designer.

      Article about Charrette

      I am the NY Graphic Design Examiner.com and am writing an article about Charrette in NYC. Does anyone have any memorabilia i.e. old catalogs so that I can have an image of it or pictures of the stores on either or both 54th St or the big one in the 30s. I have tried to reach both owners, but no response. If anyone knows either of them, I'd love to hear from them. Thanks,
      Alison Gilbert, [email protected]

      Charrette, We Hardly Knew Ye

      As a professional model maker in New York during the 1980's it was such a pleasure to purchase my materials at their various stores. Their paper retail area was in the rear, where I would study pantone and other colors & textures on their black countertop with a high intensity beam shining down above. And would personally, quietly inside appreciate colors, materials, textures - their richness and how they could convey so much. Then I would return to the various design offices I would be working for and do "a charrette" and work through the next several days and nights meeting the various impossible deadlines NYC design firms always presented me. Thank god! - for Charrette. Too many times it saved me and helped me meet my many deadlines.