Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.
Art Mart, an art supply store, has been around since the '40s or '50s under several different names, but currently calls the Village home.
Owner and artist Karen Fisher worked at Gordy’s Art Mart, the store’s previous name, which was affiliated with Gordy Fine Art & Framing.
Fisher enjoyed using the materials and learning in-depth information about them.
“We had talked for several years about the possibility of my husband Paul and I purchasing the business when they were ready to sell it, and so one day they came to us and said, 'we’re ready' … that was 13 years ago,” Fisher said. “I didn’t know the business part of it, I knew about the materials, the products, certainly how to take care of our customers … learning about business and how to run a successful business and stay in business — that’s just an everyday learning experience.”
Fisher said owning a Village business is fun, and helps the business create bonds with the student customers who visit Art Mart.
“We have so many repeat kids, and then if they’re an art major or theatre [or] architecture, an area where they need creative materials like this, then we can build a relationship over the course of their university career,” Fisher said. “A lot of the kids will come back and see us from time to time when they’re back in town.”
The store also talks to Ball State professors to find out what materials they or their students need so they can keep up inventory and have those materials available when needed.
Fisher said that she is an art supply junkie, so she often visits trade shows and wants her store to have everything new that comes on the market.
“Something I like, we’re going to probably have it, but if it’s something that I think our customers could use or it would be beneficial to have something like that here, then we’ll stock it,” Fisher said. “Things like our paints and items that a good number of our customers need to have, we always try to be cognizant of having an affordable product and a high grade product — so something for students and something for someone who’s not a student or wants to move up in quality with their supplies. We have a student and a professional [quality level] in all of our products.”
In addition to being aware of pricing, the store offers special sales about once a month for their customers.
As a family business, Fisher strives to be involved in the community and wants to be a good community member, neighbor and businessperson.
Art Mart is currently selling journals, coasters and cards from the Books Arts Collaborative class and is partnering with the class for a paper marbling workshop in January.
Jabba, a rescue cat, lives at Art Mart. Fisher had a cat before Jabba at the store and found that students came in because they missed their own pets.
“When [the old cat] left us, we had all these students that were so sad, and so we went and found [Jabba] … he is just a real popular guy. We don’t care if you don’t need to buy anything, if you need to interact with the cat come in and pet the cat. He loves it,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s daughter, Elizabeth Guffey, is the store’s manager. Her, Fisher and two Ball State alumni staff the store. Although she is not an artist, Guffey does customer service and helps with ordering and inventory as well as book work.
“It’s definitely different for me than for the other employees because I look at things and I can read all of the information about it and I can understand the technical parts of it, but then when it's actually time to put things together, the paint on the paper, I don't totally know [what to do],” Guffey said. “We’re just real casual, we know our customers really well, we get to know their projects and ask how things are doing. We become friends with people.”
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