Called an “artist’s candy store” on their Facebook page by a fan, Rochester Art Supply Inc., in the historic Cascade section of downtown Rochester, New York, is filled to the rafters in high quality supplies for the professional fine artist, as well as the budding artist and dabbler alike. While this incredible store has become an international hub for professional art essentials, artists all over the world can find just about any desired art supply online at RAS’ online shop: http://www.fineartstore.com
Rochester Art Supply Inc. was started in 1959 by Robert Lesczinski, a sign painter from Rochester, New York. Robert found that he was always having trouble finding quality sign paints in Rochester. He was often forced to order his paints through the mail to restock his supplies. This become quite a chore, so he decided to start his own art supply business. With the help of his brother, Ed and sister, Mary, Rochester Art Supply was born. Originally downtown on West Main St. The store specialized in sign paints, screen printing supplies, artist brushes, and basic art supplies.
Wanting it to be a family run business, Ed frequently hired his nephews, John and Mike, to work at the store during their school summer vacations. In 1977, after Robert and Mary had left the business to pursue other endeavors, John and Mike were summoned to help out when Ed become ill and needed assistance in managing the business. They put their careers on hold to help out, and never looked back; they purchased Rochester Art Supply from their uncle. Since they practically grew up in the store, they knew just what was needed to improve the business. They moved the small shop across West St. to a larger building and made other changes that put the company on the map for fine artist supplies.
Mike Lesczinski made it his main goal to bring quality supplies to their store’s shelves and expanded the inventory to include products for all different mediums. Mike wanted artists to be able to go to just one place and find everything they needed for their pieces and studios. He wanted customers to be able to select their supplies from the best products on the market and over the years, he successfully introduced many new materials and specialty lines. Rochester Art Supply was one of the first importers of the popular Escoda brushes from Spain and the first store to have encaustic wax paints. Even better, the store was the first in the United States to offer the renowned Henri Roche’ Pastel line. Roche’ pastels are one of the hardest lines for artists to get their hands on since they are manufactured by a small company located in Paris, France.
Rochester Art Supply may have originally started as a source for sign painting supplies but with the help of John and Mike it now serves as an international marketplace for quality, brand name art supplies for the professional fine artist.
The store still carries the sign painting supplies that gave it a starting point, but now it proudly carries top of the line pastels, oils, watercolors, acrylics, charcoal, brushes, Plein Air ( painting on location) supplies, encaustics, papermaking materials, canvas, drawing supplies, decorative papers, calligraphy sets, airbrush equipment, linen, artist easels, and abundantly more.
One lucky day for the business was the day they hired paper- meister, David Hoffend, who at one time was doing fashion illustration. David has a BFA in Printmaking and illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology and spent time working in RIT’s huge art dept. through college. He learned to love fine decorative papers while working alongside the head of procurement who had a passion for paper and was herself, a calligrapher. ”Since I was heavily involved with printmaking, I also loved fine decorative papers. Soon I was helping to pick the papers that were purchased for the college book store, and I got to know several distributors and manufacturers.”
After working at the RIT book store, David continues,” I knew that there were gorgeous, professional grade materials available and that brought me to visit Rochester Art Supply. I was aware they specialized in hard to find imported and domestic art supplies, but I was surprised that upon my first visit, they had very little in decorative paper.”
Shortly after that visit, he was hired by the company. “I was born and raised in Rochester, and although I am not a member of the Lesczinski family, I often feel as though I have been adopted by them! “, he jokes.
“I started using what I had learned at the RIT store to order decorative papers. I was given free rein to order anything I thought was different and distinct; papers and supplies that you would not find in most other retail art supply stores. Being an obsessive shopper, I quite literally devoured the opportunity to build a massive selection of papers from around the world. Rochester Art Supply has an international reputation for selling very fine materials, and soon I was being contacted by paper distributors, importers, and manufacturers. We now have decorative papers from America, Canada, Mexico, England, Italy, France, Spain, Nepal, Thailand, Japan, China, India, Philippines, Egypt, Korea, and Taiwan. Many of the papers I first ordered were very textural and displayed the properties of the materials that they were made from (such as recycled bark, dried leaves and flowers, and natural plant fibers). I fell in love with the ornately printed Chiyogami papers from Japan. These printed sheets opened up a whole new world of decorative paper.”
“When we received our first packet of catalogs from Rossi, I was literally so excited that I took the catalogs home for a few nights so that I could take as much time as I wanted to look at them! The printing on the papers is so exquisite, and every design is breathtaking. When we found out that we could get free shipping from Italy if we ordered a certain number of paper styles, I jumped at the opportunity to place a large order. When the papers arrived, it was like Christmas morning. Each style comes rolled in its own box- so imagine opening up all of these white boxes, each one holding its own beautiful pattern. Now I keep adding new styles to our Rossi collection. Most of our customers use Rossi papers for bookmaking and collage. There are several art studios in Rochester that offer book making and book art classes, and both students and teachers come regularly to comb through our papers.”
David seems pretty happy in his career. “I have one of the best jobs in the world because I get to shop for art supplies and beautiful papers! Over the years, working in the art supply industry has opened me up to working with all kinds of materials. I still draw and I love portraiture (although I no longer do commercial illustration). My favorite part of my job is getting to open up the boxes of papers and art materials when they arrive. When you see a full sheet of paper with a printed design, it is much more striking than when you see a small sample or a picture in a catalog. Of course it helps that I love decorative papers. I also love it when customers come in and gasp when they see our paper department. Some people come and spend an entire day to look at what we have.”
Check out their new paper room…filled with papers from all over the world! David is of course, nearby, ready to assist with his creative eye.
Their online store is as massive as any art e-store we have ever seen. You will find a full page devoted to Rossi decorative papers alone.
FineArtStore.com has a blog that features new products, different art techniques, such as how to make any surface ready for drawing or how to make custom chalk lettering signs. On the website there is an amazing library of art training videos one can access on line for free. There are also YouTube videos (youtube.com/fineartstore) to help educate, and the store holds art classes in their Cascade Art Center.
These marketing geniuses have a fabulous colorful Facebook page (https:/www.facebook.com/FineArtStore) highlighting in store promotions, trivia contests and featured artists. Find them on Twitter and LinkedIn as well. They are also partnered with Amazon.
One Google reviewer says of the website, “There is an amazing selection of everything!” We say, that pretty much sums it up.
For more information go to: www.fineartstore.com or Rochester Art Supply, 150 West Main St., Rochester, N.Y.