A mainstay of Uptown Kingston’s business district is moving as part of an ambitious plan to adapt bricks and mortar retail to the age of e-commerce. On April 1, Catskill Art and Office Supply hopes to complete its transition from its home of 33 years at 328 Wall St. to Kingston Plaza, where it will take over a space now occupied by arts and crafts retailer Benjamin Franklin.
Owner Paul Solis-Cohen’s new business plan also calls for closing the chain’s Poughkeepsie location, while offering next-day delivery service anywhere in Dutchess County.
“After 40 years, if you’re not changing how you do business, you’re in trouble,” said Solis-Cohen.
Solis-Cohen opened his first store in Woodstock in the 1970s and has operated a location in Kingston since 1983. Since 1986 the Kingston store has occupied a sprawling 4,000-square-foot multi-level space in the heart of the Stockade District. The store offers art supplies ranging from kids craft items to high-end acrylics, as well as custom framing, printing and canvas-stretching services.
Solis-Cohen said this week the decision to move was based on a happy confluence of events, including an offer on his building by wealthy real estate investor Neil Bender and the pending closure of Benjamin Franklin. Solis-Cohen said that he was also motivated by concerns about disruption during construction of the proposed Kingstonian multi-use complex in the Stockade District and a longstanding issue with a lack of parking in the neighborhood. That issue, he said, was exacerbated by the city’s decision in 2016 to end free parking in municipal lots.
“I didn’t decide to move, my customers decided it was time for free parking,” said Solis-Cohen. “And I follow the advice of my customers. It’s worked for 40 years.”
Solis-Cohen said the new location and Kingston Plaza would be larger than the current space. The added square footage, he said, would be put to use by adding interactive features including product demos and a “try before you buy” sample area. Solis-Cohen said the new store would continue the chain’s emphasis on customer service and competitive pricing — essential to survival in an age where art supplies are just a click away on the Internet.
Solis-Cohen said his efforts to aggressively confront the e-commerce economy would include a new delivery service that he plans to roll out in conjunction with the closing of the Poughkeepsie store. Customers will be able to place orders by phone, text, email and other platforms and come to the store to pick up their items pre-packaged and paid for. Customers in Dutchess County can opt to have their orders delivered to their door the next day.
Solis-Cohen described the delivery service as a pilot project that, if successful, would expand to cover Ulster County.
“The fact is, it seems to me, that people want online ordering and they want home delivery,” said Solis-Cohen. “We’re going to provide that.”
While the Poughkeepsie store will close in the spring, Solis-Cohen said he had no plans to shut down or otherwise make changes in the Woodstock location which he described a longtime anchor of the chain.
“Woodstock rocks,” said Solis-Cohen. “What else can I say? I see no reason to change our situation there.”