To remember New Paltz before there was a Manny’s Art Supplies, you’d practically need to have been born in a Huguenot stone house – perhaps even a Munsee longhouse. Though Main Street old-timers may fondly recall the cheesy “Manny’s Lounge” sign that founder Manuel B. Lipton picked up somewhere secondhand, the place has always been an art materials store…and much more.
Since it first opened its doors in 1962, Manny’s has been a hangout for students, artists, hippies and assorted riffraff, as well as a place to pick up some penny candy or gag gifts or stocking stuffers. For many years it did a brisk trade in secondhand books; it was the place you went to unload your textbooks at the end of the semester for a tenth of what you paid for them new at the college bookstore, so that the next crop of students could buy them slightly used for half the cover price.
Manny Lipton was a canny businessman, but he was also a streetwise philosopher who held forth on many subjects to any customer who’d stand still long enough to listen. He covered practically every spare inch of wall and display space with “Mannyisms”: slips of paper typed with jokes, koans, aphorisms and cryptic observations by the man himself. While Manny kept us all entertained with his stories and winked at shoplifting by certain penniless poets, his formidable wife Frieda presided over the cash register, directing a withering glare at any would-be malefactors. Between the two of them, they maintained an almost Zen balance of energies in this longtime hub of New Paltz Bohemian culture.
Frieda Lipton died in 1999 and Manny in 2003; a series of parties at Joe’s East/West celebrating his contributions to the community, called MannyFests, marked his 80th birthday, his passing and its tenth anniversary. The last of these three gatherings was the kickoff for the fundraising campaign to dedicate a stone bench to Manny and Frieda’s memory, engraved with a likeness of the original Manny’s Lounge sign. You can still lounge there yourself, at the corner of Main and North Front Street in front of the Elting Library.
After Frieda and Manny’s retirement, their daughter Marilyn and her husband Tom Golgoski took over the running of the shop. Over time it took on a slightly more respectable look; the chaotically disorganized collection of used books was phased out and the selection of art supplies and stationery expanded to take up the freed-up space. It remains a nostalgic destination for SUNY alumni, and the counterculture vibe lingers still.
But the time has finally come for the Lipton dynasty to pass the baton to new owners. Now retired, Marilyn and Tom still own the building, but recently turned Manny’s over to Amanda and Zack DelFavero. “On April 12 it became official. On April 11 we had the closing,” Zack reports. “They sold us the business completely, and we rent this space.”
Happily, the young couple — Class of ’14 SUNY New Paltz graduates — both have worked at Manny’s for years, quickly developing a sense of personal proprietorship and care long before they took over the business. “As soon as I graduated, I got this job by a miracle,” says Zack, who sourced his supplies at Manny’s while pursuing a BFA in Printmaking. “Someone here was having a baby.” A Sociology major who was nonetheless “always in the Art Building” and thought of Manny’s as her “hangout spot,” Amanda was hired several years later. “People thought I worked here before I worked here.”
They speak fondly of their mentors: “Marilyn was like a parent to both of us,” Zack says. “We’ve become very close with Marilyn and Tom over the years. It’s so heartwarming to have this job.”
Keeping on another longtime employee, Amelia Pape, the DelFaveros say they are working in the 60-year-old store seven days a week — “rearranging, trying to make the space make sense.” According to Amanda, its contents are “90 percent the same,” although everything looks neater, more orderly and organized than customers from the elder Liptons’ era may remember, as well as brighter and airier. The selection of art materials and tools has expanded to accommodate modern trends, such as a bewildering array of art markers, pigment liners and gel pens. “People love gel pens here,” she says. “And we have five new brush displays. Our brush department doubled.”
The new owners have been taking down massive old display and storage units that formerly blocked most of the rear of the shop. “The back was cabinets to the ceiling. We still have every single thing that was in there,” Zack explains. Who even knew that there were a couple of windows on the back wall? A big new space in the rear has been opened up, and they’re shifting things around to make optimal use of it, sprucing up the newly exposed walls with cheerful shades of aqua and apricot paint that they obtained from the Village paint swap.
Paper and canvases that used to be stacked in bulky shelving units are now displayed more openly. Samples of Manny’s famous selection of gorgeous handmade papers from around the globe hang from the ceiling. “Nobody could find our canvas before; we had to write them a treasure map,” Zack says. They’ve also converted the area where Tom Golgoski used to do custom framing into a cozy break room for staff.
In the process of moving furnishings and merchandise around, they say, remnants of the store’s early era keep turning up, including “Mannyism” signs that have fallen into cracks and crevices. “We find weird stuff everywhere, including the ceiling,” says Amanda. “The basement is mostly uncharted territory,” adds Zack.
That’s okay with them, though; they’re keen on preserving the store’s history and fabled atmosphere. “Almost every day, after ten years, someone will come in with a Manny story we haven’t heard before. Some of our customers are people from other states who can’t get Manny’s out of their head. The connection that other people have to this store is so special,” Zack says. “Everybody says the energy is so nice in here. We want to make sure Manny’s always stays Manny’s. That it always stays weird is so important to us.”
Located at 83 Main Street in downtown New Paltz, Manny’s Art Supplies is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (845) 633-8666, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mannysart.com or www.facebook.com/mannysartsupplies.