With hits like ‘Gritty Spanking Trump’, this South Street art store is surviving against all odds

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The South Street Art Mart was only to last two weeks. At this point, the store has been selling artisanal goods for almost two years – and even the coronavirus hasn’t been able to stop it.

Originally launched as a retail showcase during the 2018 holiday shopping season, the local art showcase was so popular that the owners – a married couple who are artists themselves – decided to give it a try. to stay.

They set up a GoFundMe, raised over $ 5,000 and opened a permanent brick and mortar store on 4th Street just off the south. They carry items from over 100 Philly artists, from posters and greeting cards to jewelry, pins, clothing and housewares. In early March 2020, sales were better than ever, said co-owner Nicole Krecki, with the store bursting with customers every day.

After the pandemic shut down retail, the Art Mart became a monthly proposition as landlords struggled to keep their leases. Profits fell by half, they said.

The two artists, who pass TV taped and Night Owl Drawings, has always had a website, but not an online store. Building it from scratch, they finally launched the Art Mart virtual store in May. Sales were okay, but not great. In August, Krecki began to genuinely worry about the store’s fate.

“It was scary,” she added. “Every month it’s kind of like, are we going to be able to pay the rent or not? “

An unexpected influx of support kept the store alive.

Many neighbors of the South Street store donated regularly each month, Krecicki said. And many artists, who are themselves in trouble, did the same.

There are Hummingbird Hope, an anonymous street artist from Philly who has been active since 2016. She displays her handmade, blue and white ceramic tiles all over town – often with an election theme. She donated two huge boxes of plates, bowls and pins to the store in September.

“They represent local artists, which is a big deal,” Hummingbird said. “I think they give back to the culture of this neighborhood and to Philly. If we had more people and businesses like Nicole and Nicole at South Street Art Mart, we would be in better shape in this country.

Many artists come with an integrated audience. Earlier this summer, a sticker depicting a bear Gritty prepares to spank President Donald Trump sold like crazy after the artist posted it as wheat dough on the street.

“All of a sudden we were getting order after order after order,” Krecki said. “It took off.”

Other positives include not having payroll and operating on consignment – artists deliver their wares, then the store refunds them the profits when they sell. And the owners get creative.

In recent weeks, they have organized a virtual art sale every Wednesday at 8 p.m. via Instagram live.

With relaxed regulations, the retail storefront could reopen now, but Krecicki hesitated as she sees the daily battle it takes. His wife and co-owner, Nicole Wiegand, is the manager of Condom Kingdom a few blocks away, and it has been a struggle to get buyers to take the pandemic seriously.

“She has to play masked police all day,” Krecki said. “People get mad at her and they take action. Living here we see how people don’t take it seriously. “

They plan to reopen the store in person in October – the exact date to be determined.

“I am optimistic,” Krecki said. “It continues to work. I guess that’s part of the organic nature of what we do. We invest our own money, we are very connected with the Art Mart. We just want it to continue. “

Laura J. Boyer