A new arts shop by the name of Tiny Arts Supply has opened in Ridgewood, and owner Vanessa America hopes to make it accessible for all community members.
The store, located at 58-42A Catalpa Ave., had its soft opening on April 1.
“I did that so that I could say it was a big joke if I wasn’t ready,” America laughed, noting that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary yet impactful ship blockage at the Suez Canal, the major trade route, could cause some delays to product shipments.
Delays or not — Tiny Arts Supply is stocked with a variety of items in different mediums and price points, so that anyone, whether they’re children or fine artists, will be able to find something for their projects.
The store will also have a free section, where people can donate new or used supplies and take any they see there too.
“This will encourage people to try different mediums, so if you’ve never used a watercolor palette and there’s one there, you can take it, or if you really want to try pastels, you can take it,” America said.
And if customers can’t find what they’re looking for, America can help them source the item or point them to one of the neighborhood hardware stores or dollar stores that may have it immediately available.
“I really wanted to open a business that would enhance the neighborhood and not take away from anyone’s business,” America said, adding that fellow business owners have been a great help as she embarks on her first business.
America, who’s lived in Ridgewood for 12 years, felt the neighborhood was in need of a dedicated arts supply store. The idea came about when a friend and fellow artist said she walked all the way to Rego Park to shop at Michael’s for watercolors and crochet hooks.
“She is a personal trainer so she does like to walk, but it’s just absurd!” America said.
America used to work as a bartender at several different locations but lost her job last year due to the pandemic. Following months of full-time volunteer work at local food pantries and organizations like the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck, she decided it was time to make the idea a reality.
“It’s a huge risk,” America said, adding that she’ll be a one-woman show as she launches the business. “I’m confident that this will do well. I have the tenacity and the passion to make this work.”
America also hopes to host free workshops and other community events once she’s settled in.
While the shop’s name is indicative of its intimate space, it’s also a tribute to an artist friend, Jane Sandlin, who passed away several years ago. America said Jane, who she grew up with in Ohio, remains a source of inspiration.
“She called everyone ‘tiny’ when she would call them cute,” America said. “Instead of using the word ‘cute’ she would say, ‘You’re so tiny.'”
Jane had multiple sclerosis, and although she endured strokes and used a wheelchair, she didn’t let it stop her from creating art and community.
“During her first stroke, she lost the ability to use her hands, so she taught herself how to draw with her mouth,” America remembered. “She was such a powerhouse; nothing could stop her. She lived her life to the fullest, which is so cool. That’s what I want to do with this space.”
Tiny Arts Supply will be open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
For more information, find the store on Instagram @tinyartssupply.