‘All are welcome,’ is the phrase that Wyndham Art Supplies owner Chris Ahlers keeps coming back to as he describes the store that he co-owns with his partner and artist Tammy Ratcliff. What started as a family business 25 years ago has developed into a downtown fixture, providing art supplies to customers from coast to coast.
Located at 125 Wyndham St. N. in a beautiful old building with high ceilings and stone walls, Wyndham Art Supplies offers not only the materials and tools to create all types of art, but gladly offers advice and know-how to anyone who asks.
The store itself is a delight. “It’s partly by design and partly natural. I like to think we have achieved a sort of old world apothecary vibe.”
Chris hopes that the store also offers a judgement-free zone. “We are making art accessible and like to encourage people to tap in and enter into that creative part of themselves without the sense that they ought not to because they don’t have the experience, or it’s a members only type of thing.”
Wyndham Art Supplies is also home to the Guelph School of Art. Originally, local artist Nan Hogg ran classes out of the back of the old location. When she moved on, Chris and his family decided to start the Guelph School of Art. “It just made sense to
us that a learning environment would be a perfect complement to what we were already doing,” Chris explains.
All available art classes are listed online and run year-round. The classes are small and the instructors are highly qualified, many with post-graduate art degrees. Adults and kids enjoy programing for beginners all the way through to master level classes. Chris notes that the class prices are reasonable. “As a hobby or creative pursuit, doing art isn’t necessarily as expensive as a lot of other things - especially when it comes to getting kids involved.”
The second floor of the store houses a full-service framing department. It was not something that Chris initially intended to offer, but the demand was persistent. Both ready-made and custom frames are available. “Our picture framers are very good at showing people options and very good at nudging and steering people towards treatments that are harmonious and pleasing. It’s amazing how a subtle change in matting colour or style of frame moulding or even choice of glass, can really affect certain features,” Chris notes.
While being welcoming is high on Chris’s priority list, he also highlights the intention behind the product that the store offers. “There are not a lot of really committed extensive art supply stores around. We try hard to be one. We are passionate about it. We have certain quality items that are not widely available.”
Indeed one could spend many enjoyable hours browsing the treasures that Chris and Tammy have amassed. Chris’s enthusiasm is contagious, especially regarding different types of paint applicators. “Conversations about applicators move from simple brushes to weird and wonderful brushes to spreaders and knives and scrapers and tools that are exciting and fun.”
An appreciation and respect for community lies beneath much of what Chris does. Wyndham Art Supplies was recently involved in a fundraising auction for ACE, Art for Children’s Education. “We raise money and keep that fund for families of children who might not otherwise be able to send kids to art classes.” The fund is well used and many local artists donate to the cause.
Reflecting back over the last 25 years, Chris says with a lot of fondness, “People who weren’t born when we opened are now bringing their children in. To have that 25 year view, seeing this generational progression- it’s very gratifying.”
Wyndham Art Supplies’s regular business hours are Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm.
To see Holiday hours, product lines and art classes, visit their newly designed website at wyndhamartsupplies.com.