Pratt students thought they had sufficient art supplies when the Pratt Store opened in 2005, but then, this March, Utrecht opened up one of its mammoth chain art supply stores just a few doors down. Since then, Utrecht has polarized the Pratt community, and some worry that it will run the Pratt Store out of business. We spoke with staff at both stores, and the local community, and man, have we got a scoop. Sort of.
It seems that the Pratt Store is royally pissed off with its new neighbor, who moved onto Myrtle in April after renting space from the Pratt Institute. We spoke to one of the Pratt Store’s student employees, who told us that the store was instructed to discontinue Utrecht branded items and sell off all of its art supplies, in a decision made by the Pratt Institute to avoid creating competition between the two.
“Their marker boards are ours!” the employee cried, after telling us that Utrecht took inventory from the Pratt before the new store opened. “And they didn’t even have enough room for it! They brought it all back the next weekend.” The alleged result: the Pratt Store is left with its “business failing” (the Pratt Store was unable to give us figures), and a load of stuff that “doesn’t sell”, like stationery and cards. Ouch.
Apart from moving uncomfortably close to the Pratt Store, our student employee insider is annoyed about the poor customer service that Utrecht offers: “They’re rude. I guarantee if you go into the store, they’ll watch you. They’ll follow you round.”
We did a test, and no one followed us around or watched us, but Utrecht did answer a few questions we had for them. When quizzed about taking inventory, Utrecht responded with: “We have worked with the Pratt Institute to take on some of their items, yes.” Hmmm.
The response from the community is mixed. On the web, things have got pretty heated. On Myrtle Minutes, an anonymous user expressed his anger for the new big vendor in town: “[We] really don’t need the counter girl flirting so people will sign up for their Utrecht card ARTDUMB!”. Whatever that means, it’s probably bad. Over on Brownstoner, the comments are a lot clearer and more diverse, with welcoming responses like “the more the better” and “this is great news!”, along with outbursts from Pratt Store haters that believe the store is “terrible” and “way overpriced” with “no organization, limited selection and poor service.” Commenters have also pointed out that Utrecht was founded in 1949 by two brothers from Brooklyn, and their paints and gessos are made in Brooklyn, so really the store probably deserves a space on Myrtle.
Is the Pratt Store doomed? Will it be closed down because of its shinier, more popular neighbor? Was Utrecht’s lease part of a grander Pratt plan to end their store? If so, is that plan in any way evil? No one wanted to comment on the Pratt Store’s fate, so only time can tell. But we’ve got a feeling this art store war isn’t over.