Saturday, February 16, 2019

When a Giant Pencil is Worn to a Nub on South Craig Street: Yet Another Pittsburgh Arts Casualty

Just two weeks after the announcement that the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (once the flagship of a national chain of trade schools), and only a week after a realigned Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media tacitly announced a downgraded role for traditional manual arts such as drawing, painting, and sculpture in their newest incarnation, an iconic Pittsburgh art supply store has abruptly announced it will be going out of business after 48 years.
Top Notch Art Supply, a fixture of the Oakland neighborhood's Craig Street with its Land of the Giants-sized pencil, sent out an email February 14 that everything must go.

Emailed graphic accompanying its February 14 announcement.

Paradoxically entitled "Save the Pencil!" (presumably a riff on "Save the Date!"), the email offers no hope of keeping the store open, nor does it even provide a clear beginning or ending date for the sale:
This is it, the final SALE of all sales for Top Notch Art Supply!

After 48 years we are calling it quits! We are marking down everything in the entire store, nothing is held back. We are cleaning out our warehouse and everything is being transferred to the store on South Craig Street. Everything is being marked down to move fast. Do not hesitate because once it is gone it is gone for good.
The owners of the store also own the building, so it is unclear when Top Notch will actually close its doors for good, or what future tenant might take its place. South Craig Street, just a block from the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and adjacent to the campuses of two Research One institutions - The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University - has traditionally been a desirable cultural block known for used book stores, coffee shops, restaurants, apparel and craft shops, banks branches, and university-related office space.

The second floor of the building, which was once the Top Notch showroom for easels, drawing boards, light tables, and other equipment, was eliminated more than a decade ago. The Phantom of the Attic, a stylish comic book shop with a strong inventory of graphic novels, has rented the second floor ever since, and says it will continue as the tenant, unaffected by the move.

This is the latest arts in a series of stories involving closure, reorganization, relocation, downsizing, or going on hiatus affecting long-familiar cultural brands in Pittsburgh.

Last summer, Caliban Books, a dealer of rare and scholarly used books located directly across the street from Top Notch, was "charged with participating in a conspiracy to steal hundreds of rare books, maps and plates from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh" two blocks away, and reselling them through the Craig Street storefront and online. The theft of some 300 items, with an estimated collector value of $8 million, is considered "among the largest such thefts ever reported."

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