Artists' Haven Shuts its Doors

Pearl Paint’s landmark building located on 308 Canal Street.
Pearl Paint’s landmark building located on 308 Canal Street.

Established in 1933, Pearl Paint has been the home of artists for over 80 years. Its Canal Street location in Lower Manhattan has been an iconic New York City landmark for decades, but on April 17th the beloved red and white building closed its gates for good.

Pearl Paint’s real estate broker, Massey Kankal has not released any plans to demolish the building, and proposes that the space can be “delivered vacant.” The five-story building is listed for sale at $15 million, with a lease price of $825,000.

Pearl Paint’s newly unemployed workers are shocked. They were given only 10 days notice that their jobs would be terminated, an act deemed illegal by their union, Workers United Local 169. “We all just can’t believe it,” said an anonymous worker to DNAinfo. “I’ve worked here for 10 years and this is how they treat you? You know how I really feel? This is f—– up.”

Pearl Paint’s previous customers are shocked as well. Lilly Nathan has been coming to the art store for over 20 years. “I’m in disbelief,” she says. “I mean I really can’t believe it. I’ve been coming here since I moved to New York City. I was just starting out as an artist, and that was when I was in my mid-twenties! That was so long ago.”

People like Dawn LaSalle have grown to know Pearl Paint’s employees as a local family. “I remember coming here with my mother as a little girl. She used to paint all the time at home and I would love to play with her different paint bottles,” she says. “I would see this beautiful red and white building and be so happy. The people here were always so kind and friendly. It’s a shame they’re closing this place down.”

The attention has been increasing with artists online as well, and many are disappointed to see another local business shut its doors. “I remember going there with my mom when I was a freshman in art school,” writes Jonathan D on Pearl Paint’s Yelp page. “It’s a sad day for New York. The days of New York being an artist mecca are over.”

With such a classic business closed, many of Pearl Paint’s loyal customers now need to find a new art supply store. SoHo Art Materials is just a three minute walk away from Pearl Paint’s building, and they seem to be picking up quite a few of Pearl Paint’s old customers.

“Customers have been coming in that have been going to Pearl Paint for years, and we are able to provide them with the art materials they are looking for,” says the manager of SoHo Art Materials. “I wouldn’t say we are the secondary source for Pearl Paint’s customers, but the primary source.”

Surrounding art supply stores Blick Art Materials and Utrecht Art Supply were unable to provide a comment.

Even with other art supply stores in close proximity, some of Pearl Paint’s customers are uneasy making the switch. “I’ve tried the other stores and it’s just not the same,” says Jenna Soto. “I’m used to walking right into Pearl Paint knowing what I need and knowing right where to get it. With these new art stores, I don’t know where anything is and I always have to ask the workers.”

Pearl Paint was a home for individuality and creativity. The employees were welcoming and always encouraged self-expression through art. “The workers at other stores are nice, but they’re so young,” she says. “You can tell that this is just some job to make money. They’re kids, they don’t care what store they work in, as long as they earn money to spend. At Pearl Paint, you knew that the workers cared. You knew that they liked to help.”

No one has yet to express interest in buying the property. Although it is unclear what the building will become in the future, it is safe to say that Pearl Paint will definitely be missed.