Hidden Gem Feature: Sam Flax Atlanta
Voyage ATL recently featured us in their Hidden Gem series. Read the full interview below!
From January 11, 2022
Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary-Ellen Long and Sophia Bowman-Albirt. They share their story with us below:
Sam Flax started his first art supply store in NYC in the 1920s and along with his brothers went on to open shops serving creative communities across the country. His sons Leonard and David opened the Atlanta store in 1973 and over the years moved from Spring Street to Northside to Peachtree.
In November of 2018, the difficult decision was proposed to close the Peachtree location, effectively erasing the Sam Flax name from Atlanta. A combination of skyrocketing rent costs and the owner’s growing age, closing the store seemed imminent. Instead, Mary-Ellen and Sophia, both decade-plus employees, refused to let such an Atlanta treasure die and offered to buy the store from Mr. Flax, keeping the name and the legacy alive. Mr. Flax agreed and in January 2019, Sam Flax Atlanta officially reopened its doors at its new location.
Here in Atlanta, we are proud to be an employee-owned, locally-owned, female-owned, independent art store. We are honored to carry on the Flax legacy while putting our own flavor and values into the business.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
From the time Mr. Flax agreed to sell to us, we only had six weeks to find a new location, move an entire two-story shop, and source funding. We were very lucky that our current space was available and we were approved for an SBA loan. The government shutdown of 2019 went into effect so we were not able to actually secure our loan until April and had to operate on our own capital and wits until then.
Just as the dust seemed to settle from our crazy first year, the Covid lockdown of 2020 began (need we say more about those first few terrifying weeks?). We operated with only two employees for over three months. In 2021, we continued to struggle with Covid-related closures in addition to the systemic supply chain issues. We are grateful to our strong customer base and the ever-growing Atlanta creative community for choosing us for their supply needs.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Sam Flax Atlanta: everything creative
We have been serving the creative community of Atlanta for almost 50 years. Woman-owned, independent and local, Sam Flax offers art materials for novices, professionals, and everyone in-between. In addition to paints, brushes, substrates, papers, pens, sprays and markers, we carry a wide selection of decorative papers from around the world, stationery, gifts, seamless backdrop paper, large foam and gator boards, architectural and drafting supplies and much more!
What does success mean to you?
Honestly, after the last couple of years still having the lights on feels like a win! Insite Magazine has named us “Best Art Supply Store” in their ‘Best of Atlanta’ category for three years running now (’19, ’20, ’21), and that’s a huge win–to know that our city loves us as much as we love it. Going forward, we hope to continue to take good care of our fantastic staff and remain an inspiring haven for all Atlanta creatives.
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