Out of the Blue

by Tina Manzer


Hyatt’s – All Things Creative in Buffalo, New York, celebrated its 60th year in business by moving to a bigger building in a different neighborhood. In January, the family-owned art supply company left its longtime home on Main Street, in the city’s Allentown Arts District, to set up shop on a busy commercial strip in North Buffalo. Its neighbors there include a Regal Cinema 16, a retail plaza, grocery stores, a fitness club, and new commercial development.

“This location is massive, or feels it anyway,” said one reviewer of the former building supply stoer space. Hyatt’s 15,000-square-foot selling space features industrial fixtures and an ultra-high ceiling. There’s also classroom space, administrative offices, a customer service center, a true warehouse and four loading docks in a total of 40,000 square feet. Parking is ample.

The Buffalo News reported that Hyatt’s is now the largest independent art supply store in the country.

Serving Buffalo’s commercial printers

It’s a far cry from the 200-square-foot office in which Charles Hyatt set up shop in 1959. After working for many years at his uncle’s printing supply business, he began Hyatt’s Graphic Supply Co Inc. to serve local commercial printing and graphic arts customers. “He sold presses and prepress supplies that were really not for retail display,” explained his son Greg Hyatt, who bought the business with his brother, Peter, in 1988. “The store was little more than a door and one office person who sat behind a glass window and got up to help customers who walked through the door.

“You could say that his original ideas set the culture of Hyatt’s,” continued Greg. “My father started the company strictly to serve commercial printers. Retail was sort of the stepsister to that, eventually becoming a main focus of the company.”

Charles moved Hyatt’s to larger digs on Main Street in 1961, and added fine art supplies to the mix for a growing number of artist, architect, signmaker, and designer customers.

Despite a devastating four-alarm fire in 1965, the building became Hyatt’s headquarters. Before its recent move, it occupied 30,000 square feet of it on four different levels.

Over the years, additional Hyatt’s brick-and-mortar-retail locations were opened and closed across western New York, and online sales grew. Two distribution divisions – Pantone products and sign making supplies and equipment – flourished.

Peter Hyatt spotted the opportunity with sign making in 1984 as the process was becoming computerized. “Everyone in the art materials industry suffered when design went digital,” explained Greg. “Peter saw it as a way our business could evolve.”

The Hyatt family loved their Main Street neighborhood, but parking was an issue, along with deliveries and package pickup. “Plus, it became important for us to have a building that’s on one floor and large enough to accommodate everyone efficiently,” says Elizabeth Hyatt-Martin, marketing director. She spoke to us recently about the benefits of the company’s move.

What about the space makes business more efficient?

Two areas were greatly improved: our office space and warehouse/shipping space. We’ve had a large staff operating in close quarters for many years, but now we all have plenty of workspace and multiple meeting areas. Members of our shipping staff have individual workstations and lots of room to maneuver pallets.

The biggest change is that we’re all on the same floor. We used to spend a lot of time going up and down stairs!

What do customers notice first about the store?

How expansive the space is. We have very tall ceilings, but most of our shelving is low. They can see across the whole store from the front door, giving them a great vision of all that is there to explore.

We’re closer to residential neighborhoods now so it seems like we gain new customers every day. Some people come in to explore just because the building is interesting. They’re surprised to find we have cool products for more than just artists.

What are your bestsellers right now?

Our customers love everything to do with watercolors, so we maintain constant stock and a large breadth of watercolor supplies across multiple brands.

Many of our customers come to us because of our wide selection of specialty supplies, like Angelus Leather Paint, Jacquard products, and artist spray paint.

We’re an Iwata Gold Level Dealer, so we help multiple customers each day find the right airbrush part or product, both in-store and on the phone.

What’s trending currently?

Pouring, lettering, and alcohol inks are still popular, but lately we have seen more customers interested in resin products and miniatures/modeling.

With so much space have you brought in new lines?

A good portion filled quickly with product we already carried for our online customers, but never had the space to display. It was all hiding in our former basement! However, we did a large expansion of GOLDEN acrylic and brought in Raphael Brushes. We devoted more space to fine writing and journals.

Ideas for new products come from customers walking into our store. We also get ideas from attending NAMTA and the New York Stationery Show. Our purchasing department plays an active role in finding out what’s trending. If they see a creative trend on social media, for instance, they’ll explore what products consumers are using, and consider whether it’s a good fit for us. Right now they’re working on expanding our “kids” category and mixed-media, including sculpting and jewelry-making.

You’ve grown up with the business – what do you like best about it?

I love seeing all the creativity in product design. I find it most interesting watching what people come out with year after year to inspire creativity in others. Not only are people always thinking of new products, they’re thinking of new ways to use existing products.

I also love that so many of the businesses are still family owned. I’m part of the third generation here, and it’s fun to see peers I grew up with in the business now working and bringing their own ideas to the table.

What’s next?

We’re just chasing the next thing! We continue to develop efficiencies within the business so that we can keep growing. We want to be ready to when it’s time to jump on our next expansion opportunity.

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