Dallas-based art store chain is calling it quits after 71 years
After 71 years, a revered Dallas-based art store chain is calling it quits. Asel Art Supply, first founded in downtown Dallas in 1951, is closing all its stores as of December 31.
That includes locations in Richardson, Arlington, Fort Worth, two in San Antonio, and one in Lubbock.
The chain previously closed its Plano store as well as its erstwhile flagship location on Cedar Springs Road in Dallas in September.
A spokesperson said the closures were due to a variety of reasons.
"There were a lot of factors, it was not just one thing," the spokesperson said. "COVID for sure. It started with COVID, and the impact that had on supply chain issues and manufacturing problems. But also the consolidation of the industry overall."
Asel was founded by Kenny Asel and his brother Herb, who then sold the business in 1973. In 1987, a trust was created to transfer the company to employee ownership. There are 60 employees.
"It was a decision made by our management team, with advice from our accountant," the spokesperson said.
The closure feels reminiscent of the demise of record stores, another industry whose physical environment had the potential to stimulate inspiration.
Asel was heaven for stationery addicts — a treasure trove of colored pens, Parisian sketching crayons, woodless graphite pencils, modeling clay, tracing paper, soft pastels in a rainbow of colors, rulers with cork backing, sketch pads with a fine-tooth surface, chalk, nice wooden easels, so much to like.
The chain is offering 40 percent off all merchandise.
In its heyday, Asel was a source not only for artists and schools, but also commercial customers such as ad agencies and printing companies. At one point, it had 10 locations.
Art Simmons worked as an art director at Bozell Advertising back in the 70s, when graphics production was done by hand and required an artillery of paste-up materials like rubber cement, Bestine thinner, Spray-Mount, waxers, gum erasers, and blue pencils.
"We used to have two good art stores back in the '70s: Asel and the Rush Company, where you could buy art supplies," he says. "Rush was more on the commercial side, for art studios, with mounting boards, Exact-O blades, that kind of stuff. This was in the day when you did everything by hand. With computers, most of that work went online."
"Asel was more for traditional painting and drawing," he says. "They had a good painting section with oils, acrylics, drawing paper, tablets, and a good selection of art books. I think that helped them hang on as long as they did."
Simmons says that Kenny Asel would go the extra mile to encourage purchases. "Kenny would call on the agencies, he was a good salesman and a nice guy," he says.
Asel's departure seems likely to benefit Jerry's Artarama Art Supplies & Framing, a North Carolina chain that opened a store at Preston Valley Shopping Center, in 2021, selling art supplies and materials, custom framing, canvas-stretching, demonstrations, and special events.