LOS ANGELES – For over 10 years, Raw Materials Art Supplies was a small shop near the corner of Main and Winston in Downtown L.A. Recently, the store moved a few blocks away into a larger space. A much larger space.
“We’ve been in our new location here for a little over a month and we doubled the retail footprint from our last store so it's really exciting, a little overwhelming, but we think we can really grow into the space and it's perfect,” said co-owner Celia Esguerra.
A wife and husband team, Celia and spouse Jim have lived in Downtown since the 90s and like most small businesses, their store started out of a passion. A filmmaker by trade, Celia paints as a hobby, but couldn’t find art supplies near their home.
“There was no place really Downtown and she didn’t want to have to hop in the car and drive somewhere or order online and wait three days for it to come so we started looking into what was available, what we can do and it just became a store eventually,” explained co-owner and husband Jim Winstead.
While art supply stores like Swain’s in Glendale have closed, Raw Materials has been able to thrive, counting on customers from the Downtown arts community. Opening the year before the 2009 recession, they’ve been through a lot but the new space is presenting new challenges.
“We’re still unpacking,” said Esguerra. “We don't have all our shelves. We're still pulling things out of boxes, things aren't labeled and we’re still trying to find some items but we're here ready to serve any of our customers needs even if we have to find it for 15 minutes, but we had to be opened because the art-making never stops.”
And neither does business. Many of their customers are neighboring shops. Mark Mejia owns Baron Hats and custom designs headwear for the entertainment industry. He walked in looking for supplies for his project.
“These days as everything is online and the brick-and-mortar suffers from that, we need to actually be the ones that actually create the synergy,” said Mejia.
And Raw Materials is as much a love story as it is a shop.
“We met in this neighborhood and I think we both felt that the neighborhood had given us so much, that we wanted to give back and the artistic community was... is still very near and dear to us,” said Esguerra.