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#OTGYpsi: Ypsi Art Supply & Atelier and the art of community building


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: Taco truck, art supply store, and event planner all take businesses to next level in Ypsi

Ypsi Art Supply & Atelier

Ypsi Art Supply & Atelier on Facebook

Ypsi Art Supply & Atelier on Instagram


Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. This past summer was not always the kindest on Ypsi's small business community. Construction throughout downtown made it difficult for folks to stop by their favorite restaurants and shops, and a handful of businesses even closed their doors because of it. But the support from Ypsi's small business owners and community have also led a number of businesses, from pop-ups and online stores, to making their businesses home permanently in Ypsi. A food truck, which has been driving for two years, is looking at adding a sit-down restaurant for their customers, in addition to their truck and catering service on Ecorse Road. An online event planning service opened up their first storefront and venue space on Michigan Avenue. And in less than a year, an art supply shop went from pop-up to brick-and-mortar on Huron Street. The owner of that art supply shop, Megan Foldenauer, is here with me today to talk about her business and how the supportive attitude of Ypsi's small business community helped her move Ypsilanti Art Supply and Atelier into its new permanent home. Hi, Megan! Thank you for being here!

Megan Foldenauer: Thank you! I appreciate it!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, for those who don't know, before Ypsi Art Supply, Ypsi had gone a decade without a dedicated art supply store, which required community artists to drive long distances, shop online from major retailers, instead of buying local. How did you feel your business, which had been online at its start, could fill that gap?

Megan Foldenauer: Right. So, I was one of those artists who was stuck in the Ypsi community without anything local, watching all of the art supply stores that we had--independent art supply stores that we had--close one by one. And, you know, the internet exists, and we all use that. However, for artists, I find, like especially for myself and everyone I've talked to, going to see things in person was really important. So, I started this shop always with the aim to open something brick-and-mortar. You know, I started online first because it was very easy and accessible to do something like that with not a lot of upfront costs. I was kind of doing this on my own, so I started there. And then, with the mentorship of a lot of other small business owners here in Ypsi, I found my space at Riverside Arts Center and moved in there last April to as kind of a training wheels space is kind of what I've talked about, just to see if everyone's online enthusiasm for the shop would translate into people actually coming into the shop, which it did. And every weekend, I talked to people who were just dying for this in the community. There's so many different kinds of artists here, from professional to amateur to students to kids. The conversation all the time, even now, about how surprised everybody was that there was no art supply store.

Rylee Barnsdale: Right.

Megan Foldenauer: And, yeah, just like everyone else. I was driving to Dearborn to go get my art supplies in person. So, I think I told you about this. I found my notebook from 2018 where I started writing down the idea for Ypsi Art Supply shortly after. Like, I realized there was this big gaping hole. And I think it was right after Hollander's left, and I just couldn't believe it. And I'm like, "No, I need to do something!" But, yeah, I needed to meet people. I needed to get a little more integrated in the art community. And that's kind of the push that I finally needed to get it off the ground.

Rylee Barnsdale: And that search for connection--that's what I'm assuming ultimately led you to Riverside Arts Center and then to this pop-up event that took place there.

Megan Foldenauer: Right. So, Jen Eastridge, who owns Unicorn Feed and Supply and Stone and Spoon, had gone over to meet the new director of Riverside Arts Center, Elizabeth Warren, and kind of talked to her about a couple of things, and she saw a space in there. And she said, "Oh, like, it's little." But she reached out to me. She just texted me. She's like, "I think you need to go over there." And I'm like, "Okay." So, I go over there. And I'm like, "Oh gosh! It's really small! I don't know. But you know what? I'm just going to go for it." Because Jen and other folks, Rob from Go! Ice Cream, a lot of other owners were just like, "No, you can do it. If we can do it, you can do it. Just go for it. Even if it isn't perfect, you need to start somewhere." So, yeah, I moved in real fast. Like, a year ago right now, I was going crazy, trying to pull the trigger and actually get inventory, which was really hard. It was like, "Oh, I'm committing! I'm really doing this!" And so, I kicked it off on first Friday in April. So, it was April 7th, and then I was in the space until this new opportunity happened, which was right around Christmastime, which is way sooner than I thought. It was always the goal to move into a storefront, but I didn't think I could afford it. I didn't know. As with all of this stuff, it never comes at you the way you think it's going to come at you.

Rylee Barnsdale: Right.

Megan Foldenauer: It kind of comes out of left field, and you kind of have to grab it, like I said, even if you don't feel like you've got all your ducks in a row and you're not ready.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, chatting with Ypsilanti Art Supply owner Megan Foldenauer. One of the things that I find interesting, Megan, about Ypsilanti Art Supply is that this isn't your full-time job.

Megan Foldenauer: Correct.

Rylee Barnsdale: You are a medical illustrator. You are an educator. You are a parent.

Megan Foldenauer: Yup.

Rylee Barnsdale: You have this very full plate. What made you want to add being a small business owner on top of all of those other responsibilities.

Megan Foldenauer: Besides my ADHD and my general neurodivergence and just wanting to be part of all the things, I've been out of art school now for quite a while, and I was missing that part of the community. And the more I was doing fine art-related things, like being part of Ann Arbor Art Fair, being part of Dipsy, like doing different art fairs and shows. And I just get these little tastes of the community. And I was like, "Oh, man, you know, I really want more of that!" Like, I want more balance between the more science and analytical side of what I do with the medical illustration, which I've been doing for a long time, and the fine art. And so, I started just kind of taking a few business classes online, like doing some creative business kind of stuff and trying to figure out what's my niche. Where could I fit in? And this art supply store thing just kept coming back and back and back and I'm like, "Oh my God! I don't think I have it in me to do that. I don't even know where to begin." Because you look online and you see all these other great independent shops, and you're like, "I can't even imagine being like that!" So, yeah, I definitely didn't have the time or the energy, but I found it somehow.

Rylee Barnsdale: And you mentioned that community aspect too and being more entrenched in that, not only the arts community, but also the small business community and Ypsi now.

Megan Foldenauer: Yeah, I mean, I couldn't have done this by myself. I've said actually several times I don't think I could have done this somewhere other than Ypsi. I really feel like Ypsi was the perfect place for me to to try this. And so, yeah, Huron Street is incredible. If folks haven't been up there lately, it's almost all women-owned, and it's all becoming an arts district. It's like you've got Riverside on one end, and then you have, like, Luna Gallery and Twisted Things, which are both like artists co-ops. You have Evenstar's Chalice. You have World of Rocks. You have Brite Idea Tattoo, which is my tattooist--shoutout, Zira! Yeah, and we'll stand out on the sidewalk and just talk business. Like, it's kind of incredible. Like, they're always there for me. And, you know, both times I've opened my shop, they bring me gifts. They're so excited they have me. Bird Dog Bakery brought me baked goods this last time. People just come in just to chat and talk about all kinds of stuff in business, like especially the money side of business and that kind of thing. That's scary.

Rylee Barnsdale: Sure.

Megan Foldenauer: And that's not my jam. And so, I have all these people who've stepped before me and now have this knowledge. And I can benefit from them. I mean, it's been incredible.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with Megan Foldenauer, owner of Ypsilanti Art Supply. So, you felt that there was no other place to open this kind of business than Ypsi. Ypsi was the place to go. If there is someone listening right now that is thinking, "I have a creative business idea. I'm looking to start my business in earnest." Why say, "Yes! Come to Ypsi! Ypsi is where you belong!"

Megan Foldenauer: Well, you know, I think that the bar is lower. I think there's space. There's a really vibrant, diverse community here that is really just so hungry for new businesses. They are so supportive of small business. They don't want to go necessarily to a box store or online to shop. That kind of trend has kind of been falling away in a lot of ways. And, you know, there's a lot of free resources in Ypsi for small business owners, which I've availed myself of. And once you start coming down, you start actually going into the shops and talking to the people who work there and kind of get a feel for it. You'll see that people are very, very welcoming, and it doesn't feel turfy. And it doesn't feel like there's some secret club you can't be a part of in order to start your business, which I think is a really big deal. So, yeah, I think it's very accessible. I mean, I've been in a lot of other places. I've lived in major cities, and this is very different.

Rylee Barnsdale: And for those who are looking for their pencils, paint, stickers, you name it, where can they find Ypsilanti Art Supply?

Megan Foldenauer: Yeah. So, I'm at 42 North Huron, right next to Twisted Things, and I am open on Fridays from 2 to 7 and Saturdays 10 to 5. You can always find me online at Ypsi Art Supply dot com and all the social medias on Ypsi Art supply. Please comment. Tell me what you want in the shop. I'm really here to be of service to everyone, and I don't want to carry a bunch of stuff that people don't want. So, every week, people ask for things that I don't have. And every week, I try to stock new things. So, please come find me and talk to me. I can talk a lot.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, thank you, Megan, for coming in today to give us a little bit of insight into Ypsilanti Art Supply and Ypsi's small business community. For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at WEMU dot org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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