In a hidden store, a new life for art supplies

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DSC02932by Eric Ginsburg

If it weren’t for the brightly painted lettering on the door and the eye-catching, yellow fire escape next to it, it would be impossible to find Shelf Life.

The new art-supply store, opened by Greensboro native Cassandra Liuzzo, is hidden down an alley behind Lawndale Avenue in what was basically a storage space for the last two years. Located underneath Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, Shelf Life shares a wall with the cinema, and a door actually conjoins the two.

The room required a deep cleaning and months of work to prepare it for Shelf Life to open to the public on Oct. 1, but inside the room it is difficult to imagine what came before. Vibrant blue walls and a salmon-colored accent wall immediately brighten the business. Liuzzo yarn-bombed exposed pipes running along the ceiling, and friends helped collage a purple-toned countertop to a counter running along one side of the space, making the room feel cozier and warm.

DSC02957And if she hadn’t said anything, it would’ve been possible to miss the lack of windows.

The idea for a business like this came to Liuzzo while she was studying art at Appalachian State, and buying art supplies for her different classes. After graduating, she returned to Greensboro and worked in an online-fulfillment warehouse, where she picked up organizational and customer-service experience. From there, opening an art-supply store only seemed natural, particularly one that would sell gently used art supplies at affordable prices.

“I really felt like I needed a job that I felt really responsible for and I felt really accountable to, and I had never felt that really before working for somebody else,” she said, sitting behind the bar dressed in all black. “I want to be super inclusive of everyone who wants to create things, and I want to make it easier for people to feel comfortable doing that.”

Liuzzo bought a bunch of things from Addams, the longstanding art-supply store on Tate Street, when it went out of business earlier this year, including a significant number of fixtures. A couple other similar businesses have popped up in the Gate City recently too, but Liuzzo hopes the recycled and affordable aspect of many of her wares will appeal to everyone from kids and crafters to professional artists.

DSC02935The goods range dramatically, from dog stickers, face paint, a bin of hundreds of bottle caps to professional-grade acrylics that she said aren’t sold anywhere else in town. In addition to plenty of standard supplies one would expect to find in an art store, Liuzzo also offers free magazines and toilet-paper rolls for people to pick through for art projects. There are a few things for Halloween on the front shelf.

She is still an artist in her own right, beyond decorating and transforming Shelf Life’s space — Liuzzo has some blind contour drawings hanging in the shop at Greenhill right now, she said, though a lot of her work is “mixed media with a strong fiber arts component,” like yarn-bombing.

The store is still coming together. Liuzzo has plans for curated art shows on a rotating theme in the wide hallway leading to the store, and she’s excited about the potential for collaborations with Geeksboro.

DSC02962There are already arrangements for her to set up a craft booth at the Harry Potter Yule Ball to be held upstairs, and a big portion of her customers wander through the coffee shop and down the yellow fire escape to check out the store. Liuzzo even built an “art bar” as part of her counter space where people can grab a drink upstairs and bring it down to enjoy while drawing in a journal.

The business is still young, but even though Liuzzo spends at least seven hours a day, six days a week sitting down here in the former basement storage area, it’s clear that she has found the meaningful work she was looking for.

Visit Shelf Life Art & Supply Co. at 2134½ Lawndale Drive (GSO) behind and underneath Geeksboro. Call 980.320.0614 or visit shelflifeart.com for more information.