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Pygmalion’s to close after nearly 50 years of art supplies, cats, a personal touch



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Signs reading “Store Closing” are displayed in the windows at Pygmalion’s Art Supplies on May 31 on North Grant Street. The store is closing after over 48 years of business. Joy Burton

Nancy Crenshaw ran Pygmalion’s Art Supplies after her brother, John Wilson, died last June. The business was doing well until February, when Crenshaw received her new lease agreement.

The property manager sold the building and land, and the increase in rent was 65%, Crenshaw said.

“Business was good, but not good enough to afford what they were asking,” manager Chase Lewandowski said.

Crenshaw said she looked into more affordable spaces in Bloomington, but there was no luck. The store had to close for about two months due to the pandemic. The decision was inevitable.

“I just finally felt like the only thing I had left to do was to close the store,” she said.

The plan is to close on June 30, Lewandowski said.

Pygmalion’s has operated for almost 50 years. The business has been in her family since 2007, when her brother purchased it. When Wilson died, he left the store to Crenshaw and her two sons in his will.

Despite living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Crenshaw took on the responsibility. 

“It was very important to him, and he was very important to me,” she said. “When he died, I prayed with him. I know he went to heaven, and I know there’ll be a day that I’ll see him again, and I certainly don’t want him to look me in the face and say, ‘What did you do with my store?’ I’ll tell him I treated his store right.”

The staff continued their jobs without an owner in Bloomington. By back-to-school season, they had a good handle on everything, Crenshaw said.

“I had a couple people look me straight in the face and say, ‘You’re a fool to try to run that store from Tulsa,’” she said. “It worked just fine for me.”

Crenshaw said she does not want to sell the domain name for the website yet. She wants to sell it to someone who wholeheartedly wants to start the business from scratch in Bloomington. One of her suggestions was a smaller store for online ordering and delivery.

“I really think that it can be redone,” she said. “I really do.”

Then-owner of Pygmalion's, John Wilson, pets the store's cat Alice in 2010. Wilson passed away in 2019.

The famous Pygmalion’s sign with the cat on it will go to Tulsa with Crenshaw. She said if someone does approach her about restarting the business, the sign will be part of the deal.

The store’s live-in cats, Alice and Kiki, were already adopted by two different families, she said. One of them is about 18 years old.

Crenshaw said Wilson adopted them from the shelter when he bought the store. She said she hopes anyone who restarts the business will do the same.

Jozlynn Mills, a Pygmalion's customer for six years, said Bloomington is losing another beloved small business. She said the local art community will be losing a common space to meet each other and find resources. 

Lewandowski said one of the benefits is Pygmalion’s offers in-person service. Customers can easily talk to a staff member who knows the store and can offer advice on projects.

“It’s something you can’t get going to Michaels or Hobby Lobby,” he said. “It’s a business, but it’s more than that.”

It is also a relaxing environment, Mills said. She would often go when she was an IU student.

“I was having a really hard day, so I walked downtown and got myself some ice cream from Hartzell’s and then walked to Pygmalion’s and just kind of hung out there,” she said. “I just wanted to walk around and look at supplies and hang out with the cats because it was just a very relaxing space to be in. Just being able to go there and kind of unwind after a really long day on campus was really nice.”

The store’s liquidation sale started last week, Lewandowski said.

“We’ve been swamped with people,” he said. “People love this place, and they’re coming in and telling us how much they’re going to miss us.”

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