Scratch Your Art Itch at Olyphant

Culture Art News Business

By Giovanna Marcus


For our purposes, dear Reader, this story finds its humble beginnings not long after our protagonists moved to our fine town of Olympia from the equally fine city of Denver (oh, so what if they have 300 days of sunshine per year—yes, that’s each year…not every five years like some other places). Anyways, Nick, the taller and blonder of the two brothers had a hankering to make some lovely drawings, but ho! He and JB had sold all of their worldly possessions besides what they could shove into their pickup truck and still leave room for their winsome dog companion.

In their quest for fine art, Nick and JB were stunned to find not one shop in Olympia that carried the requisite supplies. What’s a recently relocated two-dimensional artist to do?

Now it just so happened that in anticipation of their move from Denver (My apologies for digressing yet again, but I’m not quite sure why they moved. I’m sorry, not to dis Oly, but 300 days? Every year?), Nick had sold some of his most excellent paintings. Of what, I cannot say. Probably something inspired by the late Bob Ross, if I had a guess. And suddenly, Nick was loaded!

Having recently received a post-secondary education, the young brothers were used to working *insert explicative here* jobs, and living in what some might call squalor. But now these boys had more money than they had ever had before, so they just kept it because they weren’t quite sure what to do with all those Benjamins…That is, until that grey, grey day, both literally and metaphorically, when the Balridge brothers hung their head in sorrow, likely somewhere along the narrow strip of sidewalk commonly referred to as Satan’s Vortex (located conveniently on 4th Ave between Capitol and Washington St.), and made the long, slow trek, uphill, mind you, to—gasp—Michael’s.

Yes, I know. We are all wincing in solidarity. It was terrible. JB was able to hold his breath past the potpourri aisle, but young Nick’s hay allergies didn’t stand a chance against the dusty wreath section. Our protagonists procured the necessary items, paid for them as quickly as they could, and once outside the store raised their collective fists to the sky and screamed “Never Again!!!” Well, maybe I embellish just a little.

The point is, dear Reader, the reason that I tell you this long tale, is that the Balridge brothers had an itch, and they scratched it. But not only that, they also saw a gaping hole in the local economy of downtown Olympia, and they sought out to fill it. With lots and lots of. . .spray paint.

And so now you see, two years ago, Olyphant art supply store was born of equal parts circumstance and sheer desperation.

Now, I am sure you are all savvy to the world wide web, and at this point you are asking, Hey! Why would I go to a store when I could just sit at home in my total-sweat-outfit and browse from the privacy of my own abode? Well, I’ve got several very convincing reasons for why you should reconsider your station on the couch and go to Olyphant at the very next opportunity, or at least at your earliest convenience.

Reason #1: Nick and JB are so dang friendly! Very nice young men, if I do say so myself.

Reason #2 (as if you needed another!): Two words. Open Stock. Which means exactly this: Olyphant has rows and rows and rows of pleasing pens and pencil and crayons and oil pastels and markers in every imaginable color. And that in turn means that, for a pencil and pen geek such as myself, I can walk into Olyphant any day of the week between 10 AM and 6 PM, and 12 to 5 on Sundays, and peruse these gorgeous rows of glorious color, perhaps enough to make up for the considerably less than 300 days of annual sunshine we get in our Vitamin D deprived town. If you are like me, then the amount of pens and pencils you will find at Olyphant will get your serotonin running faster than a high powered tanning bed at Jamaica Me Tan. (Note: If you are also like me you will experience a slight mental tick where you are convinced that everyone is always stealing or otherwise attempting to steal your fancy pens. Don’t let them, and also, stock up, because you never know what your supposed friends are capable of.)

Reason #3: One word. Local.

Reason #4: Free Art Classes! Taught every Saturday at 2 PM.

Reason #5: Art classes that cost money! These are figure drawing classes held every Monday night from 6-9 PM. They cost $12, but when you break it down, that’s only $4/hour. You spend at least that much on lattes every day. Admit it.

Reason #…where were we? Oh, yes, ha! There’s just so many reasons why one would choose to lose that total-sweat-outfit for even just an hour and patronize Olyphant (not in the negative way, of course. . .and don’t get me wrong—I love total-sweat-outfits and own several). Ahem. Reason #6: Affordable framing! These default entrepreneurs have gotten themselves a highly specialized super computer that will cut a mat to fit exactly over the masterpiece you will have created with the art supplies you could purchase at Olyphant. I know this is sounding like a pyramid scheme or some sort of cult, but bear with me. In the olden days, artists had to cut these blasted mats by hand. I did it once in 1855 and it was terrible. I couldn’t keep the cut straight to save my life and I almost lost a digit. But no more, dear Reader! Damn-near superheros Nick and JB are passing their savings and technological advantage on to you!

If, like me, you need a little time to test the waters from the safety of your couch, you can visit Olyphant’s website at Then you could venture out a bit further and “like” their facebook page. And if you’re really adventurous, they have a newsletter that they send out electronically—you know, the email.

And another thing—and this is where I lean in real close to you and make you nervous—the internet is great stuff, but have you ever noticed how tempting and easy it is to buy much more than you will ever need of a certain item just so you can justify the shipping costs or maybe even get it shipped for free? Well, fear not, dear Reader, because the whole reason why the Balridge team carries so damn much open stock is so that you can go in there, sweat outfit or not, and buy one single colored pencil. You can also buy one lowly eraser, and even one piece of paper. You can even splurge and buy a fancy $40 brush if you wanted.

Really, going to Olyphant is like it’s your birthday and everything—within reason of course! No pegasus unicorns here!—is your choice. Just don’t tag their storefront.  ◙


Olyphant is at 117 Washington St N and

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