The Good Life: The 411: Portrait of the Art Shops

Why should angst-y art-school kids be the only ones to benefit from the city’s wealth of supply shops? With so many of them now stocking more than just the basics, they’re bona fide alternatives to the same stores you always hit up for quirky

Amoeba Art Shop

7174 Germantown Avenue, 215-242-4568;

The vibe: Friendly funkiness. Opened in 2004 by local artist Jay Thomson, Amoeba — about the size of a small classroom, with lavender walls — is all about customer service, and kids. Thomson offers children’s workshops, writes a monthly e-newsletter, and staffs his store with in-the-know local artists who display their work on the walls.

The goodies: We love the kitschy kid stuff — a mix of old-school scented Mr. Sketchy markers, sweetly subversive “Parasite Pals” pads and erasers, and staff-made buttons and magnets with images from comics and 1950s-style art books.

For purists: Amoeba’s focus is on drawing and painting supplies — from Derwent and Karat pencil sets to easels and oversize print racks.

Psst: Students, teachers and artists score a discount; speak up if you’re one.

Allegheny Art Company

318 Leedom Street, Jenkintown,

The vibe: Hallmark — with a twist. Allegheny is a mishmash of the serious and the frivolous — on one side of the shop, there’s a custom framing department; toward the back are the kinds of art supplies Tyler kids go through like toilet paper; and up front is a colorful maze of art-themed toys as well as stationery and journals.

The goodies: Brides- and moms-to-be will go bananas for Allegheny’s scrapbooks, photo albums and advice books. And too-busy parents will appreciate the range of ready-made art sets, from tiara kits to knitting workbooks.

For purists: Four double-sided aisles plus the entire back wall are lined with paint, charcoal, clay, brushes and blades.

Psst: Don’t miss the rubber stamp rack; chunky wood-block stampers are a thoughtful bonus to tag onto your next gift-wrapped present.


301 South Broad Street, 215-546-7798; for other locations, see

The vibe: Serious students ahead. Utrecht’s no-frills, fluorescent-lit store is jam-packed with paint and portfolios and frames for the serious painter and artist. The staff can be aloof, but they know their stuff, if you take the time to ask.

The goodies: All kinds of surprising gifts lurk: a postcard-making set with mini tubes of acrylics; journals from Moleskine; Japanese calligraphy sets; delicate wrapping paper sold by the sheet; and simple, elegant frames with ready-made mats.

For purists: There’s clay for sculptors, drafting tables for architects and engineers, and every size and shape sketch pad.

Psst: Ask for an ArtSmart card — you’ll get instant discounts at the register and, if you fill out an optional form, coupons sent to your home.