Carlson art store in Lombard to close after 52 years

Updated 12/5/2017 7:23 PM

In the 26 years that Michael Carroll ran Carlson Paint, Glass & Art, the tiny shop in Lombard provided a much-needed communal space for artists who tend to work alone.

Carroll, an artist himself, was the sounding board for generation of customers who came to the store looking for more than supplies.

"It was not just an art store, but a consultation center for artists," Carroll said.

The Main Street landmark is preparing to close after 52 years in business, leaving a void for artists who sought out Carroll for his professional advice. Carroll considered himself a problem-solver who asked customers about the items they needed and their vision and then tried to find a better way of going about it.

Those customers, in turn, would return to the shop to show Carroll, the manager, their finished project.

"A lot of artists would come in to critique their work and look for suggestions for their materials," said Carroll, who specializes in Celtic Revival art.

The shop likely will close at the end of the month, but the last day is still "up in the air," Carroll said. A closing sale is offering 30 percent off regular prices of items, with some exceptions.

The Lombard shop was the smaller branch of a family-owned business that started in 1915. The Carlson art supply and hardware stores will remain open in downtown Wheaton.

But competition from big-box stores and online retailers put a dent in business at the Lombard store next to Dairy Queen, Carroll said.

The property is being sold, but the future of the site is unclear. Ken Carlson did not immediately return a phone message left at his Wheaton office Tuesday.

As for Carroll's next chapter, he said he's planning to teach Celtic art in the area. In a post on Facebook, Carroll said it was a privilege to call customers his friends. Some of them, now in their 20s and 30s, bought their first paintbrush at Carlson as kids.

"My years serving the people of Lombard have been wonderful," Carroll wrote. "The friendly neighborhood art store where we shared ideas, laughs, and 'the lively art of conversation' may soon be gone, but the memories will live on."

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