Cheers! History like this deserves celebrating.
Here at Greens Art Supply, we are proud of our long and rich history of bringing art materials to the greater Detroit area and to schools all across Michigan.
Greens Art Supply’s story begins in 1954 when Ed and Margaret Cooke (that’s Gramps and Gram to us) purchased Greens Wallpaper and Paint Supply.
Well actually, the story begins even earlier. In the years prior, Grandpa and his brothers, sons of Irish and German immigrants to the area, had founded a house-painting company. Grandpa grew tired of paying someone else for all of the needed paint rollers, brushes, drop cloths, and gallons of paint, so he decided to become the supplier himself (“Thaaaat’s right!”, he’d say as he relayed this story over the years). This savvy business move soon led to a whole new career for the couple. The love birds purchased Greens Wallpaper and Paint Supply, a tiny little supply company in Birmingham, MI. Little did they know that the small art supply corner in the back of the store was going to prove to be a neighborhood gem, due to the art-world’s invention of acrylic paint and the auto-world’s demand for engineering and drafting supplies.
With the help of Grandpa’s business instincts and Grandma’s creative passions, the painting company soon transformed, first introducing drafting and art supplies alongside the original materials, and then finally “jumping in with both feet”. Grandma even started making her own pottery glazes! Greens was growing, and within just a few years the Cookes moved Greens twice in order to accommodate all of the needed inventory, finally landing in the iconic corner-building on Old Woodward in Birmingham.
In 1966, Greens expanded to a second location in the then-sleepy town of Rochester, MI. Purchasing the old “Burr Building”, the Cookes were looking for additional storage for their growing business, as well as the opportunity to continue their “Main Street America” retail branding. What a beautiful building we continue to enjoy. We’ve just celebrated this building turning 101 years old! Check out pictures of the party here.
In the late 1970’s the next generation joined the business! My dad, Kevin, joined the Rochester team and both locations continued to expand and grow. Grandpa continued to operate the Birmingham store, while Dad took on more leadership at the Rochester store.
THE 1980s and 1990s:
In addition to the retail stores, Greens expanded into the arena of direct-sales to schools. Just like customers to the brick-and-mortar store, art educators loved the selection and service that Greens Art Supply provided. Some of you local art educators may even remember Bruce: the larger-than-life school-sales manager who would drop by with your newest art supplies, a pat on the back, and a funny story or two to make you laugh. Dad continued to oversee Bruce and his shenanigans, while adding to the Greens team. Dad not only had a knack for knowing what products would be hard to keep on the shelves, but he also had a keen eye for what he wanted in a great employee. In fact, the Greens team still includes the best of Dad’s hires! Jan and Doug, who met 20 years ago as Greens employees, are now married, are still integral to the daily operations of Greens, and of course owe us in great depth for the birth of their love story:)
THE EARLY 2000s:
As Grandpa started exiting the business, my mom Kim was supporting the day-to-day operations of the Birmingham store. By the year 2000, mom was running that place… while raising all of us Cooke kids! And by now, my two sisters and I had created many memories working at the register of both locations. Mom and Dad make a great team, sharing the fun and responsibility involved in running Greens Art Supply, and are proud to say that they survived the economic changes caused after the burst of the US housing bubble.
2014 AND BEYOND:
The third generation of Cookes have joined the business (that’s me, and my wife Megan!) and we look forward to continuing the path that Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad have laid out. Greens Art Supply will continue to be dedicated to the fine arts and to the customers that use them. We value the benefits of art, art education, and creative expression! Now entering our seventh decade of providing the best art, ceramic, and drafting materials (not to mention the work of our top-of-the-line framing department), Greens has consolidated to the Rochester, MI location and continues to expand its efforts and thrive as: a retail store that boasts expansive and reliable inventory, a supplier to educators and art programming, a source for art knowledge and now art classes, and a provider of a new online resource for artists of all levels and talents.
Our story, like that of many long-serving, family-owned companies, has many twists and turns. However, our passions and goals have remained the same – to provide our customers with the best art materials at prices that work and to provide the type of customer service that they would tell their friends, family and co-workers about.
Thank you for your business and we look forward to working with you for many more!