Here’s another cartooning memory from my brilliant buddy, Randy Enos, see Randy’s archive of editorial cartoons, email Randy Enos –Daryl
Most small town art stores around the country cater to children, hobbyists, crafts people or Sunday painters but not the one I went to for about 55 years in the small town of Westport, Ct.; they catered to all of the above but mainly they served the vast array of professional artists that lived in Westport since the 1950’s. This tiny art store, named Max’s, had a clientele that read like a Who’s Who of American illustration, painting, sculpture, cartooning and graphic art. When they sold drawing tables, portfolios, drawing paper, paint brushes, canvasses and all the other furnishings of an art studio, they sold the high-end professional grade of those products. There was stuff in there that the average civilian had no idea about and they had a small sales staff was well versed in all of it. They also had a tiny frame shop in the back room that was always busy.
It was first called “Fine Arts Stationery” (it was next door to the “Fine Arts Theater”). Then it became “Max’s Art Supplies” and then just “Max’s”. Max’s wasn’t just an art store, it was an oasis for the weary, work laden illustrators and cartoonists who labored in lonely solitude at their boards all day. Every time I went into the store, I would run into fellow cartoonists and illustrators and we’d sometimes talk shop for hours. It truly was a gathering place.
A woman named Shirley came to work at Max’s and ended up marrying Max, who had been a longtime divorced “ladies man.” I did a big linocut caricature of Max as a horned satyr for one of his birthdays and the framed portrait was placed next to the desk in their little cubby hole office in the rear of the store. It stayed there for many years until Max’s closed. During that time Max had grown a moustache so, instead of pulling the picture out of the frame to update it, I merely took a litho crayon and drew the appendage right on the glass. It stayed there and is still there in Shirley’s home.
Whenever Max or Shirley had a birthday, the drawings and home-made cards would flood in from some of the most famous artists in America like Bernie Fuchs, Robert Heindel, Bob Peak, Steven Dohanos, Eric von Schmidt, Chance Browne (Hi and Lois), Stan Drake (Heart of Juliet Jones), Hardie Gramatky (Little Toot), numerous top New Yorker artists and the like. They were hung all over the shop and even in the teensy bathroom which was often a popular stop in the lives of us wandering illustrators in downtown Westport. Over the years, two group photos were taken of all the staff and the artist customers standing in front of the tiny shop. In them the cartoonists, illustrators, graphic designers and animators are standing, some with their wives smiling at the camerawoman perched across the street on top of a truck.
Every month Max’s two front windows would feature the work of one of the artist/customer’s work. I can’t say it was all fun and games … yes, I can … it WAS all fun and games. One day Stan Drake and Dik Browne (Hagar) were in the shop. They had previously heard that Max had ordered a sh*t-load of some kind of artists’ glue by mistake because nobody wanted it and he was stuck with it. Stan and Dik mercilessly taunted poor Max all the time and this day was no exception. As they were leaving the store, Stan said to Dik (within earshot of Max), “Dik, I heard about this fantastic glue, Dave’s Glue and I can’t find the stuff and I really need it!” Max’s ears perked up just as the boys were going out the door and shouted, “Fellas, wait, wait!” The door slammed behind them and off they went to the left down past the sports shop with Max trotting behind yelling, “Fellas, fellas… wait… I got that stuff…” They made him chase them down to the end of the block and around the corner at Colgan’s drugstore.
As the computer age insinuated itself into the artistic community, Shirley, now alone after Max’s demise, was experiencing declining sales. For one thing, the illustrators and cartoonists were moving out of Westport which had turned into a thriving community of rich Wall St. types. I moved away myself to a nearby community and a horse farm. With the advent of computers and Photoshop, a lot of us didn’t require the envelopes, portfolios, drawing paper, and paints and brushes anymore. Shirley kept the business rolling along as best she could, operating at a loss for many years, sustaining herself with other properties she had on the street until finally she closed in a big farewell party which we all tearfully attended.
I just heard yesterday from a friend in Westport that the small building has been torn down and now a small empty lot is all that’s left of what was probably, the most illustrious art store this country has ever seen.
Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: