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Though challenging to find, the store offers many reasons to visit

PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGINA YOUNG-ELLIS - Hillsdale Art Supply Company, located at the corner of Southwest Capitol Highway and Southwest Sunset Boulevard, offers new and gently used art supplies.Tucked away just around the corner from Jade Dragon Chinese Restaurant in Hillsdale Center — at the corner of Southwest Capital Highway and Southwest Sunset Boulevard — is Hillsdale Art Supply Company, a fascinating little shop where artists, crafters and hobbyists can find all manner of cool stuff with which to create masterpieces of every description.

Browsing through the store’s goodies is a fun activity in itself. You’ll find buttons, beads, jewelry supplies, feathers, yarn, chalk, sewing and knitting supplies, stickers, canvasses, beautiful paper, art books, cards, paintbrushes, tools and, of course, paint.

Owner Denise Rumsey’s store has been in the location for three years, guiding local creative types — as well as people like me who don’t have a crafty bone in their body — to explore their inner artist.

Adults can rent the big table toward the back of the store for a wine-and-cheese/art party with friends, for which Rumsey supplies the materials (and even the inspiration if you need it). Recently, she said, she hosted a Georgia O’Keefe-themed party, where she laid out flowers, a cow skull and other southwestern objects from nature, and the attendees painted works inspired by the great New Mexican artist.

Rumsey especially supports those who have always been reticent to put brush to paper.

“I encourage people to let go of the rules and create something in an atmosphere that is therapeutic, open and relaxing,” she says. Kids in particular benefit from her nurturing space, which she makes available for birthday parties, too. Parents bring the cake and presents and choose what kind of art projects the kids will work on. (Kids usually want to paint, Rumsey says.)

“One of the best thing about parties for adults or kids here,” she adds, “is that you get to walk away afterwards. You don’t have to clean up!”

I was especially impressed by how Rumsey and her shop cater to, and support, local artists. Purchasing new tubes of oil paints can cost artists around $30 a pop, but Hillsdale Art Supply Company sells gently used tubes for around $5. And let’s face it, how many artists do you know who can lay out big money for materials?

That’s why, even though Rumsey does sell some new supplies, most of what she carries are items that are recycled from estate sales, Craigslist, Ebay, donations, etc. — which provides the extra bonus, then, of preserving the environment. Not only that, but the space has become a kind of informal gallery, where aspiring or established artists from age 5 to 95 (or beyond) can display their work, which she sells on consignment.

“I try to have the space open to people who want to share their art,” she explains.

If you’re like me, you delight in avoiding the big chain stores when you can. I won’t mention any names, but there are a couple of art supply/craft chains in the Portland area that are, ahem, somewhat less than sincere, in my opinion. At Hillsdale Art Supply Company, you can find less expensive — and more interesting — materials, you can do something good for the planet and you can support a local business and local artists. It’s a win-win all around.

To locate this tricky-to-find spot, you can turn into Hillsdale Center off Southwest Sunset Boulevard, across the street from the Hillsdale Library. You’ll see it at the end of a row of businesses that include the post office and a podiatrist, just at the top of a flight of stairs.

If you enter from Southwest Capital Highway, near where Bank of America is situated, just go to the end of the row of shops and turn right — just after the Chinese restaurant, as I mentioned — and go up the stairs. Hillsdale Art Supply Company is well worth seeking out, whether you’re an artist, desiring to be one or not artsy at all. Everyone will find something wonderful there that they might not even have known they were looking for.

As Rumsey says, “Take a break, come on in and make something!” You can call her directly to book a party at 503-421-9349.

Rating: Extraordinarily Sincere!

Georgina Young-Ellis moved to Multnomah from Queens, N.Y., in 2015. She explores the world outside of big-box chain stores to find local businesses intent on customer service, customer satisfaction and a pleasurable customer experience. To read more about her experiences at Portland-area shops, visit

Georgina’s Sincerity Scale

Extraordinarily sincere — Great customer service; high-quality products at appropriate prices; local, sustainable or eco-friendliness given high priority. Makes me want to bring my mom.

Very sincere — Notable customer service; better-than-average-quality products; some thought given to sustainability, etc. They actually seem to care.

Pretty sincere — Working hard to make me believe they’re extraordinarily sincere, but there are some cracks in the facade.

Not sincere at all — Customer walking in the door viewed simply as a dollar sign.

Not even in the ballpark — Poor customer service; price gouging; salesman only available if they think I’m going to steal something.

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