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Art of Business: Catskill Art & Office Supply 

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Art of Listening

Catskill Art and Office Supply has been the Hudson Valley's go-to for over three decades, offering framing, copying, and graphic design services along with about 30,000 different products for makers of all persuasions, from kids working on school projects to prominent artists, from lovers seeking a greeting card to business-folk putting together presentations. We spoke with founder and owner Paul Solis-Cohen about his success story and the reasons behind it.

So your first location was Woodstock?

Yes, in 1978. It's a real artist's town. Lots of artists, musicians, writers, and people who love them, and people who may not identify as any of the above but just love to create. We didn't have a clue about building inventory; we asked customers what they wanted and went and got it. Today, we have the largest inventory, in terms of scope and breadth, of any store I've ever seen—and I've checked them out worldwide. Everything imaginable in the realm of art, we stock. These are old forms of expression constantly being reimagined, especially out on the fringes—things like fabric arts, calligraphy, origami, digital art. We carry every kind of sculpture tool, everything for people who want to carve or etch or do silkscreen. If people want to explore the periphery, we're the supplier and the guide. Our staff are artists themselves. They listen to needs, they get excited, they're eager to interact in a way that goes beyond the typical retail experience.

And you've done well with office supplies, which seem like a related but very different world.

Commercial office supplies were a means to an end. We got into that in Poughkeepsie 20 years ago. We had contracts with the state, the colleges, the hospitals—we bid on and won the New York State supply contract year after year. We serviced those customers to such a high degree that we became top choice. That division was purchased by Staples in 2006, though we still carry retail office supplies. Bottom line, it's all about listening to and keeping an eye on your community and customers—if your eye is really on the ball, you'll play well.

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