In May 1991 Crafty Arts was born. One of the owners Lorraine was a sign writer by trade for department stores like Fortnum and Masons. She struggled to find art materials for her beautiful lettering, so decided to open an art supplies shop, alongside her husband Nik, in Ardleigh Green, Hornchurch. He was very business minded and she was incredibly creative, making for a great team.
The shop provided a wide range of products to a diverse customer base from professional artists to enthusiastic amateurs. The following year Nik and Lorraine had the opportunity to open a stall at the Pavilion at Lakeside Shopping Centre. The Pavilion was known for its out of the ordinary stores so Crafty Arts fitted right in with its sought-after creative products. At that point Crafty Arts was best known in Lakeside for its range of 3D Decoupage kits.
The Ardleigh Green shop soon closed and a store was opened on Brentwood, High Street in 1995 after Nik and Lorraine were looking for a larger premises to add a new bespoke on-site framing service for its customers. They also wanted to bring Crafty Arts back to the locals. Over the years, as the shop grew, the products grew with it. Encompassing larger ranges of craft supplies from card making and jigsaw puzzles; to mount cutters and sequin art; to sculptors' clay and much, much more.
In 1999 there was news of a new shopping centre opening which was being hailed as one of the largest in Europe. It was to be opening in Dartford, Kent and called Bluewater. The centre was looking for luxury and unique stores so Crafty Arts put in an offer not expecting to get very far, but to their surprise Bluewater loved their store and its concept and had previously visited the Lakeside premises. The offer was accepted and Crafty Arts moved from their Pavilion stall in Lakeside and opened its largest store to date in Bluewater.
While all this was happening, in the background, Nik & Lorraine’s son Jay had grown up and become a proficient website designer. He started the website in 2000 from home on the weekends and due to the sites quick success, in 2007 he left his job and moved to the Brentwood store office full time. Crafty Arts began to grow rapidly and before long craftyarts.co.uk was born. In 2008 Jay’s wife Natasha left her job and started working with him as the business continued to grow.
In the early days Crafty Arts operated as a multi-site retail premises, but as the online business grew so quickly the need for more storage space became urgent. In October 2009, craftyarts.co.uk moved to its own premises; a 8,000 square foot warehouse and this became the Crafty Arts Head Office. Over the next year the pragmatic decision was made to close the Brentwood shop and migrate the staff to the expansive warehouse in Romford.
Crafty Arts Head Office - Romford
Sadly in 2013 the Bluewater store came to the end of its lease and the retirement of Lorraine, making Crafty Arts online only. However, the addition of Click & Collect to the Head Office in Romford, ensured that customers could collect their orders if they chose to. Needing more space Crafty Arts moved to Bryant Avenue in 2015, offering space for online, a shop and a creative hub (face to face classes).
Bryant Avenue - Home of Crafty Arts, in store and online & The Creative Hub
Natasha said “Looking back is was scary decision but we are so glad that we made it as it was important to grow the business”.
2020, is what we call the year of the unexpected. Covid-19 turned the world’s lives upside down. It was hard for us all, but as a team we pulled through and was able to support one another. We closed the shop and training room and focused on online and Click and Collect as there was a huge demand for all things creative due to many being on furlough and schools being closed.
Coming out of the other end, we all feel like we can relax a little, take stock and move forward and are thankful to our team that rallied round and got the job done.
Later in the year we also had another huge milestone for Crafty Arts – Nik’s retirement! It was sad to see him go as he had put 29 years of experience, hard work and great decision making into the company. However, his passion for the business has been instilled in each and every person working at Crafty Arts.
Father & Son
Reminiscing on the past, Jay has said "My parents have built Crafty Arts from scratch and have built a good reputation. I intend to carry on the development of this service, as all of our customers are important to us.
In the shops we have been fortunate to build relationships with our customers. We want to do the same online so customers can talk to us by phone, email and online chat. We are also happy to take orders online or over the telephone. The great thing about having an online service is that we are able to deliver world wide".
Moving forward, we celebrate our 30th birthday in 2021 and have some exciting plans ahead. In celebration of our milestone birthday, we are launching our new branding and our brand new logo! We’re redecorating and making some changes to our shop to offer more to our customers, to make it bigger and better as well as extending our product range of well-known brands as well as our own branded products.
The last 30 years have been a hard yet exciting one and so the Crafty Arts journey continues with Jay and Natasha at the helm. Cheers to the next 30.
Jay & Natasha