As a University of Alabama student on Christmas break in 1968, Ken Webster visited the leading Birmingham art supply retailer looking for block printer's ink, an artist staple. "They said they were out of it," Webster remembers. "I couldn't believe it. What that told me was that there was probably room in the market for competition."
While Webster was finishing up his degree in economics and finance, he launched Alabama Art Supply Inc. out of his home, selling to his former high school art instructor and other clients. In 1970, after taking more than a dozen accounts from Lassiter's, Webster opened his first retail storefront at 1601 12th St. S.
Alabama Art Supply later moved to the current location of the Golden Temple Natural Grocery & Café in Southside and in 1975 relocated to its current home at 1006 23rd Street South.
As in the early days, the educational market still accounts for much of Alabama Art Supply's business. It also services commercial accounts, professional artists and hobbyists.
Stocked with more than $1 million in inventory, Alabama Art Supply carries everything from paints and brushes to easels and mounting board. Webster makes a special effort to carry products of varying degrees of quality and cost to accommodate the budgets of both students and professionals, and he continuously tests new brands to keep his selection fresh.
Most of its customers are in Alabama and Mississippi, though it regularly fills orders from customers as far away as San Francisco. Delivery service is available for educational clients.
(by Don Milazzo, Staff Writer, Birmingham Business Journal)