By Isadora Pennington
Ponce City Market is one of the biggest redevelopment projects undertaken in recent Atlanta history. The building, once Sears, Roebuck & Company and later City Hall East, has been redesigned into a mixed use development with living spaces, retail spaces, work spaces, and a large food hall.
In September of 2014, Ponce City Market invited local art supply store Binders to open a shop on the property. Howard Krinsky, owner of Binders, was intrigued by the concept behind the revitalization of this historic property. We sat together for a while and talked about the history of the business and their choice to open this newest eastside location.
Binders was started 60 years ago, in 1955, as a gift shop on Broad Street in Downtown. The shop, originally called Binders Gift and Frame, was started by Howard’s father, Moe Krinsky. Moe and his brother Joe moved to Atlanta from New Jersey in 1946 and started a small bar, Moe’s and Joe’s, which is still in operation in the Virginia-Highland.The two have since passed, but their legacy lives on through their businesses.
Art supplies were not always on the shelves of the shop, however. “A travelling salesman suggested they sell art supplies,” said Krinsky. The shop began carrying Permanent Pigments Paint, a brand that’s now known as Liquitex, and is now one of the biggest paint distributors in the art supply market.
Binders once had 16 stores spread from Cleveland to Arizona. In the late ‘90s, the company began experiencing financial problems and many of those stores were closed. In 2001, Krinsky and his late business partner, Jay Shapiro, purchased the assets of the company. Something wasn’t working, and it was time for a change.
Change came via a reorganization of company priorities. Krinsky wanted to get involved with the local art community. He set out to build a rapport with the neighborhood, develop relationships with organizations and “get out from behind the counter.” The company aimed to become more than just an art store.
The new location falls in line with the organization’s desire to maintain high standards and take the company to the next level in the community. When Ponce City Market approached Krinsky, opening a new location was not something that was on the table for the company.
The financial investment and effort that goes into opening a new, fully-stocked art supply store could have been a deterrent to the project, but Krinsky saw that the plans for this historic property were different. “They really had a vision, which I liked,” he said.
The building that houses Binders was initially Sears’ auto repair building, and it was later used for police car maintenance during the City Hall East days. Past and present meld nicely in the 10,000 square feet shop, which includes a gallery and classroom and stocks around 26,000 products.
Historical remnants can be seen throughout the shop, from original hardwoods in the entrance andon the counter that were donated from the main building of the market, to a small metal sign that reads “Auto Center Compactor.” Steel beams above the doorways, exposed original brick, and cross-aisles were incorporations that Krinsky was able to negotiate in the initial build-out of the space.
The grounds were once home to the Ponce de Leon Amusement Park in the early 1900s, and before that the land was known for the Ponce de Leon Springs, a natural spring that was believed to have healing properties. Upon becoming involved with the property, Krinsky feels that there are still some connections to that time in the area’s history. “We laughed because we said ‘you can feel the springs here.’”
Getting in on the ground floor of the Ponce City Market leasing has been an interesting experience for Krinsky and the company. “I’m curious to see this grand food hall,” Krinsky said. Food trucks set up in the parking lot daily, but there is much anticipation regarding the restaurants that are set to open soon in the complex.
“There is something in the air,” Krinsky commented regarding the atmosphere of the development. “Even the construction workers can feel it.” He maintains that there’s a certain energy to the Ponce City Market development that has continued to build throughout the renovation. “I’m part of something that’s going to be a big part of Atlanta for years to come.”