Towny Waco: How MC Art Supplies Brings Color + Creativity to Waco

(Welcome to the Act Locally Waco/Towny blog series. Towny is an app that exists to connect consumers with local businesses. It’s loaded with answers to the question, Why local? Through this blog series, the folks at Towny will be sharing the stories behind some of our high-quality, local products and helping you get to know some of our energetic local entrepreneurs. We hope you enjoy it! Supporting local business is a terrific way to support the Waco economy! Plus, it’s just fun to get to know your neighbors. For more posts in this blog series, click here: Towny Waco.– ALW)

by Marissa Minter

MC Art Supplies, located at 2025 Washington Ave. in Uptown Waco, is well known as a haven for local artists. Shop Owners Aaron and Jessica Williams have created a warm environment where all artists – from the novice to the expert – can feel comfortable and find almost anything they need. We spoke with Aaron to learn more about what makes MC Art Supplies the wonderful shop artists know and love in Waco.

How did you get into this business?

“My sister, Mackenzie, was an art student at Baylor, and she would come to MC Art Supplies to get all of her art supplies. She became close friends with the original owners, Rose and Clyde. She learned that they were going to close down the store and retire. Around the same time, my wife and I were looking for something new to get into. We wanted to start working for ourselves, and we also were excited to contribute to all that’s going on in Waco. There’s so much going on in the downtown area, and we’re right in the middle of it. We’re super fortunate to be a part of it. Anyways, long story short, we wanted to keep this place going so we took over.

Clyde just turned 91 this year, so he had definitely earned retirement. Both he and Rose were really sweet and great when helping us take over. When my wife and I finally met them it was like we had known each other for a long time. I never thought I would take over a retail store like this, but we had a lot of help along the way from people who had done this before. Rose and Clyde were very happy that we decided to continue their store.”

How has your experience as a store-owner been?

“It’s been almost two years. We’ve survived three back-to-schools already so we’re getting the hang of it. At the beginning it was chaotic and crazy but we’re getting the feel for it. When we first took over the store, our biggest customers were students at Baylor and McLennan Community College. Of course, we expected to have customers through those art programs, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how many artists live in Waco. There are people moving from places like Austin and out-of-state, and they’re bringing their flavor and creativity to Waco. It’s neat to meet the people who come through our doors. I learn new things every single day. Every time I think I’ve figured it all out, there’s some new item that someone will come in and ask about. And I’ll say, ‘let me try to make that happen for you.’”

That’s awesome! Do you prioritize ordering new products for your customers?

“Well, we’ve had the opportunity to meet other small business owners and ask how they set themselves apart. One of the things I’ve learned from them is that you should create an atmosphere people want to come to. That goes hand-in-hand with doing what we can to get people the items they need or want. I’m going to make every effort to get something in our store or special order it if it’s something I know we can get from one of our vendors. We really want to be advocates for our artists.”   

How are you and your wife as a team?

“My wife works full-time in another job, so I’m pretty much here all the time. She’ll tell you that I’m definitely an extrovert. I’m not afraid to have a conversation with people, and it’s where I excel. My wife is the one who keeps it all together. She’s the brains behind the operation for sure. We’re kind of the perfect team. She’s incredibly creative, too.” My wife and I have characteristics that drive each other crazy sometimes, like every couple. But we always find middle ground. We’ve always been a really great team from the get go.”

What is your experience as an artist?

“I’ve always been right-brained. I’m not a painter, but I am a musician – I’ve always been an artistic person and appreciated art. I love seeing what an artist will create with the stuff we sell. Sometimes customers will come back with the art they’ve made after shopping here, and it’s just incredible and brings me tons of joy.”

Do you have any funny stories from your time running MC Art Supply?

“We’ve been doing a lot of renovations here in the store. If you’ve ever been to Poppa Rollo’s restaurant here in Waco, you’ll know there’s a door that doesn’t look like a door. We discover unique things like that here at the store all the time. Every time we think we’ve cleaned everything up, we’ll get to another part of the store that’s just full of surprises. Some of it has been awesome. For example, we’ll find a ton of paintings from Clyde that are amazing. Then sometimes, we’ll find inventory that’s super old and not really needed. We’ve put those items on a sale table in the store.”

What are some of the dreams you have for MC Art Supply?

“Our biggest thing right now is that we’re trying to add as much inventory as possible. We’re doing that because we want to set ourselves apart from the bigger box stores that might not have as much variety. We try to find things that will get artists excited. I want the store to get to the point where people can walk in here and find anything they need.

Another thing we’ve done recently is added a studio room. There was a room where most of the merchandise used to be, but now it’s a studio where we can host paint nights, classes, and meet ups. Community involvement is our biggest goal for next year. Starting January and February is when we’ll launch that. We’ve got a list of people who said they’d be willing to teach these classes, and several other art groups around Waco are interested in using different spaces like ours.”

Last question: what do you love about Waco?

“I was born and raised here. There has always been a sense of genuine community. Waco as a whole is a very welcoming city. The people here aren’t stuck up or fake. It’s really the people that make me love Waco – that and Cameron Park!”

When you shop at local Waco businesses like MC Art Supplies, you are not only building a robust economy, but you are also supporting your very own neighbors. Find them on Towny – the free tool making it easy to choose local.

Marissa Minter is a writer and creative from Houston, Texas. Since graduating from Baylor University in 2014, Marissa has traveled, explored, and learned a lot about life and people. Marissa is passionate about Towny because she loves the idea of encouraging people in Waco to care about and support local businesses that make Waco the wonderful place it is!

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