Good Times at Lee’s Art Shop in New York City

Although it wasn’t completely a surprise, I was saddened to find out that Lee’s Art Shop in New York City is closing after more than 60 years of business.

Lee’s Art Shop, on 57th Street across from the Art Student’s League, has been a popular spot for both New Yorkers and tourists. They sold thousands of items from all over the world, including decorative papers, stationery, art materials and supplies, frames, home furnishing products, furniture, toys and all kinds of gift items.

Lee's Art Shop Displays
So many unique items are sold throughout 4 floors of Lee’s Art Shop Building

I worked at Lee’s years ago as a custom gift wrapping designer and visual designer creating indoor and window displays. They had an amazing selection of decorative papers (hundreds of them!) and it was a huge benefit for me to be able to access all of them.

Gift Wrapping Booth.jpg
Custom Gift Wrapping Booth at Lee’s Art Shop. Midtown Manhattan was a fun place to work; we had gift wrapping projects for Movies, TV shows and magazines along with so many interesting gifts brought by individual customers!

I remember the day I had an interview with Rickie (the nickname of the previous owner, Mrs Ruth Steinberg) – after sitting at the table chatting with her and some managers, she gave me a big hug (!) and welcomed me to join her Lee’s team. Rickie and her husband Gil were a hard working couple who grew a tiny art supply shop to one of New York City’s iconic art department stores. Rickie loved her store and often worked seven days a week (I believe that she was her mid 70s when I was hired). Every day she walked around the floors, greeting workers, checking on new products and chatting with customers. She hand wrote personalized holiday cards to each and every employee (along with a bonus). Lee’s Art Shop was one of the Steinberg couple’s legacy and a gathering place for people from every walk of life in New York City.

Ownership changed after the Steinberg couple passed away and the historic Lee’s building had been up for sale. So the news of closing Lee’s Art Shop was not unexpected but I can’t help feeling “the loss of another great art store.” I myself also moved on with my own career and so many things have changed since then. The memory of my time at Lee’s came back with this news – there I met wonderful people, both co-workers and clients. I wish all of them the best.


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