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Design Stores

Gwartzman's Art Supplies

Posted by Tim / Posted on September 11, 2008

Gwartzman's Art SuppliesA tour of Toronto art supply stores (if there was such a thing) wouldn't be complete without a stop at Gwartzman's. Located on Spadina on the edges of Chinatown, it's about as fun a place to shop for art supplies in the city as there is.

The long, narrow store, which has been around forever, oozes character with its worn, hardwood floors and its cluttered walls. At the back of the store is the raison d'etre for coming here - huge slabs and rolls of primed and un-primed canvas. They've got primed and ready sizes here that simply won't be found elsewhere in the city. In fact, some stores in Toronto actually buy their canvas directly from Gwartzman's.

What else is here? There is the usual assortment of paints, pastels, and sketch books, all at discount prices, but the selection doesn't rival what can be found at places like Aboveground and Wolfitt's. But for UofT students it's a short walk and better alternative than College Street's Toose.

Plus, it's more fun and you just might bump in to the original Gwartzman himself!

Gwartzman's Art Supply

Gwartzman's Art

Gwartzman's Art Supplies Toronto

Gwartzman's Toronto


Gwartzmans Toronto



Gloria / September 16, 2008 at 03:19 pm
Fantastic. It's MUCH bigger than I thought it would be.
Pablo / October 22, 2008 at 10:25 pm
I first set foot in Gwartzman's probably 23 years ago and it's great to see in today's era of pre-packaged corporate priced products. Probably one of the few places I'd go out of my way to visit even if it were just for the atmosphere.
Reila / November 24, 2008 at 04:44 am
Giant brown-paper sketchbook for $2? Whaaat?!
Mei / January 22, 2009 at 11:21 pm
alot less cheaper then the art store an yonge and eglinton........
Oli Goldsmith / February 15, 2009 at 01:13 am
the best,
most affordable, great selection of canvas, awesome quirky stuff..... and the always charming :) Mr. G

I've sworn by them for years
done / March 10, 2009 at 10:48 am
I have been going to Gwartzman's for years but I will not be going back. Mr. Gwartzman made a mistake on a number of canvases I had custom ordered - the canvases came back as wood panels which I had no use for. When I asked for my order to be made as I had originally requested he said he would put through the order again. I called back two weeks later to check on the status and I was informed that MR.G decided he wasn't going to have them made for me! He didn't bother to tell me this. If he had (even though it would be an unprofessional thing to do - make a mistake and refuse to correct it) I would have had time to go elsewhere. I ordered them well in advance, and now my work is not going to be ready for an upcoming exhibition. I will NEVER go there again. What horrible business practice and lack of customer service.
done / March 15, 2009 at 09:54 pm
a followup to the last post - I spoke to Mr. Gwartzman after he refused to make the canvases he committed to making over a month ago.
After a heated conversation, he reluctantly agreed to make them, and I have them in my hands 3 days before my exhibition opens. Not sure this is a happy ending, but thought it was only fair to follow up.

kazar / November 5, 2009 at 07:45 am
vint / November 8, 2009 at 08:45 pm
Best art store in Toronto, if looking for basic sketchbooks, drafting supplies, pencils/markers/pens of all kinds and even rolls of mylar! The products are affordably priced; if looking for solely any of the products above, Gwartzman is a must!

But the praise ends here. The selection is lacklustre; products that are slated to be in stock are not in stock until very late. And lastly, although rare, the quality of the products are questionable. So if shopping here casually, you are likely taking chances getting products you need at good quality.
vicork / February 28, 2010 at 01:20 am
Went there on Sat Fe 27/2010. It was amazing. Mrs. G helped out and the 3 yards by 3 yards unprimed SOOO CHEAP. The student type GESSO to prime it, almost TWICE the amount offered by Aboveground for -get this- $5-6 CHEAPER than the price quoted at Aboveground!!!! Will not go anywhere else at all, EVER ... except if the selection (AND PRICE) works out better
James / March 1, 2010 at 02:53 pm
Prices are good. Quality is often very low. Customer service is often poor. Know what you want when you go there. Don't respond to suggestive selling.
athena / April 8, 2010 at 09:42 pm
this store is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! Better than Aboveground and Currys! At Gwartzmans they actaully help you out with what you are looking for and they have knowledge which Above ground and Curry's lack.
ALF / July 27, 2010 at 05:18 pm
When I asked Mr. Gwartzman what one of his floor-model easels was made of, he responded "wood". With hopes of inserting some levity into our conversation I mocked "ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer". Without a moment's hesitation, he countered "it's certainly a stupid question.

Then I walked to the sidewalk and had a good cry.
Edgar / October 18, 2010 at 08:17 am
This is the best art supply store there is in Toronto, I've been buying there for years, the prices are reasonable with an A+ quality, the staff has been ALWAYS very helpful; they go the extra mile to help me finding what I need, as soon as you get in the store I feel like at home. I strongly recommend this store for all artists and students. I will go out of my way to buy my supplies there.
Saadia / October 20, 2010 at 03:33 pm
My first art-supplies haven found in Toronto!
It's always a great pleasure and experience exploring the variety , quality and resonability of the prices and discounts avaiable, along with getting supported by the thoughtful staff around you. And personally,it was really nice to know Mr. Gwartzman too!!
theresbob / October 26, 2010 at 06:23 am
Nice to see it going strong. I remember one visit for supplies back in the late 1960's, a bright sunny day, standing choosing my materials and listening to a happy(and also younger) Mr. Qwartzman taking receipt of a fresh pike, rolled in newspaper, from a fellow artist. My memory leaves me to believe the pike was promised in exchange for some past, badly needed art supplies.
MARK / November 16, 2010 at 03:49 pm
I told Gwartzman he has VERY bad phone service.
When you (the customer) call, either ask for someone else to speak with( perhaps the lady of the house ) or tell Gwartzman he has no manners on the phone. Maybe if enough people tell him this FACT then he will smarten up. The old fart actually said I'm taking up his time (after about 20 or 30 seconds on the phone). Old prick !!! I want to know what you sell before I drive 30 km to China Town. Get it !!!!!!
And Gwartzman, I called your store 3 times in my life. Third time I learned my lesson. I never want to talk to your bitter, grumpy ass again. If you don't like talking then hire some to someone to answer the phone, you cheap bastard.
MARK / November 16, 2010 at 03:51 pm
Gwartzman HAS VERY bad customer phone service.
When you (the customer) call, either ask for someone else to speak with( perhaps the lady of the house ) or tell Gwartzman he has no manners on the phone. Maybe if enough people tell him this FACT then he will smarten up. The old fart actually said I'm taking up his time (after about 20 or 30 seconds on the phone). Old prick !!! I want to know what you sell before I drive 30 km to China Town. Get it ????????!!!!!!
And Gwartzman, I called your store 3 times in my life. Third time I learned my lesson. I never want to talk to your bitter, grumpy ass again. If you don't like talking then hire someone to answer the phone, you cheap bastard.
Dick Dakessian / January 15, 2011 at 03:42 am
I have been looking all over the globe for a extra large traditional shape armed left hand grip wood palette. I found one in Wisconsin but they asked for a horrendous shipping cost of USD70.00 to send to Sydney Australia for a $20 item. Any ideas anyone?
tony westbrook / March 15, 2011 at 10:50 am
When I first went there Paul was relegating his charming mom to the back with her drapes and materials to make way for tubs of acrylics and massive rolls of canvas. I used to have a little chat with his mom who seemed to be mourning the old days of drapes. Then I would buy some materials. One day I went in and he was kneeling behind the counter. I asked, 'Paul what are you doing kneeling back there' and without a moments hesitation said 'praying'. I thought, only, for a new head of hair probably.
Thats who he is .... a beautiful guy.
tony westbrook / March 15, 2011 at 10:56 am
Dick ... make one old chap! Whistler took the last one to heaven!
tony westbrook / March 15, 2011 at 11:07 am
Mark ... Phone? ...ya goes in ya looks then ya buys (cheap). It's an occasion. Otherwise you go on line to the other stores then pay extra! (like I do, often) Ha ha! good luck old chap!
Mia / October 21, 2011 at 04:41 pm
I was there today prices r cool paid double for canvas elsewhere and this r better done..nothing to complain about :) love it there ...
Val replying to a comment from kazar / January 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm
For kazar,

Store Hours:

Monday-Friday 9am-6:30pm

Saturday 9am-6pm

Sunday 12pm-4pm
bob / March 8, 2012 at 02:25 pm
The owner is a @sshole, he was so rude to me and made it seem like i was a idiot and didn't know anything. Prices are cheaper but, i rather shop elsewhere and treated with respect.
Jane Wu / May 16, 2012 at 10:55 am
How much is a set of 60 prismacolor coloured pencils here? Or do they not sell them at all?
Liz / June 11, 2012 at 11:47 am
What kind of stickers do they sell? Do they have a big supply?
Rick / September 10, 2012 at 04:19 pm
I just called this shop and asked for rough pricing on a few materials.
"I'M TOO BUSY" *hangs up on me.

SUPER RUDE...actually shocking.
Mitch / October 22, 2012 at 06:42 pm
Mr. Gwartzman is indeed getting old, but you have to be a bit more understanding. I don't think he really means to be as rude as he comes across. Plus, I love asking him questions because he does know quite a lot. You have to be more specific with your queries, though.
maria / February 19, 2013 at 07:57 am
I wonder how much business the owner has lost due to his maltreatment of potential customers. My guess is that this place is closing soon, and he is way beyond caring.
The item I purchased was cheap and broken and was refused a refund. Won't be going back.
jacklyn / March 7, 2013 at 02:35 pm
HI Maria,
We have been in business for over 40 years and plan on being here for years to come. We do not sell used broken or inferior products. We offer name brand products at great prices. If an item is returned with a receipt and is in resaleable condition we offer credit notes. Of course there are exceptions.Also you might like to know we employ several staff who would be able to assist you at any time.
Mary B / March 11, 2013 at 07:28 pm
I had the misfortune of dealing with a fossil of a man behind the counter who tried to charge me more for a product that was clearly marked. This rude old man clearly is either an idiot Or senile who doesn't know much about the stuff he sells. I recommend u go elsewhere if u can if u are coming from a long distance u r better off paying more elsewhere. Make sure the product u buy is exactly what u need because if it isn't u r up shits creek.

Susah / April 22, 2013 at 02:55 pm
Mr G is neither senile nor an ass hole.As a young teen back in the 7o's he was so helpful and taught me so much ...even how to stretch my own canvas after telling me I was an entitled little rich girl wasting my daddys money.He was right.Mr G teaches life lessons.Like him or not ,he is usually right.He can size up a moron or pretentious artsy fartsy type faster than a fly on turd.Y'all haters just need to get over yourselves,grow thicker skins or shop elsewere.I for one ,now in my 50's and a 4 hour drive from Toronto still make the trip several times a year.The day I dont see Mr G behind the counter will make me very sad.And Gwartzmans does not sell broken ,used or inferior materials btw.
Melifluous Sculptor / May 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm
Reading these comments, no wonder he's cranky. He sounds like a knowledgeable artist who doesn't take any crap. Actually he sounds like a hoot! I think I'll visit the place when I come to town.
A.S. / June 16, 2013 at 03:30 am
It's right off College / Spadina and is therefore convienient for city dwellers wanting to pick up quick item or two. I don't think I've ever been to an art store where there wasn't an air of smugness and a kind of aloofness in the customer service. Gwartzmans is alright, no complaints, have been happy with my purchases, staff is fine, the place is fine etc. 7/10 - it's like the Honest Ed's of Art Stores in Toronto (take that as you will, for me this is a good thing).
katie / September 29, 2013 at 01:27 pm
they have everything i need i love this store!
BenjiS / October 2, 2013 at 10:08 am
No, Mr. G is not senile, but he is terrifically rude to some of his customers (and actually not that knowledgable, in my experience. Why did you attempt to grill me about WHY I needed mars black oil, Mr. G? Just find it for me or tell me you don't carry any, for pete's sake). Grumpy, impatient and rude, why be in the retail business if you don't want to help people?
Low prices and the odd neat item haven't been worth it to bring me back into the store the last two years. Mostly, I find it easier and less unpleasant to just spend a dollar more, and go somewhere else.
I have to wonder why some customers feel the need to defend such bad behaviour. You can be a cool old experienced no-crap shop owner, without being a sh!thead, and without assuming your customer is an idiot.

James (if he still works there) is a bright light in an otherwise disappointing shopping experience.
That being said, avoid Mr. G and the middle-aged staff lady staff member, buy your supplies and you can get out while saving real $$$ over the competition. Cool building and location.
BenjiS replying to a comment from Susah / October 2, 2013 at 10:13 am
Who the heck needs 'life lessons' from a shop owner?
Why would any customer not only put up with this kind of treatment, but be grateful for it?
He appears to know less about oil paint and painting surfaces than many of his customers, including me.
All I can say is, I used to head into the store as an engaging, friendly customer who knew what he wanted, only to leave wondering why I was giving this person my money and my business. Now I do neither.
gary / February 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm
This store does have the lowest prices I've seen in Toronto. I almost always buy my art supplies here.
Kay / February 28, 2014 at 08:08 am
Mr. G. was cranky 25 years ago when I first went there. It's amazing that his store is still open despite what a rude shithead he is. After a few times going there I stopped because who wants to be treated like crap and line this guys pockets in the process.
Lee / March 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm
I use to go there in the 70's to get my high school art supplies. The store owner was cranky but we expected that, didn't care, wasn't there for pleasant conversation. Generally if a store sells product at a low price, the owner/sales staff are a cranky sort! I assume its b/c they get less money for their time. In stores with high prices you 'might' get pleasant service. In deep discounts stores you don't get service (if you do be surprised). That's life!
I've started painting again + will be going there for supplies. I don't expect help or friendly conversation + don't care. Just want my supplies low prices.
Peter Costello / November 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

I have been doing business with Mr G and his family since 1979, The tradition and loyalty of a supplier and the fundamental service they provide has always been a mainstay for a professional artist. The quality of materials is up to the individual and they have the full spectrum in house. You can purchase student quality or in some cases Novelty quality or exotic top end materials. So complaining about the quality is related to an individuals budget not the store providing "inferior" materials.

Mr G is a man who should be celebrated , thanked and cherished. Quite simply, for the record, I am certain he does not suffer fools lightly nor does he have the time to stroke ego's of every "artist: that walks in his establishment.

I feel his family and his staff do an incredible job considering the type of customers and the varied plethora of products they must sell daily. I am taking this time to write this because i feel it is a small way that I can personally thank Paul and his team for all of the hard work and tradition they have given to my career over the many years.

Peter Costello
jacklyn gwartzman replying to a comment from Peter Costello / December 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm
Wow! Thank you Peter!
Carrie / May 28, 2015 at 06:57 pm
Hi, I was an employee there about 25 years ago or more, for about a year and a half. I have never been treated as well at a job since. Even got paid well.

I will always remember them with gratitude.
Jacklyn Gwartzman replying to a comment from Carrie / June 15, 2015 at 12:36 pm
We like you too Carrie !

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