Kitty Boy the cream Tabby cat is king of Sharri’s Discount Art Supplies. He prowls, leaps and tiptoes over desks, canvases and demands belly rubs when customers enter the store by lying on his side and looking up expectantly.
Sharri Schmidt, the 60-year-old owner of the approximately 4,200 square foot shop at 3517 Southern Ave., said Kitty Boy and his sister Kitty Girl, a Maine Coon, help her run the 25-year-old business with her husband, 60-year-old Sonny Schmidt.
Because Sharri’s is closing on Oct. 31, pastels, charcoal, paper, paint and other art materials line the walls and shelves priced at half off.
“We’re more than an art supply store,” she said. “We’re like a consumer guide to art materials. We teach you how to market and advertise your art, and we’re not going to sell you something that’s not going to do the job.”
Sharri said the store is closing for a combination of reasons including the upcoming end of her lease, roof leaks, the possibility of a new McDonald’s being built beside her store and being sick.
She found out in March she had a stomach flu. Though, after doctor’s visits the flu-like symptoms did not go away.
“I told my doctor that it felt like there was a volcano in my stomach,” she said.
An endoscopy revealed that she had two tumors in her stomach. They have since been removed, but cells that could produce tumors are still in her body and she is still struggling with her illness.
“It’s like the fire burned down but the coals are still there that could burn you,” she said.
Closing the store will help with medical and other bills and give her time to recover from her illness, she said.
A leaky roof is also to blame for Schmidt’s move.
After paying thousands to renovate the building and six months of cleaning before moving into the location, Schmidt said her landlord will not fix the leaky roof, which causes a $200 loss in merchandise every time the problem occurs.
“We were supposed to receive rent credit for the six months of cleaning,” she said. “Once we got up to six gallons of water in here through leaks.”
Kitty Boy is also sick and can’t go to the bathroom on his own.
Schmidt said she thinks the leaks may be affecting the air quality in the store.
Whatever they do not sell in the store by the end of October, Schmidt and her husband plan to sell online.
Sonny Schmidt, Sharri’s husband and a University of Memphis engineering student, said they no longer need the square footage.
“We’re basically paying for inventory to sit here,” he said.
Before getting in the art business, Sherri Schmidt was a pharmaceutical sales representative.
While driving in Arkansas one day, Schmidt said she passed through an area where people were burning wheat and got in a six-car pile up that caused her to lose her memory for 12 years.
“All I remember is being in the car and speaking to Jesus who gave me the choice to live or die,” she said. “The Lord told me if I trusted him, I could be anyone I wanted to be.”
As she started to recover, friends and family told her she was an artist so she decided to take classes.
There, she said she noticed that art supplies are expensive and started to sell materials to the class at wholesale prices. She eventually expanded, selling to other classes.
“I was like the pizza delivery person for art supplies, people would call and tell me what they wanted and I would bring it,” she said.
After two years selling out of her car, she opened a store in Oxford, Miss., and Highland Street. She eventually closed the shop in Mississippi and combined her Highland and Southern stores. She has been at the Southern location for 11 years.
Normal store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. On Oct. 31, Sharri said they will stay open until 8 p.m. for their last sale.
When they’re not selling art supplies Sharri and Sonny run a goat farm in Michigan City, Miss. They own 45 goats and are expecting 40 baby goats soon. They also own 20 chickens, two dogs and two cats.