April 16 2014 12:00 AM

Grand Art Supply/Hack´s Key Shop

A longtime Lansing business recently had a change of ownership while another will be quietly hanging up its paintbrushes later this year. Diane Engman has some big plans for Hack’s Key Shop, which she bought from retiring owner Gordon Sparks in December. Greg Limmer, owner/operator of Grand Art Supply, announced this week he’ll close his store on Nov. 30.

“A lot of people have told me they’re disappointed, but it’s just time for me to retire,” Limmer said. “There’s a chance I could sell it if someone approaches me, but I’d just like to sell out of my inventory and walk out on the last day.”

Limmer, 63, is a Lansing native. He earned a masters of fine arts in painting and drawing from Western Michigan University and opened his first business, an art studio and frame store called The Studio, in 1976 inside the Michigan Theatre. He ran the studio with his wife, Anne Nolan, and they both taught part time at Lansing Community College.

He moved The Studio, which turned into a frame shop in 1984, above Hal Clark Tailors on the corner of Washtenaw Street and Washington Square when they closed the Michigan Theatre. He moved again when that building was leveled.

“Our third location was across from the fire station on Grand, which is when we became an art supply store full time,” Limmer said. “And that location was how we got the name.”

Grand Art Supply opened in 1989. The final move happened in 2004, but Limmer said the downtown vibe has shifted considerably in the last 10 years.

“There’s so little retail business now, it’s changed so much,” he said. “I had a good business that was very specialized for students, but now it’s all restaurants and bar crowds down here.”

Limmer said he never hired any employees and would have to close the store if he had to go anywhere. He said when he closes he’s planning to do more traveling and focus on his artwork.

“It’s been a wonderful time, I loved the customers and it’s been a great business,” Limmer said. “It’s just time to retire.”

Two blocks over, Engman is slowly settling into her new role as the owner of Hack’s Key Shop. A former property manager, and said she developed a rapport with previous owner Sparks over the years of having her keys cut there. She said her curiosity was piqued when she found out it was for sale.

“This felt like home to me,” she said. “It was for sale for about five years, but the timing wasn’t right until recently. It just worked out perfectly.”

The business was opened by the Hack Brothers as a blacksmith shop in 1921 and moved to its current 1,900-squarefoot location in 1945 (its previous location is unknown to Engman and couldn’t be identified by time of print). Sparks bought the business in 1967 and ran it for 46 years. Over the years the business evolved to include vacuum cleaner sales, for which Engman said she still has receipts. It’s like a mini retail historical museum.

“I have receipts that go back to 1946,” Engman said. “I’ll bet there are a lot of people’s parents and grandparents whose names are on those receipts.”

Hack’s deals in padlocks, key cutting and sales of safes. Engman has already instituted some changes. She’s added electronic access control proxy cards to her sales, which enable keyless entry via software. She also wants to add biometric security (things like retina scans), but the biggest scoop is her plan to take this nearly century-old business screaming into the 21st century.

“I’d really like to get into drones,” she said. “Once the regulations on selling open up, I think they will become an essential part of security.”

She can’t change the footprint, but she said she’d consider adding a second foor if business allows it. She’s kept the employees and added one who specializes in electronics. And she seems pretty excited.

“I love being part of downtown community, watching it grow, see new renovations,” she said. “I like how alive it is.”

Grand Art Supply 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday- Thursday; 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday 107 N. Washington Square, Lansing (517) 485-9409, facebook. com/grandartsupply

Hack’s Key Shop 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, after hours by emergency. 222 S. Grand Ave., Lansing (517) 485-9488, hackskeyshop.com