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Neon Moon delivers jazzy art supplies to local artists

By Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Hidden between Aromatique and an outdoor patio space sits a short, narrow pathway that leads to Neon Moon, the Village’s new art supply store and studio.

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Opened on July 5, 2020 by Xrstine Franco with help from her boyfriend, Ilir Zeneli, New Moon is a unique, one-stop-shop that can be described as an artist’s candy store. Ms. Franco said Neon Moon Art Supply, a quaint business with an almost vintage feel, has essentially one goal, to help foster creativity in Claremont.

“The bright idea was, ‘Hey, there’s no art supplies here, and we’re both artists.’ It seemed right,” Ms. Franco said.

The couple opened Neon Moon to bring the neighboring college students and residents art materials. Ms. Franco said “We know people need art supplies here…[Neon Moon] is about the arts community and it’s about giving people tools to just keep going.”

Lining the shop’s west wall is work from a featured artist each month, while the east wall displays Ms. Franco’s collection of famed artists’ books and portfolios. Four steps toward the center and you’re staring at various-sized canvases, bottled paints, pastels, 35mm film, records and other artistic materials. Ms. Franco said the inventory usually surprises first-time customers.

“People come in and they go, ‘Oh my God, I thought you had to go Walmart to get those brushes, or go to Michaels.’ And then when I tell them it’s because…we’re buying from some of the same vendors that Michael’s is…[Michael’s] will mark it up two or three times and that’s not cool. We don’t do that, so they’re getting a better price here than they’re getting at Michael’s,” she explained. “Some people said it’s kind of boutique-y. I want to go beyond boutique. We still want to bring in odd, different, cool things, but we want to speak to what people need, too.”

Ms. Franco and her partner also host private art classes including monthly Paint N’ Creates sessions, beginner’s drawing courses, and downsized artwork installations among others. She never really utilized her photography degree after graduating in 1986, but Ms. Franco is now offering private photography critique courses.

Over a year and two months in, Neon Moon is still preparing for its future. When either owner is not stocking the shelves or managing the front end, they’re likely in the back furnishing and cleaning up what is planned to be the private party room for birthdays and other events.

The shop’s exterior includes the adjacent patio, which so many customers don’t believe is actually part of Neon Moon. Ms. Franco confirmed that it is and that she plans to use it in the future for Paint N’ Create nights once the pandemic subsides. She said that while the city does not like studios hosting paint n’ sip nights—especially ones working toward getting a liquor license—Neon Moon’s close proximity to Espiau’s gives the shop an accommodating trick up their sleeve for the future events.

In 2020, Ms. Franco cashed in her 401k funds and initiated the LLC process for Neon Moon. But as the shop was about to open, the pandemic hit and ruined their plans. “We were faced with, should we just give it up? Because we probably wouldn’t have any customers…No one knew this was going to happen,” Ms. Franco said. “It’s a dance, because you don’t know what’s going to happen with the pandemic.”

But their landlord, Dan Sauter, reassured them about the space and pandemic traffic. After Ms. Franco explained her business plan to him, she said that, “he thought it was a fantastic business plan. He got behind us by really helping lower the price to keep us here for the pandemic.” Ms. Franco and Mr. Zeneli eventually signed a two-year lease at half-price rent.

The owners remain ready at all times in case a new wave of infections, closures or other health orders prompt them to move all their services online. “If Delta made everything shut down, then we would just go completely online…so that we could still connect with customers.”

For more information on Neon Moon, visit them at 317 West First Street, on the corner of Yale Avenue. You call also call them at (909) 788-0176. Store hours between Wednesday and Saturday are from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They close early at 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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