Featured Retailer: FLAX art & design

Flax Art and Design: Oakland-San Francisco-San Mateo

1938 Flax’s first location at 437 Kearny Street

Not very many retailers have quite the incredible history of selling artist supplies than does the Flax family. The roots of this start in New York and stretch through multiple cities and generations creating a brand name that is instantly recognized. The San Francisco Bay Area has been lucky to have this incredible retailer setting the bar for all others since 1938!

Flax San Mateo location, Owned by Ron Ansley

Recently Flax has been faced with new challenges as they were forced to leave their longtime home at 1699 Market Street. The building, loaded with colors, textures, tools, toys, surfaces, knowledge and history been slated to be developed into condominium high rises. This caused Howard Flax and his family to be creative in finding new homes to continue providing Bay Area artists their supplies while also reaching new customers. In 2014, Ron Ansley, who managed the San Francisco store opened his own store in San Mateo, licensing the name and continuing the Flax credo and mission.

In November of 2015, Howard opened the new San Francisco location at Fort Mason Center for the Arts, reaching an entire new community and maintaining a foothold in the city that always supported Flax. As difficult as it is to open a beautiful new store, Howard didn’t have much time to enjoy what he and his team had created as he was already in the process of building the new flagship store in Oakland. Flax Oakland opened its doors to the public in March of 2016, just 4 months after opening the Fort Mason store.


Royal Talens North America has also gone through many changes in the past year, after establishing our own distribution. With this in mind, supporting Flax as good partners has been our focus to ensure we can grow our brands with a retailer who has is also evolving with the times. One of the ways Flax has been able to survive in a difficult era for retailers has been through being active with community events, demonstration, education and partnerships.

“I think I have probably done as much as anyone can do towards outreach and embracing our community.”

– Howard Flax

Howard Flax inspecting his Van Gogh oils

Royal Talens products have been found in Flax stores for generations. Recently Cobra Solvent Free oils were added to the stores. Howard chose these because they are excellent quality paints made in Holland alongside legendary brands Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Artist ambassador for Royal Talens, Kristen Olsen Stone was able to give two free demonstrations to help launch the lines. Flax was also the first store in the United States to carry Ecoline brush pens, launching them at their one year anniversary for the Fort Mason Store. They sold like hotcakes! This was a great opportunity for a store that always is looking for new and in demand products.

Royal Talens would like to thank Flax for they do to keep artists inspired. Having built three incredible new spaces featuring beautiful murals, unique merchandising and a true connection to the artist continues the legacy that has been in place for almost 80 years.  We are proud to support such an important well respected retailer!

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