Our Story

Humble Beginnings

The store originally opened its doors as a remainder bookshop called ‘Dollar books’ in 1979. Owner John Butler renamed the business Modern Times Bookshop, after the Charlie Chaplin film and his love for movies. As demand grew, John soon Intergrated New Books and Stationery into the mix.

In the 1990’s Newtown was booming with bookshops so John looked for new products to sell expanding into Art supplies.

Meet John Butler

Scottish Merchant Navy engineer turned entrepreneur. This is the oldest photo on record of John behind the counter in 1980. He worked 9 -8 pm 7 days a week. John was a great ideas man and really propelled the business through the decades with his innovative thinking.

The 'Walk-In Art Bar'

Some might remember our old shop front with the ‘Walk-in Art Bar’. We crammed an ever expanding array of Artist materials into that space and it was a real squeeze!

1993 saw the birth of Art on kIng, when opportunity rose to expand into the Brother sewing machine shop next door, we became a dedicated Art store, hence the new business name.

The Age of Sharky

Jennifer Sharkey was our longest serving employee and Manager of 22 years, Jenny started as a fresh faced 17yr old and has a fair few stories to tell of the colourful Newtown characters she encountered. Jenny remains a close family friend today.

1994 saw the start of our art school, where we ran Art classes for 13 yrs. Sadly we ceased the Art School in 2017 to focus more on the retail shop.

A fresh coat of paint

In 2009 we finally undertook a huge renovation to join the two shopfronts. Many customers had never realised Art On King and Modern Times were the same shop. Knocking down the front section was a major deal, we only closed shop for 2 weeks of the entire renovation. We moved everything from the book side to the art side and vice versa, operating in total chaos and dust for weeks on end. We thank our loyal customers past and present for supporting us, and our amazing staff who worked tirelessly.

Over the years we have evolved, always delivering new and interesting products, which truly sets us apart from the crowd. We listen to our customers needs and really care about the value and quality of our products. Our staff are genuine passionate artists and avid readers, they form a great dynamic in store and offer friendly helpful advice.

Celebrating 40 Years

Today we are still opened extended hours 7days a week, 363 days a year.  John Butler retired some 15yrs ago while his wife Pia still works in the business.  Son Martin and daughter Joni now run the store operations.  We’ve seen Newtown undergo some huge changes over the decades and enjoy being part of its heritage.  We look forward to many more years serving the Newtown community and its visitors.  Pop in and say hi as we celebrate our 41st year.