Help tune-in my station-ery store.
June 9, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

What would you find in an ideal stationery store?

I have just moved my letterpress print shop into a building with a storefront on a busy street.

The presses are in the back, but there's a really nice storefront just begging to be filled with cool merchandise.

Are there any products you want to rave about? If so, I'd love to learn about them, and try to stock them!
posted by pantsonfire to Shopping (43 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Where would I start? In a chaotic list, my favourite store would contain:

Moleskines, Lamy Pens, beautiful fountain pens and Herbin inks, Vergé de France paper by G. Lalo, Clairefontaine, Edward Monkton/David Shrigley cards, Rhodia books and Pads, the ever indespensible Pilot G2, every design/colour/brand PostIt notes, DIY Letter Wax Seal kits, Wallpaper travel guides
posted by ashaw at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

monogrammed items
crafty stationary items (fancy rubber stamps & inks)
very cool types of stationary paper
very cool types of wrapping paper
fancy pens
International goods - things from Japan, UK, etc. like different sized papers
Samples, lots of cool samples
posted by HeyAllie at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2009

Greeting cards and prints!
posted by ydontusteponit at 10:53 AM on June 9, 2009

Lots of notecards in packs that have lovely designs but not designated messages. This is my biggest pet peeve about stationery stores: a note that says "Thank You!" on it can only be used to thank, but notes without messages can be used for ANYTHING. And I write me a lot of notes, yes ma'am I do.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if a particular style of note can be done in a special edition with a designated message, let your in-store customers know! That way, if someone (unlike me) can't bear the thought of sending a thank you note that doesn't say "Thank you!" on the outside, they know that they can have that option if they want it.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:56 AM on June 9, 2009

Oh my gosh, enjoy this, owning a stationery shop with a custom printing business is my dream job :o)

I would love to see handmade notebooks, greeting cards, etc., especially from local artists. Also seconding internationally sized papers. And the Japanese are so into stationery, it would be neat to see some cool Japanese items like pens, mechanical pencils, erasers, etc.

Setting aside some space to have a nice area for meeting with your printing clients would be nice too. There's a stationery store I like where the whole back half of the store is the area for custom work, with a huge desk/table to spread things out on, and samples everywhere.
posted by LolaGeek at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2009

Europa notebooks. Increasingly hard to find, even in places that do the Moleskine/Rhodia/Clairefontaine thing well.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2009

ashaw - You have very fine taste. is a wholesale distributor of some of those products you mentioned.

By the way, those Lamy pens are in a category unto themselves. Wow.
posted by pantsonfire at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2009

I hope your presses are visible! I know my clients find the sight of a working SP15 or C&P irresistible, especially if they can see it from outside.

Lately I've been printing quite a bit on interesting stationary from India. "Little Bombay," the few blocks of University below San Pablo in Berkeley Ca, has a dozen small Indian shops, several of which sell matched sets of non-standard sized envelopes and letterhead, all of which is printed in metallic or wax-resist colors - BEAUTIFUL stuff that is fantastically inexpensive, often as little as pennies per sheet. It's so attractive that I get pulled into the shops whenever I see it in the window.

Some nice ribbon for trim, perhaps; a few sheets of interesting Japanese mould-made mulberry or silk stocks (prettier than anything Twinrocker or Arches makes); wax seal kits; a display of attractive, hand-made notebooks (I saw some nice ones made from library-discarded hardback books at the Maker Faire last week - I'll see if I can find a source).
posted by luriete at 11:03 AM on June 9, 2009

Ditto wrapping paper and interesting greeting cards, or perhaps greeting cards for interesting occasions. I would also LOVE to see invitations that are creative/interesting/pretty that I can print at home.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:03 AM on June 9, 2009

samples of cool things that can be done with letterpress!
ditto the artsy rubber stamps and inks.

A good mix of beautifully desgined stationary than can be customized (with a name or initial etc) but also stationary/cards that don't have a big blank box that requires customization (for when I am in a hurry).

Differenttypes of blank books (spiral bound!) and maybe some easy drawing supplies - I got a kit recently with a compass, edges, etc at the office store but would love to upgrade.
posted by pointystick at 11:07 AM on June 9, 2009

Really nice paper, along the lines of Crane. Sometimes I want cute paper, but sometimes I want something simple and classic and high-quality. It's surprisingly hard to find in stores that carry many brands of products -- they have lots of cute paper products, but little or no high-quality products. I never understand why! If I saw that in a storefront, I'd go in... and purchase... and make it frequent trips to browse and purchase more.
posted by Houstonian at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2009

Luriete - Everything's in the same room. Here's a photo of the front (please pardon the filth and lack of windows) and the back
posted by pantsonfire at 11:12 AM on June 9, 2009

A wide range of prices would be nice. I am a discerning paper buyer and I have room in my budget for moleskines and letterpressed cards, but sometimes I need a tasteful card that's not $6.
posted by chelseagirl at 11:24 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Onionskin paper. I can't find it in stores anymore, but my mind still believes stationery stores are supposed to carry it.
posted by kmennie at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2009

Chelseagirl - You make a fine point. Especially since we're in central Louisiana. We could get away with selling our own prints for $2 a card including envelope, but everything else would probably be at that expensive stationery store level. It's hard to find something that's unique enough not to be sold at Wal Mart at a Wal Mart Price.
posted by pantsonfire at 11:31 AM on June 9, 2009

What about holding Bookbinding (or other handmaking/card presonalizing) workshops? Or maybe you could have a little area where there's materials to personalize cards (stamps, ribbons, I don't know) where someone could do it themselves and pay for the materials?

If I had a storefront I would create some wicked window displays. Think creative, wacky etc, not just displaying what you sell. I think that could really draw people in. Maybe there's a theme (an idea [spring, books, 50s scifi, flowers], paper [texture, color, build stuff out of paper], color [all blue, rainbow, neon]). That would be so much fun to plan and create. You could probably find cool stuff at thrift stores or flea markets. Maybe friends can lend you stuff. I woudl also do something creative with those high ceilings.

I won't mention all of the different manufacturers out there but try to find as many different styles as possible. Maybe put out a call to local artists to see if anyone wants to sell small quantities of cards or small art. I never see much Japanese or Asian cards/papercraft. I see it online but there's never any way of ordering it.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:35 AM on June 9, 2009

Ahh, not so sure what the demand is in Louisiana for Japanese paper or some of the more specialized/expensive stuff we're mentioning here. I was going off what I see in Chicago.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:38 AM on June 9, 2009

A range of prices and quality so students and other low-income folk can have some crafty fun as well. Price is what generally keeps me away from the stationery store by my house. Even a single rack of "affordable" stuff would rock!
posted by ShadePlant at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2009


Don't hold back! Even if there's no demand for it now, having it here would introduce people to it, and hopefully help create the demand.

That's probably terrible advice for someone starting a store, but it works for us because most of the business is with custom letterpress printing for designers all over the place.

I don't anticipate selling a lot of stationery (sandwiched here between a pawn shop and a 40 store), but it serves to make the town look better, which could attract more businesses, which could attract more customers. I'm taking a long-term look at this.
posted by pantsonfire at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2009

What I love, love, love, and spend far too much money on, and frequently can't find in stationery stores, is small (B5 size is PERFECT) moderately-priced skinny notebooks (no more than 60-ish pages) -- daintier, with nicer paper quality, than school notebooks, but not as "precious" as Moleskines or anything leather-bound. Kokuyo makes some nice ones, and other Japanese companies.
posted by Jeanne at 12:03 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you think that scrapbookers might be a demographic for your shop? There's a lot of cool scrapbook equipment that could be handy:

- Archive-quality pens, adhesives, and albums
- Fancy scissors
- Those punch die-cut things that let you stamp specially-shaped holes in paper
- Pretty paper trim
- Stickers
posted by cadge at 12:09 PM on June 9, 2009

I once looked for a simple blank musical notebook (with lines for the staff) at a nice stationary store but came out thinking that the store was a little less nice for not having any and looking at me funny when I asked. Don't be that store!
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2009

Jeanne - That's a great suggestion. My girlfriend's mom is Thai, and she brought back some really cool B5 notebooks. I will have to see if she can help import them!

Cadge - There is both a Michaels and a Hobby Lobby in town, and they've got a ton of scrapbooking stuff. So that means there IS a market for it. I will have to go there and research to try to see what they're not selling, so I can sell it.
posted by pantsonfire at 12:15 PM on June 9, 2009

Cowbellemoo - Okay! If you like, e-mail me with some information about what you're looking for and I will see if we can print them in-house.
posted by pantsonfire at 12:17 PM on June 9, 2009

Pilot Varsities and G2s, all thicknesses and colors.

Parker and Cross gel refills, in all the colors, and bold-nib space pen refills. (These are all hellaciously hard to find outside of mail-order.)

.9mm leads, and lots of nice mechanical pencils to put them in. Colored leads, too, for all sizes, while we're about it.

Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks, all sizes.

Lower-end fountain pens... stuff in the $10-$50 range.

Lots of fountain pen ink, in carts and bottles. Especially Mont Blanc blue-black, Waterman Blue and Private Reserve Tanzanite.

Nice, high-end drafting lead-holders, compass sets, triangle sets, french curves, erasing templates, etc. (Getting reaaaaly scarce these days.) Maybe a quality drafting machine or two (Really, really scarce!) Home metalworkers will want these, as well as old school draftsmen and engineers/architects who think better with a pencil than a digitizer when roughing out ideas.

Any of these items will get me into your shop at least once a month to stock up on one thing or another.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:33 PM on June 9, 2009

Bunglegirl: "What about holding Bookbinding (or other handmaking/card presonalizing) workshops? Or maybe you could have a little area where there's materials to personalize cards (stamps, ribbons, I don't know) where someone could do it themselves and pay for the materials? "

This seems like a cool idea. I've always been interested in letterpress as a hobby, but it requires a lot of commitment to get into; you basically need to give up a room of your house, or at least a substantial corner of one, plus presses and type are fairly expensive, etc.

But if there was a shop that let you take classes and print a set of invitations/cards/stationery on their equipment — even if it cost more than having the printer do it — I'd definitely do it.

There's a brewery near me that has a similar thing going with beer. If you've ever wanted to homebrew but don't want to buy all the equipment, deal with the mess and sanitization issues, etc., you can just go down there and use their equipment and just get the "fun parts" of beer brewing and bottling, while outsourcing the scut work to them for a few hundred bucks. It's quite popular, and they've told me it represents 50% of their revenue (product sales are the other half).
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2009

Here is a studio in Toronto where I've taken letterpress classes in the back, and there is a small storefront:
posted by peagood at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2009

Field Notes notebooks- I think they are about what Jeanne describes.
posted by cushie at 1:38 PM on June 9, 2009

My absolute favorite thing to find in a stationery shop is a KNOWLEDGEABLE SALESPERSON.

Learn every single thing you can about paper, types of paper, types of pens, what items are in fashion, which brand has been bought by whom, what items are the best for which uses, etc etc. There's nothing more irritating than going into a store, armed with my cursory Google results, and finding that I know more about cotton paper/thread count/bra-sizing than the salesperson. In those instances, I turn right around and use my own knowledge to buy online for less.

Online retailers, or big-box stores like Michaels or Staples, will always be able to sell more cheaply than you. People will wind up coming to your store for you, and will pay more in order to be confident that you are advising them wisely.
posted by thebazilist at 2:08 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lots of notecards in packs that have lovely designs but not designated messages. This is my biggest pet peeve about stationery stores: a note that says "Thank You!" on it can only be used to thank, but notes without messages can be used for ANYTHING. And I write me a lot of notes, yes ma'am I do.


As a 20-something guy (who likes to act cultured), it's a royal pain to find cards for writing notes. Even when I find cards without a message on the front, almost everything is way too over-the-top feminine. The last time I bought cards, I ended up having to go to 2 different branches of the same store just to get enough - some pencil pusher must have decided that there's only need for one pack of nice, blank cards per store.
posted by niles at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2009

Lots of notecards in packs that have lovely designs but not designated messages. This is my biggest pet peeve about stationery stores: a note that says "Thank You!" on it can only be used to thank, but notes without messages can be used for ANYTHING. And I write me a lot of notes, yes ma'am I do.

double this.

Even when I find cards without a message on the front, almost everything is way too over-the-top feminine

double this, too.

I'm a guy who just turned 30. Just like niles above, I like to act cultured. And I would like quality stationery - blank cards, good paper, non-feminine designs. This might be a hidden market. Or maybe it's not so hidden. I don't know.

I'd like to add that I dislike the monogram/printed name on the cards. I find it self important and somewhat show-offy. I just want something elegant and classy, but understated.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2009

Seconding Slap*Happy - refills for those lovely pens! If I lived in your town and you sold refills for your pens and leads for your pencils, you would have me as a life-time customer. And I am pretty sure I would be unable to come into your shop for a refill and leave without a card or two.
posted by jennyb at 3:33 PM on June 9, 2009

A4 paper, hole punchers, and binders.

I guess this is boring, but I have a feeling A4 is better than 8.5x11.
posted by hiteleven at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2009

Le Pen pens in a zillion colors. Cool modern designer cards, stationery, journals. Maybe desk accessories. Rhodia pads.
posted by ishotjr at 4:53 PM on June 9, 2009

In my mind, you couldn't go wrong with pretty much anything Paper Source carries. Beautiful papers, a big assortment of rubber stamps and pads, everything possible to make your own cards and invitations, plus pre-made or custom printed options. Their store fronts usually look pretty cool, too. I don't know if it's exactly what you're going for, but it may give you some ideas. Good luck!
posted by JenMarie at 5:07 PM on June 9, 2009

Easy question. MASCULINE stationary. Classy but understated and simple. Very hard to find.

- AJ
posted by Alaska Jack at 8:44 PM on June 9, 2009

Best thread ever. Thank you EVERYONE for all the advice. You have helped me tremendously, and I really, really appreciate it. Everyone had some thing great to add.
posted by pantsonfire at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2009

Not sure if people still use CDs, but one of the things I would get at a good stationery store are 5" square envelopes in various nice paper to turn into cd sleeves. (No gum is ideal.)
posted by snofoam at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2009

I'd like to be able to buy single cards to send and stamps in the same place. Maybe a little place to sit down (an old schoolhouse desk, perhaps?) and write out a note right there. Ideally there would be a mailbox to drop it in nearby.
posted by yohko at 9:56 AM on June 10, 2009

Maybe a little place to sit down (an old schoolhouse desk, perhaps?) and write out a note right there

Yeah, this kind of goes along with my idea of a little personalization station. Lots of people don't want to buy an entire spool of ribbon or keep all the supplies they need around. Last time I was in a stationary store was on my way to a party. I needed a small gift (I bought a journal for around $12) and asked if I could wrap it there. They were nice but I had to push aside all of their stuff for space to wrap. I had actually brought my own wrapping paper, ribbon and tape. If they hadn't let me I would have had to sit outside and wrap it on the sidewalk (since I was on my bike).

I think if you introduce the possibility of DIY to people (through the above idea, classes/workshops/parties) then you'll put the idea in the heads of locals and make repeat customers. You could possibly offer free introduction workshops starting out just to get people coming in.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:38 AM on June 10, 2009

Maybe a little place to sit down (an old schoolhouse desk, perhaps?) and write out a note right there

Favoriting just is not good enough for this idea. This is brilliant. When I think of the times I rush in for a few planned and impulse purchases, this is exactly what I need. If I could wrap something, or write out a sentence on a card, or mail a card right there, I would be so very thrilled.

It immediately makes your store much better than any other, and is really thinking about what a potential customer wants to do (and, allows the customer to spend a few more minutes in your store, soaking in its general wonderfulness and potentially buying just one more thing... and perhaps near the storefront, so people passing by can see that others are enjoying their time in your shop).

It offers something much nicer than writing a card and putting a ribbon in something in my car. Please, please do this!
posted by Houstonian at 10:51 PM on June 10, 2009

Free trade stationary items would make really great gifts.
posted by MuckWeh at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2009

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