National Stationery Show (NSS) first opened its doors in 1945, and although we didn’t know at the time, its February 2020 edition was its final run. On July 27, Emerald announced that the National Stationery Show brand was being retired, and my social media feeds were almost instantaneously filled with fond reminiscences and, let’s be honest, no small amount of angst. Undoubtedly, we are all dealing with cancellations and disappointments on several levels, but this one really hurt.
I myself attended almost every year since 1998, and have so many great memories of dazzling discoveries, talented individuals who became dear friends — not to mention all those magnificent parties! It's impossible to not be at least a little sad. But while I'm bummed, I'm far more excited about NY NOW’s plans to create one single stationery destination in its market — because, let’s be honest, a lot has changed since 1945.
And having this reimagining occur in 2020 is actually quite beneficial. Stationery is being rediscovered in a big way during this pandemic, and it plays an increasingly important role within more traditional gift lines than in the past. This is all being spurred by the consumer, who is feeling isolated and sending letters, journaling, working at home and appreciating the post office with new eyes — all of which benefits stationery. In our transformed world, the category demands a fresh approach too.
But rather than me waxing eloquent on the category and how to best serve all of us who love it, today I have Tim Hart, senior vice president, retail group, in The Paper Fold to share more about the challenges Emerald has been facing, how they are reimagining the stationery and gift categories —and what a visit to NY NOW in 2021 will look like.
If you play any sort of role in stationery, no visit to AmericasMart or Dallas Market Center is complete without a visit to the Daniel Richards showroom there. There you'll find top brands like Rifle Paper Co. alongside quirkier indie ranges like Sapling Press, all irresistibly merchandised to perfection. For small makers, it's a dream come true to be selected for one of Dan Collier's showrooms or to be carried in one of his retail venues, Archer Paper Goods and The Merchant Atlanta.
Dan drops by The Paper Fold to share how he's preparing for the Atlanta and Dallas markets scheduled later this month, how his stores are doing, what's trending up at wholesale and retail ... and how some advice he received during the 2008-2009 economic downturn has him working a new hustle!
Earlier this week, NY NOW announced plans to create a single stationery destination within its famed market. This reimagined stationery collection will be part of a re-branded Gift + Stationery section and, as a result, the National Stationery Show brand will be retired. So as that news sinks in, and as we all prepare for an August with no NY NOW, I have the distinct pleasure of hosting a longtime exhibitor, Joni Lewis, the super-creative mind behind Visual Treats Design Studio.
Joni not only produces an impressive (and hysterical) array of handmade goods, she is also a fantastic storyteller, having won the Washington DC StorySLAM and then competing against nine other winners in a Moth GrandSLAM on the stage of the Lincoln Theatre. I am so grateful she dropped by share how the show elevated her business from craft show circuit to wholesale operation, how getting acquainted with her booth neighbor led to Joni creating product for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — and how the show is not over until the last rug is rolled up!
We've all had a few stomach-dropping moments these past months — something was cancelled, someone was cancelled, or maybe you got some bad news that left you gasping for breath. For me personally, this happened one morning in late April when I logged onto Facebook to see myself tagged in a friend’s post about Crane Stationery closing permanently. Had I been wearing pearls, I would have been clutching them, for Crane is not just an American stationery brand, it is America.
Its founder Stephen Crane participated in the Boston Tea Party, so this house of paper had major revolutionary street cred from the start. One early client, Paul Revere, used Crane paper for his engraved banknotes — and those banknotes helped finance the American Revolution. I'm guessing it wasn't long after Crane started printing currency, government proclamations, stocks and bonds, and important documents of every imaginable type from its Dalton, Massachusetts, plant in 1799 that the Crane name became pretty much become synonymous with the best papers and printing.
So closing Crane would have been an enormous loss on more levels than I care to examine. The good news is, that post I was tagged in was bona fide fake news, and Crane is not closed or closing. The more difficult news is that in order to keep it presses printing, a lot of necessary changes have had to be implemented, and we all know that change is never easy!
So with that exposition and the understanding that there's a good chance that what you have read recently about Crane was inaccurately reported, I wanted to let Crane take their narrative back, as it is their story after all. So please join me and my very special guest, Bart Robinson, Chief Revenue Officer of Crane Stationery, to learn more about what the present looks like for Crane, as well as its hopes for the future.
As you've hopefully heard, there’s a huge can’t-miss industry event this week, courtesy of the Greeting Card Association. Noted: A Focus on Diversity is Thursday, July 16 at 2 pm EST. During it, nine Black makers will "pitch" their greeting card line to a pitch panel comprised of top retailers and, hopefully, you. The pitch panel features Vanessa Raptopoulos, Awesome Brooklyn; Chandra Greer, Greer Chicago; Kristina Burkey, Calliope Paperie; and Kyle Williams, Paper Source — as well as any retailer or sales rep wanting to diversify their offerings. During the hour, attendees will virtually get acquainted with these up-and-coming makers and download samples of their work, all for only $10 — half of which is earmarked for a Noted 2021 scholarship for a maker of color.
Over these past several days I was lucky enough to interview three of the makers: Tiffany Grimes of Paper Rehab in Michigan, Lauren-Ashley Barnes at Pineapple Sundays Design Studio in Chicago and Andrea Williams at Paisley Paper Co. in Detroit. Each of these talented young women have a dynamic vision that comes through strong in their offerings. Tiffany started Paper Rehab as a way to increase diversity in greeting cards but her mission morphed into one focusing on strengthening relationships amongst women, specifically African-American women. Lauren-Ashley designs product for a gift company, but her dream of producing stationery crystallized during a visit to Paper Source — who she will be pitching to later this week! And Andrea transmitted her love of classic Blue Note album covers into graphic stationery selections that are completely of our time.
All three also shared that paper found them in the midst of other careers, which makes their stationery selections that much more compelling and authentic. And, they only represent a third of the design treasures to be found. The other makers appearing are: Aims Moon Paperie, Pretty Peacock Paperie, Kaleidadope, Neighborly Paper, Posterity Paper and By Ms. James. I'm guessing it will be nearly impossible to leave that hour uninspired by the current state of stationery, so don't miss out!
I can't take credit for the phrase, "Paper peeps are the best peeps,"* but this check-in with my dear friend Karla Ebrahimi reminded me of its inherent truth. Karla is the face behind Sky of Blue Cards, a Menlo Park, California, house of stationery offering an exquisite array of letterpress cards as well as the magnificent LetterBox subscription box.
Watching the increasing intensity with which Karla responded first to the California wildfires in 2018, then COVID-19 starting this past Spring, and now Black Lives Matter, has not only been inspiring, her journey mirrors how stationers (and indeed makers of all stripes) have gotten progressively smarter and more strategic about partnering with charities and devoting a portion of sales (if not ALL sales) to them. This can be especially tricky for white makers wanting to support the Black community while also not wanting to upstage Black voices.
Karla's experiences in 2018 with cause-related merchandise led her to carefully consider which three charities she chose for her Reach Out & Write Someone campaign, which extends through the end of the month. 20% of all online sales will benefit World Central Kitchen, Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation and Artist Relief Fund.
Then, as Karla puts it, "revolution broke out." Wanting to honor George Floyd and his words, Karla returned to her much-loved medium of painting and did just that: shared his words for us all to experience for ourselves. I find her piece both hard to look at and hard to look away from.
But when Karla shared her work in her Instagram feed June 1, just four days after announcing the Reach Out & Write initiative, although her number of followers decreased, the response wasn't entirely negative. Soon Karla realized she was connecting with her audience on a new level.
Thus empowered, Karla designed her Black Lives Matter collection of letterpress cards, mugs and stickers (currently in production) — and is donating ALL proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. That response has also been very positive so far, she told me.
"I have been getting DMs and texts asking to pre-order items, as well as interest in purchasing stickers or mugs in bulk for sports teams and other groups. This makes me feel so good — spreading the word about this important movement," she observed. "To me (it) dwarfs the people who were offended enough to unfollow me."
Thank you Karla for joining me in The Paper Fold for such a candid chat about such a sensitive subject— and helping set the stage for the conversations that need to occur in every last corner of American life.
*that honor belongs to one Erika Firm
You may know George White as president and COO of Up With Paper and UWP Luxe — these are fantastic, award-winning houses of pop-up cards renowned for their complex engineering and beautiful rendered artwork. But I invited George here because he's also president of The Greeting Card Association, and to say that organization has had a crazy year is a huge understatement. It fell to George to help navigate us through it.
The GCA was to hold the second edition of Noted: the greeting card expo in San Francisco on May 1; the event was to encompass the LOUIE Awards, which recognizes stellar design in greeting cards each year, as well as the Noted @ *Noted Product Awards, which I actually sponsored under The Paper Chronicles banner.
As you can imagine, COVID-19 threw a wrench in all those plans … and I had a front-row seat to see how everything was reconfigured as it unfolded in real time. Now, getting anything done by committee can be super-difficult, and I was in awe of how George kept everyone on task and in agreement, and pulled off an amazing virtual event. Which is great, because that’s not going to be the only virtual event on the GCA’s plate in 2020.
First off, The LOUIE Virtual Awards, sponsored by the Atlanta Market, are July 30. It was a big accomplishment to put this together — and I'm sure the 2020 finalists who have been waiting since May can't wait to hear the results! And I have news on another big event just announced this week. Through Noted: A Focus on Diversity, to be held Thursday, July 16 at 2 pm EST, Black makers will have the chance to "pitch" their greeting card line to a panel of the top retailers, sales reps and or international distributors — plus a large group of retailers online. This event's pitch panel will feature Vanessa Raptopoulos, Awesome Brooklyn; Chandra Greer, Greer Chicago; Kristina Burkey, Calliope Paperie; and Kyle Williams, Paper Source.
If you are a retailer or sales rep, please attend to meet these great Black makers, download samples of their work and start to diversify your offerings. $5 of the $10 ticket price goes to a Noted 2021 scholarship for a maker of color. If you want to apply to pitch your work, do so here. It is 100% free for makers, as all of the usual costs of $250 per maker are being covered by the sponsors. The GCA is also working with Faire to create a page on its site of all the makers selected!
George also shares how we can all, regardless of role, help #savethepostoffice — and how the act is doing so is anything but a partisan act.
Watching makers successfully navigate their small brands first through a pandemic, and then civil unrest, has been unexpectedly heartening. While huge names in retail are closing their doors forever, small brands are emerging, if not unscathed, then at least relatively intact. And few have been more inspiring to me personally to witness in real time than Shayna Norwood of Steel Petal Press.
Those entering its Logan Square doors in Chicago don't realize, but Steel Petal Press was born in 2008 as a side project for Shayna, who started letterpressing greeting cards for friends. That grew into wholesale business, and that became the retail space in 2016. When I last saw Shayna at NY NOW and National Stationery Show in early February, all was pretty well in her world: She had a booth of her wholesale range that seemed busy every time I walked by, and also I saw her walking the show shopping for her shop as well.
When coronavirus hit, Shayna kept her doors open as long as she could, then once she had to close to the public, she was still in the shop every day, shipping orders or delivering them curbside. Shayna finally reopened June 4 — just in time for some of the biggest civil unrest this country, including Chicago, has seen in decades.
If that's not enough to grapple with, Shayna recently started sharing her struggles with anxiety with her community, mostly on her Instagram feed, in a very open, brave way. At the winter markets she actually released a series of mental health tracker notepads — great timing, I've got to say — but I am really curious as to how she is doing personally with all this as well. Tune in to find out!
Please welcome Robert Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers (IMC) to The Paper Fold. Bob, as he prefers, is widely recognized as one of the home furnishings industry’s most Innovative leaders — he founded and built IMC into an exhibition space powerhouse with more than 20 million square feet of world-class B2B exhibition space. Its campuses include both AmericasMart Atlanta and World Market Center Las Vegas, markets vital to the stationery and gift industries.
When coronavirus halted everything, IMC surveyed 180,000 retailers to gage their needs. With guidance from health and elected officials as well as a top epidemiologist, IMC opened the AmericasMart campus June 8, and the World Market Center Las Vegas June 15. Everything is governed by IMC’s Together Safely Master Plan, which details procedures for registration, sanitization, temperature monitoring, traffic and occupancy control, seminars, masks, etc. This is a four-phase reopening, however, and the plan is a living document, meaning it may change in our current fluid, unknowable climate.
Understandably, it'll be a new market experience, and while IMC has been incredibly transparent throughout the process, it’s a lot of information to process, so I was really lucky to get Bob’s perspective on the ongoing challenges IMC is facing — as well as envision a visit to AmericasMart's Summer Market, which runs August 13-August 18, or Summer Market at World Market Center Las Vegas, which runs Aug. 30-Sept. 3). And if you are a current exhibitor, there's a special offer (read: free) in the ShopZio B2B Marketplace. Tune in for details!
Welcome to the Paper Fold! For my very first episode I sit down with Ryan and Juliana Kissick of San Francisco's own Good Juju Ink. I am in just in awe of all they have been doing since going into quarantine in San Francisco with their 1-year-old daughter. First, in mid-March, as the world seemed to be falling apart, Ryan helped countless other small business owners by creating an amazingly concise, invaluable guide for navigating these times, hereafter to only be referred to as The Document (complete link below). It's been viewed 1000s of times around the world across many industries. All via word-of-mouth and completely free — the best kind of viral!
Then, Juju helped launch 18 Million Thanks. That's how many health care workers there are in the US — and that's how many thank-yous this collective of 13+ women-owned businesses are aiming to send them!
Thank you so much Ryan & Juju for sitting down with me and also sharing how you are navigating through through the economic downturn.
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