Old Town Shop On Its Last Letters

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Neon-colored paper placards and sale tags dominate the interior of a business that, for 17 years, was built upon a customers need for well-designed, aesthetically pleasing and often artistic paper goods.

The neon notices tell the story of the times for Greetings and Salutations. The end is near.

The stationery shop located on King Street is closing its doors for good on Tuesday, a fate with many factors, not the least of which were the businesss future viability in a time of economic uncertainty and slowly shifting modes of social communication.

Owner Paige Quillin said that she had seen sales at the store specializing in personalized invitations, birth announcements and other social stationery drop off by easily 50 percent in the last year.

Her business, part of a unique luxury market, was one where the current recession caused customers to rethink some of their purchases.
I definitely think that we saw the recession way before a lot of people did because were a luxury item, Quillin said. What I did see is instead of maybe going with an engraved piece of stationery, maybe going with [a less expensive product].

In the course of the recession, from the first quarter of last year through the first quarter of this year, the small business climate has seen some marked changes.

According to statistics from the Small Business Association, opportunities for small business growth in the immediate future were nearly half what they were a year before.

Additionally, in the first quarter of this year, the sense of small business optimism reached its lowest level in five years it has since rebounded to levels closer to those of a year ago and remains well below what SBA economists consider indicative of a vibrant economy.

[The economy] is a huge factor because you can only cut back so much, Quillin said, but it became a financial decision do I want to go forward and sign a two- or five-year lease not knowing what the economy is going to do?

In opting to shut down her shop, something Quillin said was a hard decision to make, she gauged a number of factors but ultimately decided the best move was to close the store, which she opened just after getting out of college.

There were some changes in my personal life some of my priorities have changed, the economy played a part in it, my lease was up and it was time for me to make some life decisions, Quillin said.

Greetings and Salutations is leaving the market at the end of the month, but other businesses in town have cropped up recently that specialize in stationery and other paper goods.

Papyrus, a nationwide chain of stationery shops, opened a King Street location about three years ago and, although located on the same street as Greetings and Salutations, Quillin said it did not affect her business as much as the broader economy, saying the stores served two different clienteles.

Edward Hart, who opened Artfully Paper in Del Ray almost two years ago, said he was somewhat shocked by the news of Greetings and Salutations closure.

What a shame, because it was really a unique shop for custom stationery, he said.

Hart said he thought that his stores prices and a well-targeted variety of products have helped to establish it in an already distinct niche market.

Basically, its affordability right now, Hart said. People are not spending $50 or $60 on one box of stationery.

Both Quillin and Hart said that they dont see the need for stationery disappearing in an age where new modes of electronic, social communication are popping up and the push to go green is leading more people away from using paper. Yet, they have seen certain portions of the stationery business trending toward the internet.

Websites like finestationery.com now make it more convenient like with shopping for books, groceries or just about anything now and less time-consuming when people are shopping for personalized stationery.

Quillin said birth announcement sales have dropped off in this way for her because new mothers can go online and place orders at home with the baby rather than going out.

I do think we are going to still see some shrinkage in the stationery business, Quillin said, citing the emergence of how young adults in their 20s, who are more environmentally conscious and technologically savvy, could be changing the marketplace.
In Del Ray, Hart said his store sees a steady flow of business from that very demographic.

We have a lot of young women who are in their 20s come in and buy a lot of the boxed stationery that I have, Hart said, making it clear that he planned to keep Artfully Paper in business for some time to come.

Even Quillin, just a week before her stores final day, said theres something about a thoughtful, old-fashioned note that will sustain the stationery niche.

I think the first time that you get a thank-you note via email for a wedding gift or a birthday gift it leaves a sour taste in your mouth, she said. You cant replace a hand-written note for a thank you for a job interview, wedding gift or birthday gift.

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