Fans of the popular stationer were tugging on the doors during the week leading up to the shop’s September 3 opening, eager to sneak a peek inside. Anticipation was equally high among the company’s employees. “We haven’t had a new store in Chicago in years,” says Paper Source CEO Sally Pofcher. “Most people who work here haven’t seen a new store.”
Founded in 1983 as a showcase for handcrafted papers, Paper Source has since expanded to include greeting cards, invitations, craft supplies, gifts, and workshops. From its original location on Chicago Avenue, the company has grown to 35 stores in 14 states, nearly doubling in size since a 2007 infusion of investment capital. The vast majority of that growth has taken place outside the Chicago area. “We were filling out other markets where we haven’t been,” Pofcher says.
In setting its sites on a new hometown location, Paper Source looked for a strong street presence in a neighborhood with a vibrant shopping base. Southport seemed like a perfect fit. Despite its close proximity to the company’s Lincoln Park store, Pofcher views the new outpost, at 3543 N. Southport, as reaching a distinct market. “It feels like a place where people shop in their own community,” she says. “People in the neighborhood who already love us will shop us more often because of the convenience. And a lot of people will be discovering us for the first time.”
Staffing the store is a mix of experienced pros drawn from existing locations, as well as new hires (some positions are still being filled). Pofcher estimates that the company has created close to 200 jobs in the past three years, spread among nearly 20 new stores. Given the state of the economy, that’s no small feat. It’s even more impressive considering that paper itself is a throwback form of communication in an electronic world.
“It is, to some degree, a retro concept,” Pofcher says. But she adds that while writing a letter is less prevalent than it once was, it’s not at risk of becoming extinct. “Have you noticed how people thank you for writing a thank-you note? It’s special.”
In the era of email, Facebook, and Twitter, we’re all busy, we’re all over-communicating, she says. The opportunity for creative expression, whether binding a family photo album, picking out a fun card, or simply choosing a colored envelope has become more rare and thereby more valuable. “We’re tapping into a powerful need people have.”
Grand opening festivities at the new store happen on Saturday, October 2, (10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.) and will include a variety of craft demonstrations and a raffle for a chance to win Paper Source goodies.