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Stationery and Other Fine Things

Urbanic Store Tour

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The world used to be peppered with brick and mortar stationery stores. I’ve read about them in history books. They sold things such as paper, pencils, lollipops, and stamps. But the internet was invented and changed everything, what with its rampant online options and easy emailing. Slowly many-a stationery store shuttered their adorable doors, burned their left over greeting cards for heat, and left so many pen pals without any pencils with which to write their letters.

Well, not this one – you pen pal-ers are in luck over here. Urbanic in Venice is thriving y’all – growing each and every year. So it begs the questions; what are they doing right to be such a destination? And what could you do to get your business to be successful and grow every year?

Let’s break it down in 5 simple steps that any business can follow to make more money and grow.

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Your storefront or window is like your winter coat. Well, more like your fall coat that is fitted and all cute, not your big puffy coat that looks like you are wearing a disgusting worm. It’s a good preview into what you have underneath, whether it’s a classic navy pea coat or a bright colored plaid number. Keep it consistent with what you are offering inside and give them a sneak peek.

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Utilize your window space – both the actual window, like they did with the signage, as well as displaying whatever merchandise you are promoting at the time. The storefront is also a pretty darn good place to highlight some good information about your business – your hours, website and naturally what methods of payment you take.

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Like most well curated stores, Urbanic didn’t just throw it together without considering what they wanted it to look like and how they wanted it to feel. They conceptualized, thought, art directed, shopped and painted.

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They wanted it to feel like an old fashioned ice cream parlor, think Grease meets Pleasantville. Just a happy bright space with some vintage/antique pieces to help it feel warm and nostalgic. They donned the walls with wainscoting, bought a lot of vintage furniture that they had painted off-white, so it has a clean, fresh look, and used some old store display cabinets as their furniture.

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The lesson learned here is to choose a theme that highlights your product – one that fits in with both the theme of the products and the mind-set of the buyer. When you are shopping for greeting cards, you kinda want a sweet, nostalgic warm vibe – one that might make you more sentimental so you can draft up that sweet thank you card.

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I appreciate her using that wallpaper from Rifle Paper Company that I love, the bar cart from Target and how adorable are those parlor stools?

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Wainscoting (or beadboard) on the walls is certainly a good touch that not only creates that nostalgic feel but adds texture and dimension to the space.

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They’ve done a great job of creating different heights and levels on their simple white tables with cake stands and tiered dishes. This not only drives the parlor feeling home through the details but also adds much needed height in an interesting way.

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Make sure that any greeting cards you buy bring out the color in your eyes. This is very important.

Emily_Henderson_Cute Make_Customers_Feel_Special

In the same way that bad customer service keeps me away, good customer service keeps me driving back. I can’t possibly tell you what a difference it makes when people are nice to you. The ladies at Urbanic are VERY nice. So nice in fact, that they’ll gift wrap something that you bought at another store. Not for free, mind you, but still that is a very lovely service to provide.

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They have a ton of really adorable papers and ribbons to choose from so your friends will think that you are extra considerate and really labored over their gift – which is really what gift giving is all about.

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The stationary industry is certainly thriving these days with wedding invitations that look like they cost $10 a piece (thank god I got married before blogs and before I had any money or the pressure would have been sooo on). Urbanic has a room in the back where they sit with you and design cards with all their notebooks in a way that feels really custom and special to you. These things are like works of art.

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The real coup de grâce, and reason that so many people find this store so charming, is that they provide a whole mail service – ish. You can buy your card, sit on a cute stool to write it, buy some of their adorable vintage stamps to mail it and they actually have a mail drop in the store.

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Maybe this is normal for stationary stores, but I personally think that this is worth the trip to Venice in itself. I have an extreme physical aversion to sending letters in the mail. In fact as I was filling out those cards above I could feel myself gloating that I was actually going to send the cards that I had bought. I was so proud of myself. I didn’t however have the right address (I never lived in the house that my parents live in now, so I forgot the address), so I brought them home with the real intent to address them and get them in the mail. They are sitting there, written and just not addressed staring at me with shame every day. I may need to drive back to Urbanic just to mail them.

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Small stores gotta use up every inch – plus it makes it extra dynamic and compelling and adds to that flea market ‘you never know what you’ll find’ vibe.

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That space above just looks like a panel of cards but really it’s the secret door to the bathroom – which isn’t really to hide it but instead to utilize even more space.

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It’s packed floor to ceiling and wall to wall with not just greeting cards but gifts, papers, pens, notebooks, agendas and any cute little thing that you feel like you need to make your life better.

Wanna see my loot from the store? I needed all of this, I swear. Charlie Henderson has been asking for that gold flashlight since he was 14 months old.

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Every single thing they sell there is adorable. Just be careful. You will spend some dough.

Urbanic_Purchases_Emily_Henderson Emily_Henderson_Baby_Shopping CREATE_A_COMMUNITY

Create a community. Urbanic is constantly getting people into their store, not just through having gift-able product and a beautiful display, but by enticing people through workshops and other events that they can only get there. These could be book signings, calligraphy workshops or parties – whatever is on brand for your market with an activity that you think your community would gather around. Manipulate them to come with special drinks – that certainly never hurt any crowd gathering.

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The internet can also create it’s own community – one that is extremely important to any store these days – brick and mortar or online. Audrey, the owner, has done a pretty remarkable job of creating an online following both in their blog and especially their social media. For a paper boutique to have nearly 60k followers on Instagram is pretty incredible.

It helps create the mood, the vibe and invites people into their world, which does help build a community.

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These days we have a lot of choices in where we shop, sure, so when a store stands out, doing all the above right, it deserves some attention and more success. So head on over to Urbanic in Venice and tell them I said ‘hi’. They have mastered the art of not only creating a wonderful community within the store but also have made their store a destination that is worth visiting.

*This post is presented by American Express, with photos by Jessica Isaac for EH, video by Scrunch Media. American Express is ­committed to helping make merchants like you be even more successful with the latest in business trends, insights and tools. Learn more here: http://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com

Enter for a chance to win $10, 000 towards redesigning your store by uploading a photo of your storefront window displaying any of our window decals (including the new decal series by Design*Sponge) to Twitter and/or Instagram with the #LoveMyStoreAmexContest hashtag. 20 runners up will receive a $100 American Express gift card. Get your decal now to get started! For full contest rules, go to https://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com/lovemystore-contest-rules/

No purchase necessary. Open to American Express® Card accepting merchants with brick and mortar locations in the 50 U.S., DC, PR & other U.S. territories & possessions (“Territory”), who have $3, 000, 000 or less in annual American Express charge volume and who have 25 or fewer locations (“Qualified Retailers”). Franchisees are not eligible to participate in this Contest.  Industry exclusions apply. Only owners or authorized representatives of Qualified Retailers who are at least 18, or the legal age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence, whichever is older, and legal residents of the Territory, may enter on behalf of Qualified Retailer.  Contest ends 11:59 p.m. ET7/31/15. Void where prohibited. See Official Rules at https://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com/lovemystore-contest-rules/ for complete details.

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  1. Paper goods have long been a love of mine, and this store looks like the most perfectly curated collection of mine

  2. I love that you still have yet to mail your cards, you sound like me, always full of good intentions and then they don’t quite cross the finish line. I am sure that your parents will love to see the card no matter how late it may be.

  3. I love the theme, feeling, and atmosphere of this place. Every time I go in I always wind up not leaving with just one thing but a whole bag of goodies. If you did not pick up any of the scented pens while you were there then you better head on back asap 🙂

  4. From a small business standpoint, this blog post is killing it with all of your useful tips. As a small business owner myself I love to see the behind the scenes of how other small businesses run and operate and little antidotes that I can adopt into my place. THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  5. This is the way that a sponsored post is done. Well done Emily, it is relevant, interesting, funny, personal, and organic with its introduction to the product. Your posts by far stand out as the best for sponsored posts among bloggers. Keep it up

  6. The rows and rows of cards, the stool to write on, the vintage stamps! It is a blast from the past in all of the right ways. I love the old parlor feel to it. Cannot wait to visit

  7. Your baby bump is looking so adorable, cant wait to see it grow as the months go along. This post was so much fun to read while being completely educational for me even though I don’t own a small business I run a little etsy shop and one day hope to expand! Thanks for the tips. xxx Sophia

  8. As a longtime customer of AMEX, I love that they are getting into the world of blogging with such a wonderful blogger. I have loved this series.

  9. they will wrap anything! this is a dream come true, now if only they had a store front in Miami.

  10. I am definitely going to have to make the trek over from East LA for this darling boutique. Thanks for the introduction.

  11. That’s one pretty & artistic shop..I sure want to go there! That wallpaper grabbed me & now I am in love with all the wallpaper & artwork by rifle co.’s creator! She has that retro & botanical design style I’m drawn to..in fact, I’ve seen some of her charming art on children’s books somewhere online before & now I know it’s hers.

  12. Loved this post! Such a cute little shop and so much care and detail been put into it. Great explanations too on how to make a shop more appealing and attract more customers. Thank you!

    http://www.bazaarliving.com

  13. Honestly paper-goods stores are some of my favorites to shop in, I could get lost for hours!

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

  14. Seeing your name in my inbox makes my day! I have never followed any blogs before until I came across yours (and it’s still the only one I subscribe to). We live in Louisville, KY and just bought our first home together. I am trying to recreate the ‘Patel House’ living room. Trying to figure out where to put the TV because all of the walls are lined with windows and I am fighting the TV over the fireplace. Also trying to pick a color. There room looks white but I am thinking your recommended Gray Owl. Thank you for all of your wonderful inspiration! I can’t wait to “meet” Charlie’s little sister as your beautiful family continues to grow!

    1. *Their* room looks white.

  15. Love your shirt and necklace! Can you share where you got it? Or is it one of your 5 new outfits 🙂 ? Love all your posts, keep it up!

  16. Where are your black shoes from? LOVE them!!!!

  17. This post is amazing! I love this store and all the bright colors and use of design space! It’s amazing!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com