paper & i
Interview with Audrey Hoffman
1) How many years have you been in business? How did your business get started?
Our store, paper & i, opened its doors on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 in a small historic city of Marshall. Marshall is located in Michigan, so February is usually the worst winter weather and slowest retail month. But we decided it was the perfect time to open the doors to a happy and always inviting store? Besides, then there could be a reason to celebrate every February, for our store birthday!)
We have been open for a year and a half and owe all of our thanks to the continued support from customers, family, and the town we live in. Many may wonder why this kind of store and why would the owner, Audrey Hoffman, take a long-term sabbatical from 33 years of being a Registered Nurse? The answer is simple and always the same: to find a little more happiness, to give back happiness, and to continue stewardship in a totally different way. It’s working! I love going to work, ordering new items, creating, teaching, and meeting and greeting our customers every day. My small group of employees: our children Allyson and Connor, husband Greg, Judy Shedd and Susan Putnam all play a big role in “putting it all together”. I might also add my husband continues to work elsewhere full-time, and our children are in college and high school with their own worlds. However, their support includes the endless verbal feedback, accounting and financial assistance, technology, window and store displays, along with ordering, stocking, creating, and assisting customers. All with a friendly and welcoming “small town” feel.
2) What makes your store unique?
Our store name is unique, yes it’s all lower case! We definitely have a mixed blend of items in our store. Our 1,600 square foot store suits paper crafters of any type and our front end area includes greeting cards and unique gifts, stationery and journals, and wall décor. Our customers enjoy both areas and they can frequently blend one product line with another.
For the paper crafter, we look for items not carried in the “big box” stores. We like to work with the smaller vendors who cater to us and then we can cater to and offer these products to our patrons. Currently the biggest sellers are dies and embossing folders of interesting styles, as well as any coloring tools (gelatos are hot), embellishments and flourishes. We carry stamps and supplies with Prima dolls, which are currently a fun trend. Lawn Fawn is hot on its trail and we have just begun with Taylored Expressions and they are awesome!
As always everyone loves new and exciting, yet unseen double sided papers. Constant update of “fresh and new” papers and all products is a must. We offer to special order for any of our customers and work to obtain the items very quickly. We are also happy to ship anywhere and this is usually a big satisfier. Every day, new product arrives and we put out something new in our store. Our customers have come to expect and love that.
We often receive new requests from our customers. We never expected to have such interest in wedding invites and paper items for weddings. This has challenged my personal creativity in a new and special way. Our customers both bring requests for supplies we haven’t heard of yet and new ideas, along with samples of their work. You will see some occasionally on our Facebook page. They love to share their creativity with someone who gets excited about it and we love that they share it!
3) Do you offer classes, crops, weekend retreats & other events?
We offer classes for the card maker: Technique Tuesday and then on Sundays for all day classes (such as Prima doll creations, Christmas card stacks). Calligraphy and Zen design are new classes. We also offer create your own party/class as well as planned scrap days. Our store is small but we always allow paper crafters to use our space to craft during the store hours, if it is pre-planned. Our business neighbors have a beautiful conference room which we are beginning to use this fall. Another fun item is the random winter make it take it days (MITI) and these are also offered during special events. Door prizes are a must at every event as well as participant feedback for what they want to see in the future.
We partner with our other retail neighbors in Marshall planning all kinds of events for our downtown shopping. The newest is Girls Night Out on certain Thursdays. The best way to find out about what is happening is by following us on Facebook, checking our website, or adding yourself to our e-mail list. We also display and have flyers in our store and a box outside our store door for those walking by. Pinterest is our newest place to showcase items from the store and creative works we love. It is also our biggest technology challenge to keep up with.
Here’s a list of some upcoming events:
Zen Design Mandala Card
Learn how to do the popular doodle imagery using a mandala pattern. Class is $10.00 and bring your own pens or $18.00 for class and 3 pen set. Plan on attending Wednesday, November 12, at 4:00pm.
Create 2 seasonal or general use cards while learning at least two new techniques each month. Supplies, instruction, and two awesome cards/envelopes to take home. Cost is $10.00. Class is from 6:00pm-8:00pm.
- Tuesday, October 21
- Tuesday, November 18
- No class in December, will resume on third Tuesday of the month in January 2015
Craft A-lot Day
Join us with any of your paper crafts for a day in November. You can bring scrapbooking, cards, or any other paper project. Enjoy visiting, sharing ideas as well as seasonal appetizers and refreshments. Includes door prizes and an opportunity to shop at paper & i for necessary supplies.
When: Sunday, November 9
Place: Edward Jones-Jason Rapelje conference room, 424 E. Michigan Ave., Marshall
Cost: $25.00 (Donation will be made for room cost and is given to Simon Peters family), pre-registration is required.
Create a Class or Party
Class space is available for any event. Bridal showers, birthday for children or adult, etc. Prices and packages will vary. Please inquire.
4) How do you promote your store?
Our advertising can be found in Michigan Scrapbooker magazine, in local newspapers and extending into other surrounding communities. Store events and specials are announced this way and also via social media and Marshall Chamber of Commerce. We also distribute fliers to specified groups or activities, tie-ins with local events and the neighborhood garage sale weekend as well as August sidewalk sales. Our informal announcements are on our ever present outside easel. We love to tuck a freebie in the customer’s bag(s) and this puts a smile on their face in the store or when they arrive home.
Volunteerism and giving back to our community is very important too. Our initial focus was on whoever asked for a donation for their fundraisers or for medical needs. This is probably because of my long-term affinity to the health field (e.g. Fountain Clinic for under or uninsured community members). Now, we are expanding our horizons and currently working with the kids after school program at the library, growth and changes for our Farmer’s Market and city activities, or whatever else comes our way.
5) What is the biggest challenge that you face as an independent business owner?
Being an independent retailer has its usual share of challenges, such as long hours, wearing many hats, and financial worry, but it is all well worth it. This is my personal dream coming true and a wonderful bonus that our patrons love the store! Each and every day is a fun day at paper & i. Our goal is always the customer. Everything else stops at the shop when they are here because nothing is more important than the customer. We hope every visit is a happy and fun experience, easy and relaxing, and that our staff has been as helpful as possible. I am looking forward to the everyday changes and challenges, the long-term fun and progress, and I am thankful for this wonderful part of our life.
6) Contact information:
102 E. Michigan Ave, downtown Marshall, MI (minutes from I-69 and I-94)
Hours: M–Sat 10-5:30 ~ www.paperandi.com
Class preregistration: 269-781-8200 ~ Be sure to LIKE our Facebook page!
Gina Karas is a traditional scrapbooker with a passion for photography. She work full-time as a Sales Assistant in the construction industry, but spends her spare time crafting with her mom and crazy friends! “Scrapbooking keeps me sane!” she says. See her projects and posts about scrapping & crafting on her blog, California Scrappin’.
NOW FOR THE PRIZE GIVEAWAY!
paper & i has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner!! Package includes: a greeting card, Lawn Fawn stamp & die, AND a $20 gift certificate. To be eligible for the random drawing you must COMMENT below about which event listed in this post makes you want to visit paper & i. DEADLINE to enter: Thursday, October 23th, at noon!