Today we’re sharing a peek inside the studio of Boston-based Invitations & Company. Founder Arlene Cronk is celebrating 25 years in business this year, and has crafted a warm, intimate space for her clients. In addition to running a successful stationery business, Arlene founded the Boston Wedding Group and Marketing to the High-End Bride. BWG is the largest and oldest wedding industry association in New England, while Marketing to the High-End Bride is the most widely attended event for wedding professionals in New England. Arlene also founded a New York Wedding Group, where she was president from 2004-2006. We’ll let Arlene take it from here!
I started the business right after returning from a Caribbean cruise in December 1991. At breakfast and dinner we had been seated with another couple and the wife, Amy, ran an invitations business from her home in the Cleveland area. She and I would take walks along the deck most mornings and during those walks she would describe her business, and I knew immediately this was something I wanted to do. So, the next day after coming home I set up an office at the end of our living room in our Boston apartment and that’s how Invitations & Company began.
The space is different from most invitation businesses. It’s not a store and it is no longer based in a home. It is a separate studio unit in a downtown building that looks a lot like someone’s living room, with a small office at one end. We have comfortable couches and chairs and also a large table where we meet with customers and spread out albums of invitations. Along the walls we have shelves and shelves of albums and invitations on display.
So the space is very homey but also very professional. It is very convenient for customers who live or work downtown. We also draw a lot of customers from nearby suburbs who are looking for a huge selection, lots of personal service, and a very personalized shopping experience overall.
What I love most about my job is that it feels so right for me – I like to say that ‘I’m completely self-actualized’ doing this. I was an art history major in college and later earned a masters in social work — and this business combines the art and creative aspects with the social part. Most of my customers are engaged couples and planning a wedding can be very stressful, so the fact that I used to be a licensed social worker helps a lot. In fact, for six years I ran a program called the Bridal Survival Club.
The most challenging part of my job is that I have to be “on” all the time. I am always dealing with invitation issues and talking with customers and invitation vendors, even when on vacations. There is a lot of pressure because my customers expect impeccable products and services, and rightfully so.
5 favorite things in your shop?
- My bulletin boards with photos of brides, and brides with their mothers and grooms, when they see their invitations for the first time.
- My photo of Randy Fenoli (“Say Yes to the Dress”) and me.
- My office carpet (I scoured every store in Boston and New York until I finally found something I love!).
- My large worktable with lots and lots of space to spread things out.
- I am really proud of the many great online customer reviews I’ve received over the years.
If someone is visiting your shop, what are the other essential stops in your neighborhood? Anything on Charles Street in Beacon Hill — boutique apparel shops, gift and gourmet food shops, cosmetic boutiques, restaurants — they’re all great!
Does your store support any charities or special causes? Friends of the Public Garden, The Yellowstone Association, and Angell Memorial Hospital (a veterinary hospital).
Current favorite design trend?I love vintage floral patterns and metallics.
Many thanks to Arlene for giving us a peek inside her cozy space!