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Smock Store Spotlight on The Stationery Station

Today we’re shining the spotlight on The Stationery Station, a paper + gift shop based in Highland Park, Illinois celebrating 40 years in business! We sat down with the owner, Sheryl Oberman, to learn about the shop and how everything got started. 

Sheryl Oberman, owner of the Stationery Station

I have loved paper and party planning since I was a child, watching my mom, who had some flair, create accessories for events she would host. She also planned a beautiful wedding for me! My college degree is in teaching high school English, with a minor in Rhetoric – so you can see where this is going. I took that background and love for paper several steps beyond. Totally by coincidence a friend, who also loved paper, went to a local shop to buy party goods for me since I had just recently moved to this town and had a newborn baby and was having a party. I knew little about our neighborhood and could not yet get out to explore. She came back and told me the lady was selling her business. Without blinking an eye I said, “let’s buy it!”. The shop was in a converted old home and I suggested the name Stationery Station and my partner agreed, with the stipulation that we use a station master as our logo. We had a lamp post out front so we hung our sign and suddenly became stationers!!

A peek inside The Stationery Station in Highland Park, Illinois

Our husbands were agreeable and the former shop owner mentored us for a few months. My partner was pregnant at the time and once her child was born we alternated days and our babies napped in a crib we added upstairs. When the babies were a bit older they sometimes crawled around the carpeted floors as we worked with customers! My daughter once chewed on a package of napkins. Later on, the kids were with day care, our families, or preschool.  After about 3 years we split up and I moved the shop to the main street a block away.

About 20 years ago I opened a second store in Chicago with someone who had worked for me as a teenager. I licensed my name to her and she had the shop for several years until she started a family and moved back to our town. 16 years ago I moved the shop a few doors away to our current location. It was 2 shops so that our retail merchandise could be in one room and our custom invitations in a smaller room. This allowed us to offer a quieter area to give total attention to our customers with a more personal touch.

The Stationery Station in Highland Park, Illinois, was featured recently by the Daily North Shore newspaper

Two years ago I recognized that children’s invitations were not selling well and had become more of an online item. They were displayed on 2 units so that was my cue to downsize! We linked up on our website with a few large vendors that sell the kids’ items and that is working out nicely. The “old” store still offers cool desk accessories, leather items, notepads, and my favorite – ribbon and wrap! The custom room has imprintables along with a few other related items but primarily has many, many invitation albums, as well as loose samples from Smock, Bella Figura and other vendors. Brides, in particular, like to view loose samples, and we also show these on a screen and in boxes so that their customization options are evident. 

I enjoy creating invitations and bringing a customer’s vision to reality. It’s rewarding to me to know that someone puts our store on their list of places to go on any day. My education and knowledge of proper etiquette and grammar, combined with our design sensibility, plays a part in our status of being one of the finest stationers on our North Shore.

A peek inside at the ribbon wall at The Stationery Station in Highland Park, Illinois

I believe that being able to open a shop 40 years ago and calling it our own was and is special. The freedom to be able to pursue a course that was never clearly my dream but became my love is genuinely amazing to me. Women at this time were teachers, as I was initially, doctors, attorneys, and so on… yet owning a shop seemed rare and slightly difficult to explain to the bank. One last love about the store is to be still creating an invitation or even wrapping a gift for our customers and seeing them genuinely thrilled! A recent customer just wrote me a wonderful note, and these testimonials and calls make us feel respected and rewarded. It is a heartwarming business and our goal is to fulfill a customer’s vision and offer them our valued advice.

 Does your store support any charities or special causes? We offer a donation or place an ad nearly every week with several charities, schools, and local or needy organizations. At the time of our 35th anniversary, we donated a portion of our sales to a group that supports women getting into the workforce. This year I am considering other options. One of the retail lines I carry is called Monkey Business and we sell their beaded animals and a few bowls made from phone wires. They are in South Africa and the company benefits the women who make these. Many of our customers who have traveled to Africa recognize these and buy them or comment on how wonderful it is that they are so well made and the women reap the benefits.

A peek inside at the selection of custom stationery albums available at The Stationery Station in Highland Park, Illinois

If someone is visiting your shop, what are the other essential stops in your neighborhood? Our town has wonderful cultural features. One is actually across one of our town’s main streets in the next town but it is literally 5-10 minutes away. This is the Chicago Botanic Gardens. They feature exhibits throughout the year, events take place there and it is truly a beautiful, cultivated sight. I run there in the warm weather on one of their tree lined paths! Another is the wonderful Ravinia Festival. It is an outdoor performance venue featuring major symphonies, renown musicians and performers. There are children’s features throughout the year as well. Tickets may be purchased for a covered pavilion or many, many people from all over the Chicago area come to have casual or elaborate picnics on the lawn. Restaurants are plentiful in all price ranges and it is an amazing feature in our town.

Since Highland Park is located on Lake Michigan we are very excited to have stunning beaches. One was redone recently with walking trails, bluffs, rock formations and a lovely glass building in which they offer children’s classes. Last June I made myself a birthday party on the boardwalk (luckily on a beautiful evening) and was joined by my amazing staff (see below). 

Stationery Station staff celebrates owner Sheryl's 70th birthday last summer

 In my shop, I love my ribbons and wrap. I do custom gift wrapping and was chosen and flown to NYC along with 7 other people a few years ago to be in Scotch brand gift wrap contest. It was very exciting and although I did not win, being chosen as one of 8 was very cool! 

The Stationery Station's entry into the Scotch most gift wrapper contest

Our current favorite trend is really a trend I was naively offering my customers and yet had little knowledge of 35 or more years ago! I love combining letterpress with foil stamping. It adds just the right amount of flair when done subtly. In our early years we worked with a man who owned a foil stamping company, and since he lived in Chicago we became friendly with him and he would print our stock for note cards or invitations. At that time, we carried Crane and a vendor called Fante. Once in a while, we would need to go to his home to pick up an order and he would show us his machinery which in those days used individual pieces of lead. He showed us how he pressed these pieces of lead into the machine! Aha! Letterpressing! He would remind us to limit the copy on an invite so he would not run out of letters!

Many thanks to Sheryl for giving us a glimpse inside her shop – and congratulations on 40 years in business! Here’s to many more! 

Grommeted paper fan wedding programs

We created cute paper fan wedding programs for Allison and Nick’s laid-back summer wedding in Lake Tahoe last summer. Letterpress printed in desert ink with rose gold foil stamped accents, the programs feature four panels that were secured together with a gold grommet. Each panel included all of the essential details for their big day, from the date and location to the wedding party and the (somewhat cheeky) order of the ceremony. The final panel of the program talked about Allison’s “something borrowed” – her great great great grandmother’s wedding veil and a family heirloom that had been worn by several generations of women in the family. Such a sweet detail! 

Letterpress + foil stamped paper fan wedding programs from Smock

Letterpress + foil stamped paper fan wedding programs from Smock

Letterpress + foil stamped paper fan wedding programs from Smock

letterpress ink color: desert | foil color: rose gold shine | fonts + artwork: customer supplied | paper: 1-ply ivory bamboo | size: 5.5 x 8.5 die-cut CD-16 | customization #34883 | Union Street Papery

Vibrant green letterpress wedding invitations

Julia and Kevin customized our Prescott invitation for their summer wedding in Vermont. They worked with our friends at Gus & Ruby Letterpress to create a monochromatic look by printing their entire suite in our vibrant grass ink color. A striped envelope liner added a fun, preppy touch to this sweet but sophisticated set. 

Green letterpress wedding invitations with striped envelope liners from Smock

Green letterpress wedding invitations from Smock

Green letterpress wedding invitation reply cards from Smock

Green letterpress wedding invitations from Smock

letterpress ink color: grass | fonts: Jules & Naive | paper: 2-ply + 1-ply white bamboo | size: S-8 + S-6 + S-5 | envelope liner: Seneca Stripe pattern in grass | customization #33740 | Gus & Ruby Letterpress

Die-cut letterpress wedding invitations with vintage print envelope liners

Lauren and Hermes personalized our Halifax invitation suite to set the tone for their October wedding at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The couple chose classic black letterpress ink on our white bamboo paper for their invitation suite, which mixed our square Belmont die-cut shape on the invitations with our Plymouth die-cut shape on the reply cards. We printed a petite website card to provide guests with information regarding accommodations and wedding day details, as well as a vintage anemone patterned envelope liner to add a splash of color.

Die-cut letterpress wedding invitations from Smock

Die-cut letterpress wedding invitations from Smock

Die-cut letterpress wedding invitations from Smock

letterpress ink color: black | fonts: Wallis + Lawrence | paper: 2-ply + 1-ply white bamboo | size: S-8SQ Belmont + S-5 Plymouth + S-3 | envelope liner: vintage print anemone pattern | customization #33696 | Shindig Paperie  

Smock wedding invitations featured by Weddings in Houston Magazine

We were thrilled to spot our Camden and Tensley wedding invitations in the February 2017 issue of Weddings in Houston magazine! The tawny matte Camden suite – complete with a peacock adorned envelope liner – was featured alongside other modern wedding invitations with floral envelope liners and design elements. Our sweet Tensley invitations feature letterpress printing in deep blue ink on our ivory bamboo paper, and were paired alongside other pretty blue invitations (including the Garden Sun invitation from our BFF Bella Figura).  Many thanks to Weddings in Houston for including our invitations on these beautiful pages! 

Weddings in Houston February 2017 issue featuring Smock wedding invitations Smock's Camden wedding invitations featured by Weddings in Houston magazineSmock's Tensley wedding invitations featured by Weddings in Houston magazine

Modern brushstroke wedding invitations + foil stamped envelope liners

We combined platinum shine foil with black letterpress ink to create Gregory and Christopher’s modern brushstroke wedding invitations. The pair customized our Flynn design for their November wedding at the Asia Society in Houston, Texas, which was followed by a reception at Hotel Zaza. In addition to the invitations and foil stamped envelope liners, we created a reply card and an information card that shared specifics on information like parking, accommodations, and wedding day details.

Modern brushstroke wedding invitations  with foil + letterpress by Smock

Modern brushstroke wedding invitations  with foil + letterpress by Smock

Modern brushstroke wedding invitations  with foil + letterpress by Smock

Modern brushstroke wedding invitations  with foil + letterpress by Smock

foil color: platinum shine | letterpress ink color: black | fonts: moderno + woodland + barber | paper: 2-ply + 1-ply white bamboo | size: S-8 + S-6 + S-5 | Flynn design | envelope liner: organic stripes pattern in platinum shine foil | edge paint: black | customization #35476 | Events

Monogrammed letterpress birth announcements

We worked with Adrienne at Ipanema Press to create these monogrammed letterpress birth announcements to mark Ashton’s arrival. We letterpress printed the petite S-5 cards in vine ink on our thick, 2-ply white bamboo paper. Adrienne created an adorable patterned envelope liner featuring custom-illustrated airplanes and Ashton’s initials in shades of green and pale blue. Such a sweet way to spread the news! 

Letterpress baby announcements from Smock

Custom airplane envelope liners

Monogrammed + Letterpress baby announcements from Smock

letterpress ink colors: vine | fonts + artwork: submitted | paper: 2-ply white bamboo | size: S-5 | envelope liner: custom submitted artwork | customization #35300 | Ipanema Press

Smock Studio Tour with Invitations & Company

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! 

Arlene Cronk, founder of Invitations and Company

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.

An inside look at the Invitations & Company studio in Boston, Massachusetts

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.

An inside look at the Invitations & Company studio in Boston, Massachusetts

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.

An inside look at the Invitations & Company studio in Boston, Massachusetts

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? 

  1. My bulletin boards with photos of brides, and brides with their mothers and grooms, when they see their invitations for the first time.
  2. My photo of Randy Fenoli (“Say Yes to the Dress”) and me.
  3. My office carpet (I scoured every store in Boston and New York until I finally found something I love!).
  4. My large worktable with lots and lots of space to spread things out.
  5. I am really proud of the many great online customer reviews I’ve received over the years.

An inside look at the Invitations & Company studio in Boston, Massachusetts

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.

An inside look at the Invitations & Company studio in Boston, Massachusetts

Many thanks to Arlene for giving us a peek inside her cozy space! 

Romantic bronze shine foil wedding invitations

Natalie and Daniel rang in the new year as newlyweds at the beautiful Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, California. We had the pleasure of working with Events to create Natalie and Daniel’s romantic bronze shine foil wedding invitations. The couple personalized our Linden suite with a pretty vintage print and bronze shine foil for their New Year’s Eve wedding. We created an elegant foil stamped wedding invitation and a reply card (complete with cute motifs) for the main components of their suite, while their digitally printed and foil stamped website cards mimicked the romantic, vintage hydrangea pattern on their envelope liners.

Romantic bronze shine foil wedding invitationsRomantic bronze shine foil wedding invitationsRomantic bronze shine foil wedding invitations

foil color: bronze shine | digital ink color: CMYK process | fonts: submitted + Notera | paper: 2-ply +1-ply white bamboo | size: S-8 + S-5 + S-3 | Linden design | envelope liner: vintage hydrangea patterned print | customization #35750 | Events

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