An Open Letter To Our Community
Dearest Paper Friend,
Today is the one year anniversary of when we closed our doors. It has both felt like another lifetime ago as well as like it was just yesterday. I am still in the pinch me phase (that I have been in for the past 12 months) that this small business still exists.
I will never forget how utterly alone I felt. I had just barely started to feel myself again after having a baby. Through the postpartum months, the shop, our team and our community was what gave me something to look forward to when things felt so hard personally. I felt like I was good at what I did at the shop and it helped balance out how I felt like I was failing miserably at home.
It felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under my feet when we closed and I found myself feeling like I was all alone, and 100% clueless about 100% of my life. Letting my employees go was one of the hardest things I've had to do to date as a small business owner. The girls really feel like the younger sisters I never had but always wanted as an only child. Their commitment, hard work and support as I transitioned to take time off to have a baby was an unimaginable relief as I knew my business baby would be in wonderful hands.
I remember crying a ton the first few weeks as I genuinely believed we would maybe make it until Summer before I would have burned through savings. I remember sharing very transparently via social media what I was feeling and what was going on. I remember bringing home inventory and packing supplies so I could package orders after P went to bed at night and praying she would sleep through the night so I could at least get a few consecutive hours of sleep before the sun came up. I remember wondering if all of this would be worth it, of if it would even matter.
I also remember the messages of love, support and encouragement I received. I may not have responded to every single one but I hope you know I read each and every word. I remember the orders that kept popping up on our website. I remember recognizing the names and wishing I could thank you in person. I remember seeing new names with notes that they heard about our shop through someone in our community. I remember thinking the support would slow after a few months.
But the support didn't stop. While our revenue very much ebbs and flows and running an online business is still uncharted territory for us, I am completely in awe and blown away by the continued love and support you have shown us.
You may not know this, but I moved to the United States when I was about 12 years old. I was in a country across the world and had to start middle school in a country whose culture I was not familiar with. It may seem trivial but my love of stationery (I recall in particular gel pens) was an easy connection to the other kids in my classes. Stationery has always been a big part of my life and while I would not have imagined ever owning a shop before I opened our doors, I also cannot imagine doing anything else.
Running a small business has many challenges and pairing that with not looking like everyone else (as well as perhaps looking younger for my age and maybe even because I am a woman), I have been ignored in business meetings and literally scoffed in the early stages of searching for a location to open the shop. That was almost 6 years ago now and there have been so many instances between where it's been easier to make myself small to the point of not telling people I actually own my own business because having to prove or explain myself got exhausting. Over the past year, I've been practicing taking up a little more space. Because I want to be an example for not only the women on our team, but other women in our community and beyond. And certainly for my daughter because I hope she gets to grow up alongside our shop and grows up in a world where she is valued, confident and takes up as much space as she likes.
This practice has been made easier by you. You've given me little bits of strength through the act of simple kind words. You've given me hope on days that it's seemed easier to give up. You've given me a reason to keep fighting to keep this business going even when there has been no end in sight with this pandemic.
To follow up from my story about finding our first location, there is one thing I will always be proud of, is that I have never backed down from a challenge. I may not know how, but I know I can and will figure it out. I ended up finding our first location after numerous realtors ghosted me upon learning my rent budget wasn't $$$$, by driving around East Austin and calling every for lease sign I saw.
I never really understood just how deeply I loved having a door until we had to close ours. Our door is a portal to a space where all are welcomed. Your happy place in a world that might feel hard sometimes. When you walk through our doors, you are so much more than just a customer. We feel like we are welcoming a friend into our home.
The months leading up to this Covid-19 anniversary has been emotional tumultuous as I struggled with not knowing if our lease ending would be a sign that perhaps this business was no longer mine to be had. I've always said that I would be in this business for as long as it was meant to be mine. And I feel like the past 12 months has been sending me serious mixed signals.
And strangely, I feel more clarity now, on the eve of the one year mark when we closed our doors. I am not willing to give up even though I am afraid of an uncertain future for the shop. I am not going to go down without a fight and trying my damnedest to keep going.
I can't wait to one day welcome ALL of you back in the shop. To be able to see your whole faces. And to continue to be your little paper oasis whether you live near or far.
A note from Anna:
March 2020 felt like a blur. I remember how quickly things became serious and how everything was coming to a stop. It was a very confusing time that I've mostly erased from my memory. I'm so grateful for so many people coming together to support small businesses. People have come to appreciate the smaller and more personal touches that a small business provides and the support has been incredible over the past year.
Your support has been very uplifting for me. I haven't been able to stay connected with most friends and family in person for the past year, but I've been able to be a part of a much bigger community of people who support the Paper + Craft Pantry!
I love recognizing your names and the names of those who place multiple orders or who've reached out to support us for so long! During the past year when it's been nearly impossible to connect with people in person, getting to connect with y'all through stationery has been so fun!
A note from Meg:
March 2020 felt very uncertain. I wasn't sure what the future held, but I am so glad I had the P+CP team to get through it.
I am grateful that y'all have been so patient, supportive, and understanding while we navigate the online shopping experience. Your support has truly meant so much to me over the past year. And I am so thankful for the kind words and notes y'all leave at check out online – they really brighten my day!
A note from Perry:
Although I was not working in the shop at that time, I think the past year has still felt like a really long extension of March 2020. Honestly, if it were not for our monthly subscription boxes I would have lost track of the months by now. Mainly, this past year has been filled with so much anxiety, uncertainty, and isolation. However, it has been encouraging to see communities pull together, people showing love from 6 feet apart, and seeing all the creative ways people are expressing themselves in these trying times.
I love how well y'all show us love. I hesitate to even use the word “customer,” because you are so much more than that, but the countless kind notes, treats, encouraging words from y'all makes it all worth it. You have made it impossible to not feel loved and cared for in these challenging times, and I am so grateful for all of you.