Store Visit: Union Street Papery

I had the distinct pleasure this last weekend of meeting Stacey Bush, and her friendly staff, at her San Francisco stationery store, Union Street Papery. This is only my third store visit since upgrading my status at RCS to owner, and it really is fun. After speaking with Stacey by phone for the past six years, I practically recognized her when I saw her.

Union Street Papery is located on a charming street lined with small boutiques and restaurants. Brimming with the best letterpress greeting cards and loose stock on the market, I wasn't able to leave without picking out a few cards for myself. But the most impressive part of her business was out back, up in the bridal bungalow.

Serene and stylish, the bridal bungalow is a quiet place for Stacey and her designers to meet with clients one on one to work on custom invitation projects. Offering a collection of albums she boasted as the best on the west coast, I was flattered to see samples of Real Card Studio invitations displayed. I confessed to a co-worker recently that 'wedding magazines make me anxious' page after page of invitation ads remind me that there are so many companies doing invitations, I quickly feel like a tiny business owner in a great big ocean. But as Stacey chatted with me about the work that she does, the orders she places and what it is like to work with many of the companies out there, she mentioned how some companies really put pressure on stores to place more orders, when really, she can only place an order with the company selling that which will meet her customer's need. With that, I realized my official purpose in doing the important store visits.

While I was headed to the store, I was anxious because I have to admit, I am not a great saleswoman, and a rather poor schmoozer. I'm too literal, so even when I know what I have to offer, I am just not great at "selling" it. I really just wanted to meet her, but now that I'm a "business owner", I felt like I was supposed to promote something. But hearing her say that being pushy wasn't the way to go, I was so relieved. And it reminded me of what I wanted Real Card Studio to be when we started up in 2002: the company stores like to work with best.

Stacey and I had planned before I arrived to get out of the shop and share some vino while we chatted, but she was short on time trying to catch a plane to visit William Arthur, of all things! But all the questions I knew I had for her suddenly had a focus and purpose-- to determine what her customers need. We can't be everything to everyone, and I don't want to be. But I do want to be the best Real Card Studio. And figuring out what my customers, my dealers, need us to be is how we'll accomplish that goal. Stacey, we'll have that wine next time!