After 17 years in business, owner Grace Cole is closing her funky stationery gift shop Scribe Paper & Gift on Saturday, March 18. She attributes the closure to the lingering grip the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold on small businesses.
“COVID happened and that really impacted us because nobody was doing invitations for such a long time,” said Cole.
During the pandemic, many postponed their social events due to safety concerns. As a result, Cole’s invitation business had trouble making ends meet.
“It turned out that our invitation business certainly took a hit, predominantly where we couldn’t make the money that pays our bills,” said Cole.
According to Cole, the paper business has fallen off, but her loyal customers’ favorite products remain greeting cards.
“Those people have tried to keep me in business over the past three years since COVID,” said Cole.
Cole hand-picks every card displayed in her shop from hundreds of card manufacturers and small artisans.
“I literally go through every bag and pick my favorite card. Every card in here is a reflection of my personality,” Cole said. “I appreciate the really beautiful cards, but I have cards from vendors like Felix Doolittle, he’s a Newton-based artist, a watercolorist – love his stuff, but then I have like, the fun snarky cards too that make fun of ourselves and I think people like coming in here to have a good laugh.”
“I picked them personally. And it’s not a rote formula. It’s not sappy. It’s not Hallmark-y. It’s very much again a reflection of my own personality,” she added. “So, there’s wit and there’s humor. And then if I do something […] that has to be obviously poignant like a condolence card, I pick the most beautiful ones with the messages that sort of speak to me more so than the others.”
When Scribe Paper & Gift opened 17 years ago, people were still sending out printed invitations to kids’ birthday parties, graduations, and anniversary and cocktail parties. But now, there has been a shift toward sending invitations through the web through digital evites or paperless posts.
“I’ve been a part of people’s milestones for more than 17 years,” Cole said. “I’ve seen kids, I’ve done their bar mitzvah invitations, for instance, and then I’ve done their graduation and their wedding invitations and then their baby announcements. I’ve been a part of peoples’ lives for all this time, and it really has been a privilege. More than once I’ve invited myself to a party, I did an invitation to one which is kind of funny.”
When COVID-19 hit, Cole did not qualify for the paycheck protection program (PPP) loans offered as a relief option for small businesses.
“I got no help whatsoever financially during the pandemic. The only thing I was able to do is collecting
unemployment for the couple of months that we could not be in the store. But even after the store was done, I still couldn’t do invitations. Again, that’s where the bread and butter is,” Cole said. “So, it really sort of depleted me. I was a single person, so I don’t have anyone supporting me financially.”
Cole will no longer have a brick-and-mortar location, but she will continue to make invitations with the personalized touch her clients love. Cole said that with so many going digital, online customers won’t be able to experience that small-town involvement where they can walk the streets, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy meeting the shopkeepers.
“I think the one mistake that I made that I wish I could undo now is when I opened 17 years ago, there was so much enthusiasm and love for the store and everyone that visited in the summer has said, ‘Do you have an online presence?’ and I did not, and you know, we got so busy so soon,” said Cole.
“We opened a second location just two years later, and that was super busy too. And I just never took the time to do a shopping cart website, and I would never make that mistake again. Because the customers that come over the summer, they actually love the store. They’re like, ‘You pick such interesting things.’ I wish I’d had that website where I could have said here, here’s my card, just go on the site and it’s like, I could have been a mini-Amazon at the time,” she added.
With the closing of Scribe Paper & Gift, a shift in business locations will occur. Liz Roache will be moving into the Scribe Paper & Gift location once it closes its doors. Meanwhile Sistas Consignment, now located at 1 State St., will be moving to Liz Roache’s current location on 86 Washington St.