After 10 years in Old City, the Papery moves to Midtown Village

Carolyn Brandhorst owns The Papery, a store that specializes in custom-made invitations for all kinds of events. She hopes her move to Midtown Village will bring in a new type of clientele. (Michael Hinkelman / Staff)

CAROLYN BRANDHORST, 49, of Old City, recently relocated her family business, the Papery, from 3rd and Arch streets to Locust near 12th, after a decade. The new space, next to the restaurant Vedge, has enabled Brandhorst to reinvent the store as a custom-design studio for wedding and party invitations, in addition to the more-familiar retail aspects of stationery and gifts.

Q: You moved the business to the trendy area now called Midtown Village. Why?

A: Our business model changed and we became a custom-invitation studio, and the old store wasn't designed to keep up with the work. We thought it would be better to be more centrally located between Washington Square and Rittenhouse Square.

Q: The business model changed?

A: We've become more of a destination store for custom-design invitations for weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, engagement parties and special events.

Q: How much has the business evolved in terms of custom work?

A: Probably about 65 percent is custom printing, versus 35 percent for retail.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: Brides, late 20s to 30s, moms for bar mitzvahs and event planners for the invitation part. She's a hip, young, established person. We're not a Hallmark store as far as retail. It's more blank and boutiquey cards.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: $900,000 to $1 million [annual revenue].

Q: How many employees?

A: Nine, including my mother and me.

Q: What separates you from your competitors?

A: It's the custom design. All our employees are graphic designers. I think that totally separates us from other papery stores or invitation-design businesses. One of our graphic designers also has an industrial-design background.

Q: What do services cost?

A: It's based on how many invitations you want. Our average wedding for 100 invitations is $2,500. Invite and R.S.V.P. cards are standard.

Q: What about bar mitzvahs?

A: They tend to be bigger - sunglasses with name tags, life-size posters, those kinds of things. We just did one for 150 invitations for a bar mitzvah, which was $6,500. We also do corporate stuff for [Stephen] Starr Events almost on a daily basis - menus, signage, tags. They cut us monthly checks. It's nice cash flow, but they're not huge jobs.

Q: Where's the business headed?

A: I want to grow the custom business, drawing more from the old Details store at 17th and Walnut. The Rittenhouse customer, old-school customer, I never got that customer in Old City. I've got some of them, and I feel like we're walkable from [Rittenhouse]. I see them as a mother of a potential bride or an older woman who needs our services.


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