Photography by Paris Scott
Typeface trends will come and go, but the elegance and personal touch of the handwritten letter is timeless.
When I moved away from home for college, I called my grandpa in Mexico with excitement and explained to him I’d be moving to Lakeland, Florida. He then asked for my address, and, as I tried to respond, he said, “No, wait. Send me a handwritten letter instead and from the addressed envelope will be how I obtain your address.”
My grandpa wrote me countless letters growing up, whether he hand delivered them on his trips to the States or mailed them. He had an appreciation for the art of pen to well-crafted paper.
Perhaps his generation, those who lived through black-and-white TV, into color TV, computers, laptops, and smartphones felt a responsibility to preserve such traditional forms of communication and etiquette. He often said something along the lines of, “The highest gesture of kindness comes from the handwritten letter.”
Today, local shops specializing in the art of paper and handwritten notes, such as Stationery Loft, have experienced a demand in paper goods and tangible ways of communicating. In 2007, Lakelander Heidi Campbell decided to launch Stationery Loft after seeing a need in Lakeland for a paper-goods store. Now, Campbell, along with her longtime business partner, Kerrianne Hopkins, co-own and lead the way for Lakeland’s most well-crafted stationery store.
“Every time we have an appointment with a customer, the creative process is never the same.”
Campbell wasn’t new to the industry; in fact, she had previously owned a few stores in South Florida similar to Stationery Loft. She knew the business and was passionate about paper, so much so that before opening her shop in Lakeland, she would drive to Orlando for all of her paper and invitation needs. At that point, her husband encouraged her to consider opening a stationery store in Lakeland to fill a need in our city.
“I went to the stationery show in Atlanta and came home knowing that this was what I wanted to do. I started out with almost exclusively paper invitations in the store, and, over time, realized that there was a great need for a gift shop in Lakeland. People were driving to Tampa and Orlando to shop,” says Campbell.
Two years after Stationery Loft opened, they outgrew their first location and made the move to Lake Miriam Shopping Center. “At that point, the store really exploded,” says Campbell.
Hopkins, a talented designer and former school teacher, decided to take some time off from teaching, and what was meant to be temporary then became her newfound career path leading her to a business partner opportunity at Stationery Loft.
The store was transitioning into its next phase. The lease renewal opportunity at the current location wasn’t a good fit. Stationery Loft then transitioned into its current downtown Lakeland location.
After evolving for many years, stationery-based correspondence is undergoing a resurgence, thanks to luxury brands. Perhaps it’s a marketing tactic to do the opposite of what others are doing (digital communication), or it may be the simple fact that luxury goods go hand in hand with preserving craftsmanship and tradition. Either way, Stationery Loft is at the forefront of this trend servicing their customers.
Expertise and tailored customer experiences are the foundation of Stationery loft. “Every time we have an appointment with a customer, the creative process is never the same. We might have someone who knows exactly what they want. We also have customers who have no idea the direction they are going in. We are here to help and serve the customers’ needs in every way, from budget to design,” says Hopkins.
Most of Stationery Loft’s customers begin their journey with paper when they start looking for wedding invitations. The wedding industry has raised the bar high with invitation suites often incorporating a mix of color, metallic lettering, and modernized calligraphy fonts.
Aside from working with some of the most reputable stationery brands in the industry such as Crane & Co., Stationery Loft now has the ability to produce a variety of engraving and printing methods in house.
“From white-ink printers and vinyl printing machines to a foil machine and laser engraving, we have the equipment to create beautiful, memorable items in store,” says Hopkins. Although these machines provide Stationery Loft’s guests access to quick turnaround, both Campbell and Hopkins make it very clear that it is not always the most cost-effective or quality way of producing prints and invitations.
“For example, glassware — we do personalized glassware, but we source it out because we believe that sand etching is the finest way of personalizing a piece of glass rather than DIY’ing it, and the difference in cost is very minimal,” says Campbell.
Along with all things pen and paper, Stationery Loft has also had major success with their “gift” part of the shop, carrying notable name brand items like Kate Spade, Rifle Paper, and Kendra Scott. From gifts for a baby shower to the handsome gentleman in your life, shopping locally does not mean you can’t shop your favorite brands.
Stationery Loft’s success goes beyond the simple fact that paper is “trending” (although it helps). Customers are the foundation of this local stationery and gift shop. Campbell and Hopkins listen to their customers’ interests and needs, and ask themselves, “What brands and trends are shoppers looking for? How do we better serve our guests?”
After all, the essence of stationery is intentional and personal.