On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about running a brick-and-mortar stationery store with my guest Kristina Burkey of Calliope Paperie in Natick, Massachusetts.
Kristina owns Calliope, a fun and quirky stationery and gift shop in Natick, MA. Calliope started as an online shop in 2014, opened as a brick-and-mortar location in 2016, and just recently moved into a new and bigger location in downtown Natick. Kristina has loved paper and pens and stickers for about as long as she can remember and her 8-year-old self would be freaking out right now if she knew what we were doing.
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We begin this interview with Kristina describing her shop and what she carries. Kristina talks about her memories from childhood “merchandising” her shelves and loving all sorts of stickers, stationery, pens, and pencils. After college, she took a job in a large, chain stationery and gift shop and she talks about what she learned over the years that she worked there.
While working a day job several years later, Kristina began designing invitations and greeting cards and selling them on Etsy as well as at markets in the Boston area. During these years she attended the National Stationery Show, first just walking the floor and then again a few years later as a buyer. She had the opportunity to do a popup shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a week and it was that experience that proved to her that she could (and should) open a brick-and-mortar of her own.
Kristina talks about the first location of Calliope Paperie including how she found it and how she made the most of a very small footprint. She also talks about an accident that took place that shut her shop down for many months and how she recovered. Kristina tells us how she chose the name for her store (a last-minute choice) and how she came up with the colors and branding. Kristina truly wants visitors to have an experience when they come to Calliope and has thought through every detail from the sign out front to the Miss Packman game customers can play inside, to the bag customers are given for their purchases.
I ask Kristina to talk about how she buys for the store, what has worked and what hasn’t. Kristina makes customized pencils with funny, pop culture-themed sayings on them. She talks about the crowdfunding campaigns she’s been part of, including one to buy the press that makes the pencil sayings, and gives some great tips for running a successful campaign.
We talk about how Kristina pivoted during the pandemic and the importance of having her entire product assortment available online via her Shopify store. We also talk about the new location for Calliope which is much larger and more centrally located than the first one. Kristina explains how she got this storefront and what kinds of opportunities it has opened up for her and for the business.
Finally, I ask Kristina to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Kristina recommends:
- drawing on the iPad using Procreate
- art journaling with stickers and washi tape
- hand lettering with pens, espcially fountain pens