To the Letter

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In this digital age, invitations arrive in our inboxes and are promptly deleted. Luckily, there’s Greer, a Chicago stationery depot that’s dedicated to ink and paper created by independent designers.

Chandra Greer opened her shop in 2005 to showcase old-school letterpress and screenprinted design. It’s a gallery-like place that celebrates both the tactile and the visual—displays are textured and eclectic, and the gigantic Ingo Maurer Zettel’z lamp is a commanding counterpoint. Greer’s motto—”civility is not a sign of weakness”—also translates to her passion for correspondence. “We like to think of ourselves as a lifestyle store grounded in stationery. We’re not interested in ‘what sells’; we’re interested in what allows our customers to express themselves and to make deep, personal connections in the most lovely, distinctive, and powerful ways possible. There’s a lot in the world that can bring people down. We want to lift people up.”

What led you to start Greer?I’m a former advertising executive enchanted by creativity. I learned much about design and communication and, perhaps most important, was deeply influenced by my firm’s late founder, Leo Burnett, and his ability to richly articulate a vision and broader purpose for what we were doing. It inspired me to create a company based on my own sense of what I want to put out into the world.Who are your customers?They tend to be thoughtful, appreciative, intelligent people with a strong aesthetic sense. We serve some of the nicest people in Chicago.Where do you find the designers you feature?We receive about a dozen submissions a month, and we attend the National Stationery Show in New York, which is the industry trade show. We’re also active on Twitter and Facebook. I don’t pursue blogs or shop other stores’ inventories because I like to keep our vision pure, and those sources tend to have particular points of view.What’s your favorite card?It’s a card from Blue Barnhouse featuring an image of a pretty young Muhammad Ali and the greeting “I hear you’re talkin’ around that you can whup me. Well, here I is.” Ali has a defiant, gentlemanly yet authentic charm, and we’ll keep buying that card as long as they keep printing it. That it’s letterpress-printed in silver on heavy black stock makes it that much more ironic. Plus, it just makes me laugh.Can all of your wares be purchased online as well?Almost. It’s very difficult to have everything up there. The drawback of the website is that you can’t feel what you’re buying.Do you dabble in letterpress?Currently, anything we design for letterpress is printed by professional artisans. However, I recently purchased a small press, and once we learn how to use it, look out!Tell us about your monthly column on Felt & Wire, Mohawk Paper’s blog.It’s called “On the Wire,” and it’s about small but extremely talented stationery designers. It came out of my belief that people should take a chance on the small guys. If I find someone and they’re talented, I don’t care if I’m the first store to carry them. That’s the purpose of my column, to sort of nudge other people in that direction. Even my competitors.

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