For the first six years or so of Boswell, I bought most of the gift items, but since 2015, Jen's taken this over and is doing a great job. We sold more owl banks this past holiday than I thought was possible, and she's the one who finally had us get into the surprisingly fast-paced world of sock sales. Even I bought a pair, one of the more somber offerings, navy blue with constellations.
But the truth is that I couldn't leave completely, and have continued to purchase our loose cards. The truth is that while nobody compliments us on how well-stocked we are with paper towels (supply purchasing is one of my other duties), we do hear a lot of nice things about our greeting cards.
Recently on one of her visits back to Milwaukee from Madison, ex-Boswellian Halley was reminiscing about our occasional greeting card posts. I told her that we could try doing one for Valentine's Day, and here's how that went down.
Our first card comes from Ghost Academy, which is a small outfit in Long Beach. None of our vendors are large in the Hallmark or American Greetings kind of way, but we do work with a number of vendors who have, well, offices. How many people do you need working in a place for it to be an office? I'm thinking four.
I like this card because it's a different and clever take on candy hearts. From Halley: "I'm glad they were still cranking out cards."
Their production process does have a "cranking" aspect to it. Here's the mission statement of Megan, Matthew, and Maria: "we like things that are funny or cute or quirky, and especially enjoy things that are all three at once. We try to combine those qualities in our wares and just generally create stuff that makes us smile. our cards are hand printed using a few simple tools and a lot of elbow grease. metaphorically though - literal elbow grease would be gross." They don't like capital letters, by the way. Not unusual.
Halley's next pick was from Madison Park, a larger operation in Seattle that I toured many years ago when the sister of one of my ex-coworkers was working there. They had a a lot of presses and while they do some of their printing in the United States, they have moved offshore for the increasing number of cards they have with foil and glitter.
Halley, on the Madison Park card: "I'm getting this one for my husband this year because he likes narwhals. Narwhals are cute, don't you think?"
Yes, they are and they have definitely been ascendant in iconic stature on gift items. I haven't gotten to the point where I suggested a narwhal table, only because their presence has been fairly limited to cards. Interestingly enough, Jen, who cares about this stuff too, and I noticed that the animal that seems to be trending up lately is the llama.
The Found has a number of artists on their roster, but it's clear that they are having the most success with Laura Szumowski, whose illustrations uncannily capture pop culture greats. Halley's Pick is the Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire" card. She notes:" I love Johnny Cash. I used to do karoke with my best friend Ross and we'd sing 'I Walk the Line.' Too bad there's not a 'Walk the Line' card."
You can dream, Halley, you can dream. The Found is based out of Chicago. You can see a lot of trends in their product line, from branching out to magnets and pins, to doing location cards for a select number of places. New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Brooklyn, and Portland, but not Milwaukee. We'll need a few more decades of global warning before Milwaukee becomes trendy, and that's conditional on us not messing with our water supply.
I asked one of our other card line entrepreneurs for recommdations and she led me to another Chicago-based card line, Laura Berger, which we've now brought in several times. Many lines like this need a champion who buys multiple copies of a design when they visit. We had a customer from Madison that almost singlehandledly kept Fomato going for several years, for example. She really, really, really loved the "Foreign Film" card. It is a great card indeed, but it's a birthday card, and thus has no business in this post.
The Laura Berger card in question is called "How shall I demonstrate my love for you? Sayeth Halley: "This is weird but I like it." Please note that one of the ways to demonstrate your love is to buy your loved one a small llama. Please see earlier comment on the ascendance of the llama.
Another card whose profile has risen dramatically in the last few years is the Good Paper line. While we once were the only place on our side of town where you could buy them, they are pretty well represented now in two close-by retailers, a national chain and a fellow independent. They do a good job with puns, which are quite popular in cards right now.
Of our varied love offerings from Good Paper, Halley picked "The Gratest Love of All." She notes "Cheese is the third best thing in my life. I love cheese." Like all Goodpaper cards, this is blank inside. Like the British, they wear their sentiment on their sleeve, at least cardwise.
Great Arrow is a line out of Buffalo, New York, which I've wanted to carry for years, simply because I like supporting Buffalo. But until recently, we had agreed to let Paperworks have an exclusiving on this line, as well as a few others. We're very sad about Lynn closing the store - we need retailers on Downer, and competition keeps you on your toes! - but with the store closing, it seemed ok to start carrying the line.
Halley chose this design because she loves dogs. Don't tell her that cat cards also do well, and frankly, they might have the edge in sales. But I think that's partly because cat lovers tend to favor all kinds of cats, whereas dog lovers are more likely to be breed specific. So cat lovers are like the South, where the states sort of support each other in the arts in an all-for-one way, while dog lovers are like the Midwest, where we sort of snarl at the states on the other side of the artificial boundaries. I think it's connected to sports teams, but this is a theory in development.
The tagline? "Love at first sight."
Our last piece of advice? If you wait until February 13 to buy your card, our selection will stink.
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