The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Field Trip #2: A Visit to Paper/Papier AND Our First TLWR Giveaway!!!

I had been planning this field trip for some time but had to wait patiently until after school started and things settled down a bit in order to be able to visit and interview one of two of the owners of Paper/Papier ~ a very chic, urban, hip stationery shop located in the Byward Market of downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. On Friday, October 1st, I had the opportunity to sit down with Gary Stern who co-owns the shop with his business and life partner, Andrew Hay.

The store front at 18 Clarence Street, Ottawa, Ontario
 When you walk through the front doors of the shop, you are greeted with colour....everywhere. You glance around and wonder where to start as each corner has something that draws you to it. If this is your first time visiting, you really need to allow yourself a good chunk of time to walk around and really see all of the wonderful items that are for sale.

The view as you walk through the front entrance
  My favourite is the large selection of single sheet stationery and envelopes with names like rhubarb and seafoam and of course the wall of packaged  envelopes in every colour imaginable.

Envelopes of every colour!
The majority, of course, is paper and paper products but they offer so much more like wrapping paper and ribbon sold by the yard, fountain pens and ink pots, a gorgeous line of body products (Bleu Lavande) made locally, greeting cards, artisan cards, gift bags, stickers and even a very popular Origami section.

After spending some time looking and touching everything (with clean hands, of course!) and saying, "Oh my goodness, look at this," and "Oh, you have got to be kidding," I moved to the back of the store and sat across from Gary. I wanted to talk about this shop that is so obviously cared for and filled with passion. I have been in a few stationery shops in many cities but none as beautiful and inviting and warm as Paper/Papier.

Before embarking on the world of all things paper, Gary spent ten years in interior design but the stress eventually got to him and so he naturally gravitated towards the business that his partner, Andrew, was already involved in. Andrew started out owning another store called The Papery which was also located in the Byward Market on Williams Street. He owned this shop for 20 years before buying out his Toronto partners and creating a new store at 18 Clarence Street known as Paper/Papier. Contrary to popular belief, Paper/Papier and The Papery on Bank Street are two completely separate and independently owned businesses. The name, Paper/Papier, encompasses all of their clientele....both anglophone and francophone and everyone in between. The location on Clarence Street (at Sussex) opened in April of 2003. Gary has been a part of this shop for the past ten years. When I asked him what he liked about this business, he replied, "I love paper. I love cards. I love writing letters. I love stamps." I get that. I love all of those things, too.

The day before I came to interview Gary, I received a letter from him in the mail and within the letter was a lone postage stamp. I thought this was a brilliant idea!!! Send a stamp to the receiver and they have to write you back and have no excuse. You have even provided the stamp. I am going to start doing this. It is a tiny  surprise to receive in a letter but one that is appreciated. When I asked Gary about letter writing and specifically how he first made contact with pen pals, he suddenly attached his index finger and thumb to his forehead in the shape of an "L" to illustrate the word "Loser" and announced he found the addresses on the backs of comic books. Speak for yourself, Gary!!! That's how I found my first pen pals, too. He hadn't read that earlier post entitled "Where It All Began."

Gary's main job at the shop is that of Card Buyer. THAT is a dream job for me. I can spend hours in a card shop, especially one that has unusual, funny, creative cards as opposed to the old, boring run-of-the-mill ones that you find in a strip mall. Gary has attended tradeshows in Toronto, NYC and even London, England to find the most unique, beautiful and original stationery that exists. I wondered if emailing/texting had caused a decline in stationery sales but Gary says, "No. There is always a need for stationery especially when it comes to cards like sympathy cards, for example." NEVER send a message of condolence by email. Nothing says tacky like that. The main obstacles for their shop are the harsh weather we sometimes get in Canada.... snow/rain/wind keeps people indoors and major construction that has been occurring on Sussex Drive this summer and fall.

Paper/Papier has a diverse clientele.....loyal customers from the days when Andrew owned the shop on Williams Street, nearby Embassy employees (U.S.A, Japan and German Embassies are just around the corner) and people who happen to be strolling by and come across this lovely store. The large selection of french language cards as well as blank cards, makes it easy for everyone to find something suitable.

Gary Stern in front of a portion of the cards available at Paper/Papier

Gary sees customers of all ages coming in and he is pleased when a young person comes in looking for formal thank you notes, for example, to send to a potential employer who recently interviewed them for a job. Last week, a young man came in needing assistance with purchasing a variety of letter writing supplies as he intended on writing to his girlfriend in another city once a week until they were together again. An older woman behind him in line wondered if he might have an older brother. Gary finds that younger people tend to send more cards while the older clientele are more apt to write several pages. He wonders if this deters people from letter writing; the fact that people think that a letter has to be long. This can be overwhelming. Gary recommends picking up a selection of note cards and just sending three lines to a loved one just to let them know you are thinking of them. If you see a card that makes you literally laugh out loud and it reminds you of your sibling or a friend, send them that's like sending a little bit of laughter in an envelope.

Returning a piece of Chiyogami paper to its rightful place.
Chiyogami= large sheets of paper with traditonal Japanese prints on them.
Used for lamp shades, wall art, framing and book binding.
Paper/Papier has a nice slection of this unique paper.

Paper/Papier recently added a new in-store service. Sara Purdon of Inky Design now has an office space within the shop and is available for all of your invitation/personalized stationery needs. Sara has even offered a very cool giveaway to be offered next week. And at the back of the store, you will find a corner occupied by Tivoli Florists. They also have a location in Westboro. They have been a part of the store for the past five years and run as a separate business.


With Christmas less than three months away, the staff at Paper/Papier are getting the shelves ready for Christmas stock. They have the most gorgeous gift tags, cards (both individual and boxed) and everything else you will need to get into the spirit.

Mary getting ready for Christmas
And since Christmas is the season for giving, Gary is giving one of TLWR followers a $20 gift certificate to Paper/Papier! To be eligible for this giveaway, you must be local (Ottawa area) and a follower of The Letter Writing Revolution blog. All you have to do is leave a comment below to enter. Comment once per day if you wish until Saturday, October 9th when the winner will be randomly selected and announced.
For those of you who are not local, watch for next week's giveaway courtesy of Inky Design and TLWR. Everyone will be eligible to win that one!!!! Stay Tuned.........


  1. Time for another visit to Paper/Papier...LOVE my Lamy fountain pen, and "violette" ink in a gorgeous glass jar! Wonderful place, really.
    Consider this the first entry for the giveaway!

  2. Can you believe I had never heard of that store? I guess I never really make it to the Byward Market but now I have an urge to go and visit. The origami paper is intriguing and I can't wait to see all the pens, because for me part of the pleasure of writing is using a really great pen, and I find them hard to find lately. When I grew up in France, we had to use fountain pens for schools and I loved them to bits (except when the ink leaked on your fingers:)...maybe it's time to get another one. Thanks Julie!

  3. What a beautiful store! I can't wait to go there the next time I'm coming through Ottawa!

  4. I've never heard of this store, but I went to The Papery in the Glebe when I was in university, and loved it! That much paper just gets my imagination going.

  5. Once again, an interesting field trip by roving reporter Julie. Paper/Papier looks like a great place to spend time(oh..and money)...with nice people who obviously love what they do and to enjoy all the colours of the rainbow.
    It's like a candy store with no worries about sugar!

  6. Love the blog Julie. I'll have to make a trip to a stationery store soon... I've contemplated raiding my son's stickerbook to decorate letters, but wouldn't mind something a little classier than Cars and Dora ;)

  7. oooo, a giveaway. The store looks wonderful! I'll have to visit even if I don't get the gift card!

  8. does toronto count as *ottawa area*? ;) just became a follower of your lovely blog!

  9. Hello, bylyn76!
    If you ever come to Ottawa and can use the gift certificate then of course, you can enter the giveaway. Next week, I will be having another giveaway that will be open to everyone as it is a gift I can mail......
    Welcome to The Letter Writing Revolution. Spread the word and write some letters :-)

  10. Love that store, and love your photos in this post. SO much beautiful colour! I have taken the girls in there before and they, too, were enamoured by the rainbow of paper everywhere.

  11. I am channeling my positive energy into winning this giveaway

  12. I love the comment about "touching everything", Julie...I do that too. Things "feel" so nice.

  13. I am so going to check this place out! Fantastic post

  14. leaving a stamp for a return note or card is a fab idea - thanks for the tip!

  15. I would love to go there just to pick up unqiue rapping paper. Are there cards expensive? I'm finding a lot of cards these days run up to four to five dollars each.

    -Zane of ontario honey


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