In Marketplace

Paperwork is cute, classy and independently owned by East Sider Lynn Hartwig.

In Marketplace

Paperwork features wrapping paper galore.

In Marketplace

It's tempting to call this shop "Paperworks" but the actual name is not plural.

Paperwork still stacks up after 30 years

For at least five years of my childhood, collecting stickers was my passion, and shopping for stickers was my first retail therapy experience. I was completely blissed out while looking at roll after roll of stickers, deciding whether or not to fold and tear at the perforated line and take those glittery rainbow hearts home to my protective sticker book.

Most of my stickers came from Paperwork, 2622 N. Downer Ave., so when I heard the iconic East Side stationery shop was turning 30 this month, I had to reach out. I called the owner, Lynn Hartwig, and told her I wanted to write an article about her business and planned to stop by in the near future to snoop around because I had not been there for two decades. And then I asked her about the stickers.

"We don't sell stickers anymore," she said.

At first, this was tragic news for me to hear, but then, it made sense. Apparently, using an entire wall to sell 25-cent items doesn't make good business sense, so the savvy Hartwig decided to cease the sale of stickers in 1994 when her space underwent a major renovation and nearly doubled in size.

She said she missed the stickers, too, and once in a while, she finds one in a desk drawer and reconsiders for a second. We reminisced about the Sandra Boynton stickers and the fuzzy stickers and the endless animal selection, and then we moved on to talk about what actually is for sale at Paperwork. After all, writing about what a store doesn't sell isn't much of an article angle.

In short, Paperwork is a paper and stationery shop that creates a lot of custom paper items, like embossed stationery and holiday cards. Also, it has a large selection of greeting cards -- including a line by local painter Patrick Farrell -- along with gift wrap and gift items.

"I've started to sell more gift items over the past three or four years," says Hartwig. "Anything from ceramic dishes to little decorative boxes. Quaint things and antique-y-looking things."

The 1994 expansion provided a lot more room to stock and display greeting cards, something Hartwig says is crucial for her business because, despite the economy, people still buy cards.

Paperwork is an anchor business in the unique Downer Avenue shopping district. Currently, the block is under construction, but by Thanksgiving, the work should be completed and the block will feature a new sidewalk, pavers and planters. This is important to Hartwig, who has watched the neighborhood wax and wane over the years, and wants to keep the area -- which she feels is a community -- as strong as possible.

"It's a step in the right direction," she says. "We need to fill the vacancies."

Hartwig says her passion for her products and top-notch customer service attract customers from Mequon and River Hills to Brookfield and Elm Grove to Montana and Palm Beach. And, of course, a lot of her customers are East Siders, too.

"When you've been in business for 30 years, your customers are all over the map," she says.

Hartwig still works every day even though she has three part-time employees, but says she might celebrate three decades of business by "putting her feet up" for a few hours and relaxing. Then again, even after all of these years, owning and operating a stationery business is still a reward in itself for Hartwig.

"I just love paper," she says.


liontigerbear | Nov. 7, 2009 at 7:45 a.m. (report)

gotta love independently owned local businesses and it's great to know she's made it at that location for that long! my environmentalist side wants to know if she carries anything recycled? she loves paper but does she love trees more? just curious if she's thought of this because even if she doesn't personally care, there's a lot of people who do and that may be an untapped audience for her. thanks for the tip Molly because i didn't even know that store was there.

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