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Refusing to fold

Despite more people using homemade invitations, stores that sell paper are not seeing a drop in business, owners say.


Revised August 31, 2000

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Paper goods are among the commodities that could be threatened by the ubiquity of computers, what with correspondence zipping along e-mail lines and consumers creating at home things they used to buy, such as invitations and birth announcements.

Several local paper goods merchants say that isn't the case, however.

"I think modern life, the faster it gets, the more some of us kind of yearn for things people did when we had more time," said Barbara Jernigan, who owns Festive Occasions, 6340 Central Ave. "It's made people want traditional things."

Traditional things do not include invitations made by computer. Ms. Jernigan said she is selling more engraved paper now than she used to.

"People are buying something they know isn't going to be confused with something you could do at home on a computer," she said.

Sales of letter paper declined in the mid 1990s, Ms. Jernigan said. "What we may lose in selling letter paper, we have more than made up in invitation stock."

She thinks people who might have called up friends to invite them to a gathering now use computers to create invitations, but those who send invitations still use paperies.

In polite society, some things require written correspondence, Ms. Jernigan believes. "I would never send somebody who had given me a nice gift an e-mail thank-you."

Festive Occasions is in its 25th year of operation. Ms. Jernigan has owned it since 1991.

Janice Bennett has owned the Write Place, at 2900 Fourth St. N, for 14 years. She said the Internet and e-mail have had no effect on her business.

"I've already had people in for Christmas and holiday parties," she said, talking about orders of invitations. "I have a lot of corporate accounts, and I do a lot of birth announcements."

Bennett said she also has customers who order personalized stationery. "Every month I reorder, lots of monograms and some with just names."

Paper sales now are a bigger percentage of her business than in the beginning, Bennett said.

Yun Stanton, co-owner along with Julie Brannon, of Beach Drive Papery, 154 Beach Drive NE, said about 50 percent of their business is in party and wedding invitations and birth announcements. They see no slowdown in the computer age.

"People know if what they are doing looks good," Mrs. Stanton said. "When you look at the ones they did at home, you can tell the wording, time and place are not right. They just don't look right."

Beach Drive Papery is eight years old, Mrs. Stanton said. She worked there as a part timer until four years ago. She and Julie Brannon now own the store together.

They sell regular stationery that some people personalize on their home computers. They also sell materials such as buttons or ribbon so people can create their own decorated stationery.

For those who plan to use computers, Beach Drive Papery tries to help.

"We do have a lot of customers who come in the store and buy blank stock. We help them with the wording and then they do it on their own," Mrs. Stanton said.

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