When Isabel Ibanez makes a card at 9th Letter Press, it’s not as simple as pressing “print.”
Soft but sturdy paper is placed in a 118-year-old American-made letterpress, a motor is flipped on, spinning the old imposing wheel as it presses a whimsical print into the paper, leaving a picture you can feel.
“I have my hand in the production every step of the way,” Ibanez said. “It’s 100 percent handmade.”
At her store in Winter Park everything is created individually. She designs each card, stationary paper and wedding invitation, creates a mold, and independently presses on every color. One hundred cards with two colors easily take four hours to complete. But it’s a labor of love that more and more people are appreciating, Ibanez said.
In this increasingly digital world there are so many options to say hi, happy birthday, join my celebration and happy holidays, many of which take just seconds to soar across the Internet. But some people are holding tightly to the idea of a little surprise in your mailbox when there’s something special to share, and there are plenty of Winter Park paper shops eager to fulfill those needs.
Ibanez, who opened 9th Letter Press in October with co-founder Sheli Scarborough, said it’s tough to live in a world where if you don’t put your birthday on Facebook, you’re just not celebrated.
The act of sending a card and receiving one is important to connecting with others, she said.
“It’s a way to show that you care … it’s an experience,” Ibanez said. “It must set apart the person that sends it to you.”
“Everyone is living in such a quick and fast world … that pausing to read and reread notes, I think, is so special,” said Maureen Hall of Maureen Hall Stationery and Invitations, a staple of Winter Park’s paper scene for 35 years.
Learn more about the paper stores featured here:
9th Letter Press, 9thletterpress.com
The Paper Shop, papershop.com
Maureen Hall Stationery and Invitations, maureenhallinvitations.com
Evite and Postmark, evite.com
Scarborough, who was always a passionate paper purchaser before launching 9th Letter Press, said that she thinks many people yearn for that feeling of opening their mailbox to find a thoughtful piece of paper just for them. While online companies will always be tough competition, new generations are starting to search out more personal connections after growing up online.
“I think people are starting to feel the emptiness of it,” Scarborough said. “The paper becomes the gift. … I think it makes them feel a little more special.”
Ellen Prague, owner of The Paper Shop in Winter Park, hopes that the first time this digital generation receives a card in the mail, it will stir a want for more.
“It’s going to be like a whole new experience,” she said. “It’s like that ‘everything old is new again’ expression.”
All the paper shop owners did agree that there are times when an email invitation or hello is just fine. A last minute get-together with friends, a Super Bowl party or a play date are events in life when paper isn’t necessary. But many people are taking online invites to the next level, using it to save money on wedding or big birthday party invitations.
Evite, a leading digital invitation and social event planning brand that helps its users send more than 25,000 invitations an hour, has just launched Postmark. They hope that Postmark’s beautiful designs with digital envelope, stamp and all, will be the new way to send online invitations with a more thoughtful, card-in-the-mail like experience.
Evite offers immediate delivery, a way to keep track of the guest list, and options for guests to interact with each other. It also offers cards by a celebrity communications designer, giving customers access to designs by a man who’s created for Oprah Winfrey. And the sky is the limit when the product is digital, making feathered envelope liners and stainless steel invitations possible for anyone. Evite says its mission is to build communities.
“It’s such a part of people’s lives,” said Jamie Greenspan, the manager of marketing and business development for Evite and Evite Postmark. “We really are here to connect people in a digital age.”
But she admits that nothing truly compares to paper for the most important occasions.
“Paper is not going away. … nothing we do online will ever exactly replace paper,” Greenspan said. “There’s a time and a place.”
And that’s what the paper pros are counting on when people are searching for their holiday card needs. It’s a feeling that can’t be replicated. While the card is something you hold, what it really touches most is your heart, they said.
“It’s like a little jewel that arrives in your mailbox,” Hall said. “You get this sort of warm rush of friendship.”
Ibanez agreed. “I can’t imagine that experience dying so completely.”