Cordially Yours: The Stationer
Matthew Lynn, owner of Washington Depot’s The Stationer, is perfectly disheveled in a perfectly preppy way, not to mention movie star handsome. It’s almost exactly what you’d expect from a small town stationery store owner who keeps shop in an old blacksmith studio with a dirt foundation, with dust constantly coming up from the old wood floors.
A stationery store has been in this location for the past 20 years. Lynn bought in more than six years ago, right around the time the economy started to slip, and, paradoxically sites like Evite began to take off. There’s a charm to the space, which is tucked out of the way in a Hugh Grant/Notting Hill kind of way. “It’s more of a studio, than just a stationery store in a lot of ways. To have more space would seem wasteful,” Lynn says of the four hundred square foot space packed with nearly one hundred types of paper products and endless font and color choices.
Before this, Lynn was an ad man at Outpost.com and Executive Greetings, Inc. He quickly tired of the rat race. “I was working for various big companies and I was always a dedicated employee, but I’d watch them get swallowed up or go out of business. It was time for a change.” Selling the various lines of off-the-shelf card sets is only a small part of his business — Lynn designs everything from calling cards, personal stationery, and social stationery to wedding invites and party invitations. “I like working with people and trying to help them represent their gatherings.” The ace designer is coy about loyal clients from all around the world, like leather goods clients Richard Lambertson and John Truex’s of Lambertson Truex’s favorite, England’s The Wren Press Stationery, “You can’t get color paper in America like this,“ Lynn boasts, referring to the unique colors Wren Press has to offer ($20 a card, $3000 for a set of 100 cards and envelopes). There is also made-in-the-USA Crane & Co., the choice of Senator hopeful Christopher S. Murphy, for his wedding invite. “Crane’s is sort of the flagship stationery of America and it’s 100% cotton. I take [Crane’s] designs and make them a bit edgier. I might do a crazy color combination, but I use a classic Roman font.”
Matt Lynn’s customers rely on him for party invites at their French chateau and Montecito escapes, as well as in-town soirées. He loves to follow a client relationship from engagement party announcement to wedding’s invite to baby announcements, and he has a saint’s amount of patience. “I love bridezillas! I realized that they just need help and support. I’ve seen future spouses fighting. I feel like a guidance counselor.” He doesn’t fight against the online paper companies, Lynn says, choosing to appreciate the awareness they’re bringing back to stationery. “The Evite people were never going to do a paper invite, so it’s basically filling a niche for them, and then there are the people that would never dream of sending an invite online.”
Lynn is like a sommelier of paper. His recall of what company makes what paper and at what thickness, who has what color and the font to use is uncanny. Lynn’s self-deprecating humor and his ridiculously sharp eye make him easy to trust with the one thing people may keep from a wedding – the invite. “It sets the tone for everything,” says Lynn, who even makes the idea of high-end British stationery seem cost-effective, “Once engraved, you own the plate so it’s less expensive in the long run.” ($150 per 100 cards and $48 less when you re-order).
So, what’s stationery’s gateway drug? “Calling cards.” Lynn says. Apparently, they are making a comeback. “It’s so perfect, just name, email, cell phone in azure blue with an orange color font. That’s my idea of marrying a fun color combination with a classic font. You won’t see me often doing a wacky font and color combination” (Crane, thermography, $87 for 100).
Another important lesson Lynn tries to impart to his clients, “No written ‘thank you’ is too short. It’ll take you 35 seconds — say you go to a dinner party. [Just say] ‘fabulous dinner party – xo.’ It takes 35 seconds to thank someone in a special way. Getting something in the mail personalized will never be under-appreciated.” Lynn recommends getting a big monogram on a small card. Or the less daunting card with a pre-printed “Thank You” like the Kate Spade embossed thank you card ($25). Or try Jack and Lulu, a lesser-known playful stationery company from the Carolinas ($11 for a box of $10).
Lynn will craft a one-of-a-kind design with his vintage hot stamp press ($1 for address line and 75 cents per piece and the prices drop once you get beyond 50). Always searching for luxe paper goods, Lynn is bringing Italy’s Pineider in soon, and is trying to get the French Papillon Rouge back on the shelves. His personal choice is classic side fold paper with a “chic” copper colored font on light grey, medium weight paper. It’s classic with a slight edge, much like Lynn himself. —Dale Stewart
8 1/2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday and Monday by appointment