Like Crossfit and cold-pressed juiceries, new concepts seem to sprout at an exponential pace, compared to ten or twenty years ago.
What has been popular elsewhere for some time, and only now emerging in Tampa, has taken the opposite approach. Paper, and all things related to crafting, making, and celebrating analog, has grown gradually.
As Tampanians have moved away from cookie-cutter and strip mall, we’ve embraced local. Craft. And hometown creatives. We have a fledgling beer scene, an ‘on the precipice’ foodie scene, and a renewed emphasis on the urban core, thanks to a progressive mayor and throngs of young professionals from other cosmopolitan cities.
Much as I want it all now, slow pacing befits a culture that values organic materials and thoughtfulness. No digital editing here in letterpress, typewriter, pen-and-ink land.
Once upon a time, to get unique greeting cards, you either browsed Etsy, shopped on vacation, or sought out the one or two local boutiques that stocked lines from LA and NY. Today, between the Oxford Exchange, The Paper Seahorse, and Invitation Consultants, options are abundant. And excuses for buying cards at CVS are few.
Earlier this year, WS Development announced that Paper Source would be joining Hyde Park Village. If you’ve ever been to one of their stores, in New York, Atlanta, or elsewhere, you’ll recognize the Anthropologie-esque cuteness of the designs, quality of the selections, and skill of the employees.
Around the time of the Makers Market in February, Tona Bell opened The Paper Seahorse officially, in a historic bungalow that previously housed Tricycle Studios. Her approach is a hybrid: of traditional point-of-sale retail, with wholesale accounts and curated products for sale, and interactive space with a regular schedule of events.
A significant portion of her time and square footage is devoted to classes, like creative writing, collage, and crafting with paper. Already, they are well-attended but intimate, taught by locals.
During the month of April, Tona held a series of events devoted to national letter-writing and poetry month, including a Saturday of creating mail art.
Coming up in May: Mother’s Day cards, Father’s Day cards. Felt-making. Even several recurring classes on starting or maintaining a creative business, like branding 101.
Tampa Type lives upstairs at 211 South Howard, a typewriter restoration business started by her husband and fellow aesthete Randy.
My parents’ generation was the last to rely on the typewriter for communications, pre-internet and text. Today, they enjoy complete retro appeal, seeming almost foreign to those who can’t fathom creating a document without a printer.
Randy’s multi-hued Corona, Royal, and other examples are available for purchase at the Paper Seahorse.
But back to the paper merch.
PS carries lines like Moglea, Hammer Press, Palomino, Rifle Paper Co., Franny & Franky, and Smock; all made domestically, in small batches. You can’t understand why those brands matter until you see and feel the difference in quality vs. that which you find made in China, at the grocery store.
Another hometown brand, Invitation Consultants, has existed for some years in South Tampa, focusing purely on custom work for special events and occasions. They recently launched Matrick and Eve, a wholesale-only line of stationery and cards intended to compete with niche brands from Papyrus to Etsy.
The opening of Paper Source signals a milestone, much like a Starbucks outpost meant your neighborhood or city had ‘made it’ in years past.
However, like any mass-market validation, Tampa still needs (and will thrive – see Buddy Brew Coffee) on its local brands and creatives.
Though I am leaving in a couple of months, I am excitedly looking ahead to my return to Tampa, to see a significant evolution on the paper and craft front. The Paper Seahorse, Tampa Type, Matrick and Eve, and Paper Source will all be a part of making Tampa a cooler, more interesting place to live.