On this weeks Studio Veil Spotlight feature I sat down with Evelyn from Epitome Papers. It was so interesting to hear her story, how she always knew what she wanted to do in life; I think that is so incredible and something that you don’t see very often these days. Continue reading to learn about our friend Evelyn, the owner of Epitome Papers!
Tell me about yourself, Epitome Paper’s and your experience with the company!
“I am originally from Grand Marais, so I grew up up north and then came back down for college at MCAD – Minnesota College of Art & Design for an illustration degree. While I was doing illustration there, I started taking print making classes, and I just fell in love with the process; with letterpress, with paper and the different kinds of paper, and how they all react to the printing process. I got an internship at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts which is a non-profit that teaches book binding and letter press printing to kids and adults. There I worked my way up, and I became the retail director, and I was there for about 5 years managing the store. So that’s where I really started to learn my passion for retail in the stationery world. Again, I love how people can use this format for self expression, use it as an art form, and most of all, using it to mail something special to people.
After 5 years I was reaching a point where it was time to start a new adventure; I had been there since college, and so I found Epitome Papers. When I met Alex, the previous owner, she had purchased the company, but also had a full-time job and kind of realized that this wasn’t quite the direction she wanted to go in, but Epitome Papers had been around for 50 years. It’s been an all-women business since the very beginning. It started originally as a clothing store in St. Louis Park, but when the galleria in Edina opened, they were one of the first stores to open in there. In the late 90’s, early 2000’s, they opened the stationery side with wedding invitations and having the highest quality paper, highest quality printing processes. When the last original owner, Irene, was getting ready to retire, she thought ‘oh well, I’m just going to be done, Epitome is going to close, it’s just the end of an era…’ and Alex, who had been a fan of Epitome, who had been a customer for 20 years, wanted to rescue the company and keep it alive. She ran it for 3 years and then realized she needed to branch out, and so she found me randomly on Indeed and so I met with her for coffee and it turned into a 2 hour conversation and I realized this is what I’m looking for. It was a management to own position, so I was a manager for a few years before coming in as an owner. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do!”
You mentioned you are now that owner, that’s so cool! What does your position look like now?
“As an owner now, really my biggest goal is to strengthen the relationships with our vendors and our artists. Coming from my artistic background, I always like knowing where my products are coming from, because a lot of people now are into the experience, so people aren’t buying just a greeting card, they’re also buying something a little bit more. Working with local artists as well, I want to centralize in a local mindset to help artists, because there are a lot of fantastic greeting card artists in Minneapolis, so I want to harness that.”
Is the wedding industry your biggest customer or do you see business elsewhere as well?
“Wedding is our biggest customer, because of the amount people usually need, weddings are constantly happening so there isn’t really an end season for us. We also pick up Holiday cards. Other things we have are store front; so we have retailed goods, we also offer stationery and invitations for Bat Mitzvah’s, generalized parties, but weddings are definitely our biggest income.”
What sets Epitome Papers apart from other stationery companies?
“The fact that we can do a wide variety of printing methods, as well as in-house and we work with vendors. So we have deep connections with a lot of our vendors. We are able to do two different types so our clients are able to be very flexible with their budget, and we’re able to kind of match that very nicely.”
Do you have any tips for couples searching for their stationery?
“My biggest tip is that it’s not as scary as people make it out to be. I feel like a lot of couples walk in thinking it’s going to be a really stressful experience, and they’re going to walk out spending $3,000, so just knowing that you can come in and have no idea what you want, or what you’re looking for and we can walk you through it. Another thing is, online is really great, but you always want to make sure you know what paper quality you’re getting. Sometimes you’ll see something that looks great on the computer, but when you get it, it’s actually this thin, little, floppy piece of paper. So even if you do want to take the online route, at least go to an art store to see what kind of paper you’re actually purchasing.”
What is the typical process for ordering invitations?
“All of our consultations are complimentary, so couples will come in, we sit down with them, hear their story, figure out if they have any ideas, we show them samples, and make sure we hear their love story and figure out how they want to include that in their invitations. From there, they will look through books for inspiration and once they find something, we then go in depth about paper, paper thickness, fonts, things like that. Really, the first consultation is for ideas. After the first consultation, we email them a quote with a very detailed breakdown of everything we talked about. After they approve their quote, they can either come back or we can work via email or on the phone to go over wording, the initial setup of what they want on their invitation, and we guide them through that process as well. After that, once that’s approved, we go into proofing, where we email them a proof, from either the vendor they’re working with or through us, once that’s approved, they pay their bill, and it gets sent to print!
After that, we can also stamp, seal and mail it for them. We can do the guest addressing and return addressing as well. So really, when they first come in, they don’t need to come back, we can just take care of the entire thing, and then it’s off their checklist.”
How has the work you do changed with the trends?
“I would definitely say our illustrated maps are the biggest trend right now; being able to tell the custom story, having that experience for their guests when they open their invitation. We’re seeing a lot of couples moving away from the classic wedding sort of look with the really thick card and the engraving. A lot of people now are looking for more of the modern, they’re looking for de-boss or embossing, and a lot of cotton papers, which I really love because then it’s not plant based, it’s a little bit better. One thing I have been noticing is a lot of our vendors are becoming more eco-conscious. So a lot of my favorite vendors are wind-powered, they’re working with bamboo and cotton fibers instead of doing paper.”
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
“I would say the creative process with the couple and seeing the end result, and the look of relieve on the customer’s faces. We’re one of the first people couples start working with, so when we start they’re kind of still figuring it out and we get to follow them through the whole planning process.”
What are some things you like to do in your free time?
“A lot of the times you’ll find me outside walking my dog, since it’s now spring you’ll find me getting my garden together. I also love baseball; me and my boyfriend go to a lot of twins games, and in the winter we go to a lot of hockey games. Working on my own art, too. I still do my illustrations on the side.”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to get into this industry, what would it be?
“Make connections. The biggest thing that got me where I am today was meeting people, getting out there and showing people that you are really passionate and really interested. People help people. This industry is really large, and everyone helps each other.”
If you’re searching for wedding invitations or stationery, check out the website of Epitome Papers here. Evelyn and her team will do a tremendous job, and leave you feeling relaxed and stress-free about your wedding invitations!