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Snail-mail season’s greetings find new life

Calliope Paperie opened in Natick just in time for the holiday season.LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF

At least one local business is banking on people wanting to send greeting cards this holiday season.

Marlborough resident Kristina Burkey recently opened Calliope Paperie, a greeting card and stationery store, a few blocks from Natick Town Common after several years of selling cards over the internet and at marketplaces in Boston and Cambridge.

Her store is stocked with handmade stationery goods, assorted gifts, and of course, a wall lined with greeting cards for every occasion — and some for when there isn’t one. She designs some of the cards herself, but prefers to stock her store with cards made by local artists and other small businesses.


Why does she think people like to shop for cards?

“Paper is a tactile product,” said Burkey, who opened her Natick store in June. “People want to feel the letter press or the embossed polka dots.”

Her store is part of a revival among small stationery stores around the region, including in Somerville and Hingham, as a new generation of customers discovers the simple joys of writing, addressing, stamping, and sending a special greeting card to someone they care about.

“The momentum for smaller companies has picked up over the years,” said Peter Doherty, executive director of the Greeting Card Association, a trade association founded in 1941 for publishers, suppliers, and distributors. “There are many more of them out there than the big guys.”

Doherty said about 95 percent of the association’s 200 members are small businesses.

At Calliope, Burkey said she doesn’t worry that web correspondence has reduced a need for paper and cards. She’s felt welcome in Natick, and is excited for her store’s first holiday season.

“Young people are keeping paper correspondence alive and well,” said Burkey, “and these are the people that are supposedly killing the industry. People who are making cards and keeping this alive are the people who were born in an age where paper correspondence was at a lull.”


Doherty said that revenue from millennial card sales are on track to out pace baby boomers this year, according to a study by American Greetings, a Greeting Card Association member.

Burkey credits companies like Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, and Instagram for supporting the industry. One search of #snailmail or #snailmailrevolution pulls up hundreds of thousands of results on Instagram by people excited to send letters or illustrated cards.

“Instagram is like my business development team,” said Burkey, who finds many of her vendors on the social media platform.

Burkey’s collection of handmade paper goods isn’t an outlier in Massachusetts.

Magpie in Somerville is another example. David Sakowski’s shop of homemade gifts has been open since 2004.

“I think we hit on something with the handmade movement in the past 10 years,” said Sakowski. “I think people are buying more cards. I feel like it’s definitely made a resurgence.”

Part of that resurgence, he says, is the type of cards that people are looking to buy. He describes his stock’s style as “modern, funny, irreverent, and more on the hipper style of cards.”

Burkey’s cards follow that trend. For the most part, they’re witty, sarcastic, and oftentimes sprinkled with curse words.

Originally, she was worried that this would alienate some of her new clientele in Natick, which has a lot more families.

“What I’m learning is that someone from Cambridge grows up, starts a family and moves to Natick,” said Burkey. And those people still want a card that says exactly what they are thinking and appreciate the boldness.


She also stocks cards that are also just “pretty and beautifully illustrated.”

“I think that’s what it kind of moved towards, high end cards,” said Sakowski. “I think people are willing to pay $4, $5, or $6 for a card. People expect their cards to look expensive and well-made now.”

RSVP, a card and gift shop in Hingham that specializes in wedding invitation design, is stocked with local products.

“Our customer base really appreciates that we source locally,” said Judy Varney, who owns the store. “They know they will find things they won’t find anywhere else.”

She has cards made specially for RSVP that say “Holiday Greetings from Hingham” and “Someone from Hingham Loves You.”

Her store, which opened in 2011, has been doing well. “We cannot keep cards on the shelf. If we had more space, we would sell more,” said Varney.

At Calliope Paperie, Burkey said she has been very encouraged so far.

“People come in and say this is exactly what Natick needs,” she said. “I’m optimistic about how the holidays will go.”

Burkey has many ideas for the future of Calliope. In the spring, she hopes to hold calligraphy classes. Snail Mail Day is another one of her ideas.

“You pick your card, sit down have snacks, write up a letter with a nice pen, and I’ll hand you a stamp and you can walk down the street to the mailbox when you’re done,” she said.


She said her favorite part is getting to take part in the personal exchange between two people.

“I would love for people to be like, ‘I wonder what’s going on at Calliope. Let’s go hang out and send cards.’”

Calliope Paperie, which Kristina Burkey recently opened in Natick, is part of a revival of stationery shops.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Debora Almeida can be reached at debora.almeida@globe.com.