Friends of TPFC: Paper Passion
LISTEN TO PAPER TALK - EPISODE 18: Paper Passion with Heather Sauer
This week, we talk to Heather Sauer, the owner and operator of The Paper Place located in downtown Toronto, Canada. Being one of the few brick-and-mortar paper stores in Canada, Heather’s store carries a vast array of paper products, from crepe paper to Japanese washi paper, Rifle paper goods and kits, to birthday cards and origami products. Everything you see in the store is a feast for the eyes! In fact, Jessie’s paper flower journey started here four years ago when she bought her first fine crepe papers, and soon thereafter, she began teaching crepe paper flower workshops at the store.
The Paper Place generously sponsored our German double-sided crepe paper for our 2-Day Paper Flower Workshop in Toronto in September.
Listen to Heather as we talk to her about how she got started selling paper, her entrepreneurial journey, and the challenges of operating a brick-and-mortar paper store.
1. Who is Heather Sauer?
I am an artist, the mother of two incredible girls and an entrepreneur with two retail shops on Queen St. West in Toronto, The Paper Place and Curiosa.
2. Tell us a little bit about your educational and entrepreenurial background. How did you become the owner of The Paper Place?
I went to school for Archaeology & Museum Management. When I moved to Toronto I started working at The Japanese Paper Place and eventually, with my former business partner, purchased the business back in 2005. The Japanese Paper Place continued on in a wholesale capacity after that so we changed the name of the shop to The Paper Place. My business partner left in 2009 and I have run it ever since.
3. Tell us about your business, The Paper Place. What do you sell, where are you located, how long you've been in business etc.
We are located in the art & design district of Queen St. West and have been operating as The Paper Place since 2005. We have a vast and eclectic product offering but specialize in paper, with over 2000 available at the shop. Beyond paper we also carry a variety of art & craft supplies, greeting cards and stationery, party supplies, gifts and journals and so much more.
4. When did you start selling crepe paper? How did this come about?
We started carrying crepe paper in the shop back in 2013. A number of customers had been requesting it for several years as it was almost impossible to come by here in Canada. I had been trying to order it directly from Germany for quite some time, even going so far as to having a friend compose a fax for me in German, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. Fortunately in 2013 I met a supplier of German craft supplies who was just testing the waters bringing in crepe paper so I was thrilled to finally have access to bring it to the shop for our customers.
5. How has the paper business changed over the years?
We have definitely seen trends changing rapidly over the last few years in terms of what kinds of products our customer are looking for and also what they are using our papers to make. For instance, in our early days, the bulk of our business was people purchasing paper and envelopes to make wedding invitations, now that makes up a very small percentage of our business. Because of these changes, we are constantly adapting to what it is our customers are looking for now and trying to make sure that our product offering reflects what is new and exciting in the paper/stationery world.
6. What are some of the challenges you've faced in your business?
For us brick and mortar shops, there is a lot more competition from online stores who don’t have the overhead that retail storefronts do and/or larger companies who are able to negotiate discounts with suppliers and offer products at a lower price than we can. It is a huge challenge for us as we try to balance staying competitive with our pricing with making enough money to keep our doors open.
7. Who are your ideal clients?
Because of our extremely varied product offering, we don’t have a specific ideal client. Our first customer of the day may be looking for a greeting card, the next may be a conservator, then someone looking to make 100 paper flowers for their wedding, etc… It definitely makes our day interesting and inspiring because we get to work with so many different customers on such an amazing variety of projects.
8. What type of workshops does The Paper Place offer?
Our workshop offering in constantly changing as we try to anticipate what projects may interest our customers. Some of our most popular past ones include paper flowers, calligraphy, bookbinding and jewelry making!