By Alex Gallagher | December 16, 2021
For nearly 44 years, The Paper Place has been selling cards, invitations and myriad gift options.
The business started as the expansion of a Texas-based franchise in 1978 that Judy Hendricks thought would be a perfect fit in Scottsdale.
However, franchisors knew that running the business by herself would be difficult for Judy, so they approached Nancy Silver to help her mother out.
“When mom had this idea, the franchisors came to me and asked if I wanted to do this with my mom,” Silver says. “Then we had about a three-month conversation as to what could go wrong. I finally said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen so I might as well give it a shot.’”
Mom and daughter settled on an 800-square-foot space near 5th Avenue that they describe as “the artsy side” of Marshall Way.
The space operated as a franchise for about two years before the franchisors stepped away, leaving the space to Silver and her mom.
“The franchise was based in Texas, so it felt like we were the stepchild since we were in Arizona and that was why the franchise dissolved,” Silver says.
Together, the duo kept the shop going all throughout the 80’s, a time that Silver looks back on fondly.
“We would always leave everything at the store and, thankfully, mom and I hardly argued,” Silver says.
At the beginning of the ’90s, the two decided to expand their business by packing up the shop and moving to its current, larger space at 4130 N. Marshall Way, near Third Avenue, in 1992.
Not long after moving into the space, the staff grew when Silver’s younger sister, Betsy Hendricks, joined.
Less than two years later, however, Judy passed away in 1994 after a battle with cancer.
“It was nice during those two years or so because we had a tie breaker whenever we disagreed,” Betsy says with a laugh.
Since then, Nancy and Betsy have not just sold paper products and gifts but also have honored their mother’s legacy.
“Not every day but there are still some days where people will come in and talk about our mom and how great she was,” Hendricks says.
And so the sisters try to honor their mom by offering the same attentive care she gave customers.
“We’re very hands-on and we’ll walk around with a customer until they’re happy, Silver says. “The best example was back when we were up the street near the Elaine Horwitch gallery, Elaine told my mom that she had sold a $50,000 painting in 15 minutes — to which my mom replied that she had sold a $1.50 card in 45 minutes.
“It’s all about making the customer happy.”
Aside from offering stellar customer service, the sisters offer candy to customers — who also are often greeted by Hendricks’ shop dog, Oliver, that she adopted through Silver’s nonprofit, “Two Pups Wellness Fund.”
“When customers come in here it’s fun, friendly, our shop dog, Oliver, is running around and it’s a lot of happy chaos,” Silver says.
As the shop entered its fourth decade of business, Silver and Hendricks had figured they had seen just about everything.
Then the sisters experienced something that was new to just about everyone — a pandemic.
“Having to shut down the store and having events like weddings halted really shook our store,” Hendricks says.
After reopening, the two had to alter their business to conform to the digital age of retail, which Hendricks admits has been the biggest challenge.
“Over the past few months, people got more into online shopping which has been our biggest challenge,” Hendricks says. “We have an online store but it’s hard since we’re all about the physical experience.”
Additionally, The Paper Place predicates its business on event announcements.
When events like weddings and birthday parties were sidelined, the two were fearful for the future of their business.
Though the sisters have received pandemic relief aid, they are still feeling the effects of last year’s economic chaos.
“We were fortunate enough to get the PPP loans that got us through that but we’re still not out of this,” Hendricks says. “Now we’re starting to feel the effects of the issues of the supply chain. Companies that were once so reliable don’t answer their phones so we can check our orders and everything is harder.”
On top of that, the two fear the trend toward virtual communication as opposed to handwritten sentiments.
“Our business is predicated on sending invitations and writing letters but now people are sending emails and evites.” Hendricks says.
Hendricks and Silver are nonetheless optimistic about their business’ future — and keeping their mom’s legacy alive.
“We do hope for a good holiday season and we do have several wedding invitations heading out in 2022,” Hendricks says.