Old Town’s Penny Post is inspired by the art of personal correspondence and the power of the written word—two ideas that mean just a little bit more now in the age of COVID. The stationery and paper store’s “About” section writes: “Penny Post reconnects us to what matters most: each other.” And what is the safest way to communicate during this ongoing pandemic? By writing letters and sending greeting cards to each other!
Penny Post’s owner Amy Rutherford said that the shop has seen card sales skyrocket since the pandemic began. The store launched a brand-new website last week with cards, stationery, and boxed sets, office essentials, pens, and more.
“Folks are trying to stay as connected as possible,” Rutherford said. “It shows you’ve gone the extra mile when you write a letter or send a card; I think we really needed that extra touch during COVID.”
Rutherford is no stranger to the Old Town neighborhood. She has owned Red Barn Mercantile since 2007. The shop began on a side street and in 2012, moved to its current address at 1117 King St. When Red Barn moved, they began to introduce paper goods.
“We continued to grow and grow and saw there was a market for them, particularly among digital native people; it’s new, interesting, and novel to write when you’re always texting,” Rutherford said.
Even though there were two other national chains in Old Town selling paper goods, Rutherford pursued small makers who were doing clever and interesting work. Penny Post opened in 2017, 10 years and 10 days from the opening of Red Barn Mercantile. Despite only being four years old, Rutherford is grateful for the community’s support, especially during the last year-and-a-half.
“We’re seriously good paper for serious paper people,” Rutherford said. “We’re for people who really love the art form and we try to cater to them.”
The shop’s about section on their website definitely fosters a sense of community. Every staff member gets a little “get to know me” section. Rutherford’s lets customers know she’s a former Air Force brat, prefers pencils to pens, loves the movie Sleepless in Seattle, and her bucket list travel destination is Maine. Her favorite product is Penny Post’s Blackwing Matte Pencil Set.
Their website redesign was to hope to reach farther out on the web and the DMV and Northern Virginia areas. “We’re very open to growth,” Rutherford added.
If you’re wondering where the name “Penny Post” comes from, it’s based on the first postal service in Great Britain, which cost a penny per letter.
As far as products that she loves, Rutherford stalled a bit, saying it was like asking her to choose her favorite child. She named Sapling Press as “funny and always nailing it right on the head.” There’s also Little Goat, a local favorite out of Arlington, and two new lines of fountain pens that Rutherford was excited to share.
Penny Post also carries traveler’s journals and 2022 planners are now in stock.
“We also hope to increase our selection of custom wedding stationery and start doing our own proprietary products,” Rutherford said. “We wanted to spend 2021 getting our feet back underneath us and are looking forward to 2022.”
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