July 24, 2015 • Regina Molaro
The Most Darling of Distractions
This enticing shop fuses vintage-style items with contemporary gifts and stationery
The day Karina Lopez opened her Portland, Oregon, gift and stationery boutique last February, a woman wandered in to make a flower delivery. With great admiration, she told Lopez that she instantly became distracted by all of the cute, colorful items inside.
“I get distracted by darling things, so I named the store Darling Distraction,” explained Lopez.
Lopez has always had an eye for design. As a child, she spent her allowance at local craft shops and thrift stores. Throughout the years, she’s collected everything from soaps to greeting cards and beyond. “I began to collect so many things that eventually I filled up an entire storage unit,” she recalled. “At that point, I questioned if I was crazy or could make something out of it all. That’s when I launched Darling Distraction.”
Prior to opening the store, Lopez, who originally hails from Napa, California, spent a decade in a compliance role within the wine industry, spending her leisure time designing promotional materials for wineries and local boutiques. She also sold her own greeting cards in an Etsy boutique.
Darling Distraction encompasses 700 square feet in the Alberta Arts District. “I fell in love with this space because it’s in my favorite neighborhood (with) lots of unique shops, great food and artists,” stated Lopez. “It also has an industrial look to it — very Portland-like.”
The mood inside is airy, colorful, bright and clean. An exotic banana-leaf pattern embellishing the back wall creates a tropical vibe. Although far from Florida, Lopez likes to imagine she’s surrounded by flamingos in Palm Beach. “I’m playful and creative,” she described. “I give each section of my store a theme, (pairing) vintage figurines with stationery to tell a story.”
Lopez is very honest with herself and her customers when curating her offerings. “I have a particular vision and I must feel very strong about a product to sell it,” she revealed. “I only sell (what) I would personally buy. A lot of (what) I sell I use at home.”
Lopez entices her clientele with decorative journals and notebooks, as well as desk pads, greeting cards and wrapping paper. She also offers an array of stylish pens and pencils, letter openers, distinct art prints, decorative garlands and flower kits. Vintage merchandise includes lots of brass items, such as a pineapple-themed clip holder and pineapple-themed bookends. The shop also offers fun tumblers, vintage Japanese animal figurines and more.
Prices range from $5 for wrapping paper, party decorations and some vintage figurines to $10 to $17 for notebooks, journals and desk pads. Art prints range from $15 to $60; apothecary and gift items from $14 to $35; and vintage figurines/home decor from $5 to $125.
Lopez creates a point of differentiation through artistic displays, décor and even the music she plays in the shop. Online, she offers additional innovative lures, like the Darling Box. For $30, clients can purchase a goodie box personally curated by Lopez every month. Tucked inside one might find greeting cards, thank-yous, gold-engraved pens or pencils, as well as coasters, gift tags, letter openers, swizzle sticks and colorful confetti.
Other amenities include complimentary shipping on online orders totaling $100 or more. Personalized monogram cards also create a point of interest for Darling Distraction’s design-savvy clientele. Lopez plans to hold special events like workshops on calligraphy, flower arrangements and other crafty activities about six times per year.
When it comes to promoting the business, social media initiatives go a long way. Clients who follow the shop on Instagram get instant access to information about fun giveaways. Fans who sign up for the shop’s newsletter are privy to promo discounts as well. Lopez uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to generate interest, and also entices gift and stationery enthusiasts at her blog.
“My most effective method of promotion is Instagram,” she observed, adding that she always tries to tell a story through her feed. “I began using Instagram well before the launch of my store to share my vintage finds and stationery purchases. I’ve built a good following of people who enjoy what I’m buying or finding. I’m seeing a great result in blogging as well. It takes time and effort, but it is well worth it.”
Although it’s only been a few months since Darling Distraction first opened, Lopez was happy that it’s already drawn a lot of repeat customers. “People have fallen in love with Darling Distraction,” Lopez finished. “I generate business by being creative and thinking outside-of-the-box. I constantly ponder new ways to draw people.”
Q. There are some things that are timeless—a little black dress or the perfect martini come to mind. What epitomizes “timeless” for you when it comes to stationery?
A. A Pineider Italian blank note card with a thick border-lined envelope.
Q. How do you differentiate talented stationery entrepreneurs among the hobbyists?
A. Having been a hobbyist myself, I know the amount of work it takes to make something look amazing. You need the right tools and design experience. It’s easy to spot the difference.
Q. What are your three top-selling vendors?
A. Rifle Paper Co., Meri Meri and Sugar Paper.
Q. What have you learned about running a stationery business that’s surprised you?
A. People always come in asking for postcards. I thought those were so over!
Q. If you were a stationery product, what would you be?
A. A pineapple-scented highlighter — is there such a thing?
Q. What is the best buy under $50?
A. A brass letter-opener with a fox design; $18.
Q. What is your best splurge?
A. An “Africa” print from Rifle Paper Co.; $60.