January 25, 2013 • Regina Molaro
In True Color
Truly chic. Truly fun. Truly fabulous! There’s a vibrant scene swirling around at Troolie — a most colorful stationery and gift shop in Concordia, Ore., that aims to make the ordinary a bit more fun. Founded by “lifelong letter writer, thank-you-note giver and paper lover,” Kate Fulford, the shop’s name was inspired by both the word ‘truly’ and the art of writing letters.
“I thought about the ways people sign letters, and ‘Yours Truly’ really resonated with me. I also liked that if something is ‘truly’ then it’s the epitome,” observed Fulford.
Fulford added her own twist by spelling the word out phonetically due to a love of double oo’s. In fact, prior to opening Troolie in the Portland area in March 2012, Fulford was based in San Francisco where she owned “ooma,” a women’s boutique. Retail is certainly a forte for Fulford, who worked in the graphic design/marketing industry before segueing into retail.
“Two kids later, I was ready to open my newest venture in Portland — combining my project manager and retail knowledge with my love of stationery, party goods and lovely gifts,” Fulford described.
Located near the artsy Alberta Arts District, Troolie occupies just 900 square feet of space. Affordable and trendy, this section of the Portland area has enticed quite a few letterpress designers — and Troolie works with several of them.
“People always ask me if all of my cards are made locally. Heck no! Though we love supporting our local lovelies, amazing design can be found all over the world. We don’t discriminate based on geography,” Fulford noted.
Troolie’s vibrant interior is bright and colorful, chic and fun. Its modern décor boasts a black and white theme, part of Troolie’s signature look. Since the merchandise is very colorful, Fulford opted for a simple palette with just a few pops of color and vintage gold glamour accents.
“We have a fun yet sophisticated vibe, and our product selection and décor reflect that. It is mid-century meets Hollywood regency with a touch of whimsy,” she explained.
Exciting displays spotlight the shop’s favorite items, which hang on boards and sit on tabletops. The displays often feature paper “yum yums” such as replica pinwheels and pom poms, which usher in a festive vibe. The shop draws people who truly appreciate top-rate design and relish in showing their appreciation through the written word.
A clean, modern aesthetic certainly dominates the cozy space. Whether it’s a snappy, striped set of party napkins, a gold foil message on an eye-popping pink card or the polka-dotted and striped packaging that embellishes Paper Eskimo candles, Troolie’s collection is driven by color and stellar design.
Since the charming shop is nestled in a small neighborhood, Fulford believes it’s important to provide variety and many reasons to shop. Beyond striving to offer premium cards and stationery, and mix it with locally made merchandise, a small apparel/accessories space also lures fashionistas. Gifts encompass scented candles, cake plates and photo frames, as well as jewelry and scarves. Other carefully curated items include iPhone covers, books and even locally made superhero masks.
Within the paper category, Troolie offers clever, modern greeting cards, a variety of decorative giftwrap items, including twine and Washi Tape, as well as boxed note cards, notepads, pens, calendars and pretty party supplies. At press time top selling items were glam iPhone covers, super hero mask and wrist band sets for kids from BabyDear and Sapling Press’ “Dear Blank” cards.
Troolie caters to brides-to-be via its Green Room,” a chic bridal lounge. The posh space features a range of modern albums from 10 carefully selected designers. They represent a wide variety of design aesthetics at a range of price points. To maintain a truly diverse offering Fulford scouts out albums that can’t easily be found elsewhere.
Fulford first garnered personal insight into wedding invitations when she was seeking invitations for her own wedding a few years ago. This design aficionado quickly realized that some of the traditional albums were a bit dull and too traditional for her taste preferences.
“I think the invitation business has changed within the last five years. There are smaller, independent designers who traditionally worked on custom suites directly with brides. They’ve created their first albums to sell through retail,” revealed Fulford, adding that these efforts result in a greater focus on graphic elements that enable couples to tell their personal stories.
Business as Troolie Pleasure
Since Troolie is new, it must continually create buzz and lure new clientele. Marketing and promotions are key for the shop, which hosts a variety of promotions. “We’ve only been open five months, so we’re just starting to plan our marketing calendar. We’re excited to host events for brides, as well as giftwrap tutorials, and will continually provide enticing specials,” said Fulford.
For the past few months, Troolie has been offering a “Treasure of the Week” at 25 percent off. The selected item is highlighted on Troolie’s website and Facebook page. Troolie also hosts festive celebrations. Recently, the shop opened up on a Monday evening — a time when Troolie is typically closed — for a block party. “It was a great way to meet people who can’t make it to the shop during normal business hours,” recalled Fulford.
For the holidays, Troolie’s staff will help organize a “progressive party” and a personalization event with Graphic Image, enabling customers to order journals and planners with complimentary personalization. Other amenities include giftwrapping, assisting clients in sourcing coveted gift items and the design and customization of nearly any imaginable paper product.
Of course, a personal touch and superior customer service is paramount too. Fulford truly enjoys engaging and interacting with her clients, and it shows. She said that Troolie is still growing and has experienced relatively steady sales — even in a challenging economy. Truly fabulous!
Quick Q&A: Kate Fulford
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. Thick cotton paper with a simple gold foil element and edge painting. It may as well be luxurious!
Q. With new stationery designers cropping up daily, how do you recognize the talented entrepreneurs among the hobbyists?
A. My years working in the graphic design field have given me an eye for good design and that is what really matters to me. It doesn’t matter how large or small the designer is — as long as the line provides a feeling of quality and is rooted in amazing design.
Q. What are your three top-selling stationery vendors?
A. Sapling Press, Curly Girl Design and Night Owl Paper Goods.
Q. What have you learned about running a stationery business that’s surprised you?
A. Because I’ve only been open for six months, everything has been a learning experience! I am surprised that more brides have not yet discovered our bridal lounge and it’s my challenge and focus to remedy that for the next six months.
Q. If you were a stationery product, what would you be?
A. A hot pink card with a very dramatic font in gold foil. The inside message would be whimsically snarky.
Q. What is the best buy under $50?
A. Smock letterpressed notepads, $8.
Q. What is the best splurge item?
A. Appetite’s Pendleton and leather messenger bag, $110.
— (email the editor about this article)