C California Style

Heidelberg letterpresses. PHOTO: Scott Clark.
Jamie Grobecker, Chelsea Shukov.
Notesets, $16/6. PHOTO: Diana Relth.
Sugar Paper's L.A. headquarters. PHOTO: Scott Clark.

Paper Trail

by intern

After a decade, Sugar Paper continues to impress with timeless designs.

In 2003, a pair of former debutantes and self-professed doers with a mutual deep-seated passion for thank-you notes set out with some healthy postgrad naïveté and a letterpress. Jamie Grobecker and Chelsea Shukov’s idea for bespoke stationery, Sugar Paper, would utilize traditional materials but swap thick, creamy card stock with stark white. Out of a tiny Century City shop and adding a Brentwood Country Mart outpost in 2005, the two produced seriously high-quality invitation suites that appealed to a younger, upscale clientele. The niche designs met demand for grocery lists on recycled craft paper and smart sentiments—catch-all “You’re Awesome,” or “Stay Positive, Stay Strong” (notes for cancer patients, instead of sympathy cards). “We believe form follows function,” says Shukov.

While also wholesaling to 800 retailers globally, they’ve seen overall sales grow 61% over the past five years. That’s not because the profit margin on a $6 card is high. The arcane process requires many hands for typesetting, testing and mixing Pantone hues, inking, heated foiling, feeding paper, lining envelopes. The only corners being cut are on the scalloped notesets, even as they expand: This month, a collection of hand-lettered cards and coasters in a range of pale pinks, charcoal, gold and cream will launch with J.Crew. They’ve collaborated with Mark and Graham on the monogram
company’s stationery debut. And for an eight-week run with Target of color-block paper datebooks, Shukov explains, they maximized the look: “It’s not a letterpress wannabe. You’re not going to letterpress a datebook, so we can bring the style to [Target’s] price point.”

To accommodate this growth, a dreamy open-air printing studio in West L.A. houses four letterpresses. In this world of slipper chairs, linen pinboards and campaign hardware, office supplies are off-the-charts chic. “Our products are not something Jamie and I create on a whim,” adds Shukov of correspondence cards in the lightest ethereal pink and bold, black-and-white-striped journals. “We really use what we create.” sugarpaper.com.

Written by Alison Clare Steingold