Reconfigure or begin again? That was the query for 37 year old Elizabeth Upchurch who answers that question this week with a fresh home for her business, Fresh Ink. The specialty invitation/paper/gift shop is relocating to the second floor of Banner Hall after nearly eight years in Highland Village.
When the Hallmark Store closed there in 2005, Upchurch says she thought it was insane. “There was no stationery store left,” she remembers thinking. With a background in women’s retail and extensive experience with wholesale sales in gift and stationery lines, Upchurch took the plunge. Opening on May 5, 2005, she says it was all her. “Me, myself and I – and pregnant. I spent many Saturdays in that store by myself.”
Moving Fresh Ink eight years later, Upchurch says, made sense. Nearing the end of her lease at Highland Village, she rethought her focus. “What we love is paper and design,” she says. “We wanted to focus more on that and have our designers be more hands on with customers.”
Graphic artists help to hone customer ideas and provide a personal service clients have come to expect. “Our biggest competition is the internet,” Upchurch says. “We try to give customer service they can’t get online. If it’s something they have seen, we let them work one on one with a designer at their fingertips. Hands-on is usually so much better than what you can figure out on a website.”
Upchurch, a Corinth native who has called Jackson home for ten years, says her business gives her a familiar feeling. “It’s so much fun and crazy how that has embedded me personally in the community I didn’t grow up in,” she explains. She gets an up close and personal view of customers’ lives and the changes they face. “It starts with graduation gifts and then wedding and baby shower invites. It’s been amazing to feel connected that way.”
Among Fresh Ink’s paper lines, you’ll find names like Crane and William Arthur. Look for Smock and Bella Figura, two letterpress lines Upchurch is proud to carry. She also mentions Sugar Paper and Breathless Paper.
Fine papers and cards, she feels, are something of a lost art. “When I go in Kate’s Papery in New York City and see a wall of greeting cards, I ask, ‘Where is that here?,” she questions. “There is a difference in a letterpress card versus one from the big box drug store.” With so much coming in via email these days, she calls paper cards a tactile thing to receive. “They didn’t spend 99 cents, but instead spent $4 to give you this beautiful thing.”
Fresh Ink will still feature a well-curated selection of gifts. “They need quick, cute and different,” she says of customer’s desires. “A lot of our friends shop for each other here, so we stay on top of our inventory.” The shop carries Rewined and Seda France Candles, bath and body products by Lollia and Scout beach bags. “We’re really picky.”
Upchurch feels her selection rises a cut above. “(Like a lot of our customers), if I have to pay a bit more, it’s fine as long as it will last,” she explains. “There comes a time when you need something really special.”
The time at Highland Village, Upchruch says, was “awesome,” but she cites the Banner Hall location as strategic. “With so much wedding work, being next to Bridal Path and Tuxes Too was a no-brainer.”
Upchurch credits Fresh Ink’s success to the savvy acceptance of what email marketing can do for a business. “We really capitalized on that and built a customer base before any one else did,” she explains. It didn’t hurt, either, to have wholesale experience, giving her the chance to see what else was out there. “I would go to New York, Dallas and Los Angeles and see the trends.” Upchurch has two full time designers on staff and a handful of part time associates while she still works wholesale national accounts.
Beyond the tangibles, though, is the success Upchurch has created by realizing Fresh Ink is bigger than just her. “(The store) has its own reputation now,” she explains. In recounting past moments, she laughs at one she experienced in advising a customer. “I was helping with an invitation. Lynn McArthur, who does a fabulous job and has been here since day one…the customer asked me to get Lynn’s opinion. I laugh and think ‘I just own the place, but sure, we’ll ask Lynn.’ It makes me proud to know it’s more than me.”
Fresh Ink is open by appointment today (Tuesday, February 5), but will be open to the public Wednesday, February 6. Regular hours will be Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm and Saturdays by appointment for custom work. Upchurch says the only thing they’re trying to change is to encourage people to make appointments. “We’ve found it makes the process smoother if we know what you’re coming for. We want to give folks the experience they’ve come to expect,” she says.
And if you are looking for the space’s former occupant, Elle Bee Interiors has kept her third floor space just above.