When two sisters run a type shop

Greenwich Letterpress carries handmade items, international paper products and wonderful vintage goodies

Topics: Imprint, Design,

When two sisters run a type shop
This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintIt is way too easy to spend money at Greenwich Letterpress. Without fail, I manage to leave with some extremely necessary item each time I visit the sunny West Village shop ― a journal, some letterpress greeting cards, or maybe a book plate ― you know, life’s staples.

I am a girl on a tight budget these days, so I’ve had to resist this year’s batch of holiday cards (bah humbug) in favor of last year’s leftovers ― assuming I can find them under my bed. And I haven’t quite rationalized picking up the lovely datebook I’ve decided I absolutely need for 2012. I’m still trying to convince myself that any of the six or seven notebooks I’ve purchased from the shop over the last year will suffice for someone lacking in notable appointments beyond therapy and the dentist.

Sisters Amy Swanson and Beth Salvini opened Greenwich Letterpress in 2006, as a a brick and mortar space for all of the fabulous DIY merchandise they saw online. “It was when Etsy was still in the early stages, and everything on there was really well made,” says Beth, the shop’s buyer.

“In the beginning, a lot of crafters were riding the line between hobby and wholesale,” Beth continues, “and we were lucky to carry some great people when they were still in their early phases. So many of them are huge now ― it’s really a testament to the handmade boom people have embraced, which I think is what continues to bring people into our shop.” Beth also scouted the crafts fairs, where she found it relatively easy to unearth more handmade goodness.

Products from Hammerpress, a letterpress studio in Kansas City, Mo., count among my favorites, and Beth and Amy’s shop is one of the few places in NYC where you can pick up a copy of Janine Vangool’s tasty Uppercase magazine. Merchandise from Snow & Graham, Yellow Owl Workshop, Set Editions and Pie Bird Press has been popular at Greenwich Letterpress over the last six years, as well.



In addition to handmade items, the shop now carries paper products from Japan and Korea, as well as some pretty wonderful vintage goodies. I am the proverbial kid in the candy store when I park my bike at the shop. I want it all.

Amy designs much of the store’s in-house brand items, and is mostly self-taught, though she did take some graphic design classes post-college. Beth comes from the fine art world, and also contributes to the mix on top of her responsibilities as buyer. Their products have a wry edge to them, which always works for me. I now have fancy letterpress thank you cards with engravings that read, ”Sike” and ”Mad Props,” and a set of “Teenage Power Couple” pencils.

Amy and Beth have letterpress printing in the gene pool, their grandfather having run a printing company in New Jersey that their dad later took over (there’s even an uncle who owned a letterpress studio). Why didn’t I grow up in Jersey, where apparently all families have presses?

Sometimes when I’m at Greenwich Letterpress, I fantasize about what it would be like to run a small business like Amy and Beth’s with my sister, Gerry. Of course, Gerry would have to move her family from Pennsylvania since I have a parking space in my West Village building and will only move when the undertaker comes to get me.

“Working with my sister is pretty wonderful,” says Beth. “It’s great when we need fresh eyes on a situation. If I get burnt out with merchandising the shop, Amy will look around and make suggestions. If Amy is struggling with a design, she’s happy to let me chime in. There is mutual respect and the kind of confidence that comes with siblings as close as we are.”

My sister, on the other hand, said that we’d both have to take assertiveness training courses (so true). And she has decided that we would adopt a pleasant but aloof shop kitty named Jingles who would sleep on his own perch in our store window. I’m all for the cat, but there will be no “Jingles.” My brother-in-law predicts a special section for curly hair products―and my niece is disappointed that they aren’t actually moving to NYC to open a store. A girl can dream…

Greenwich Letterpress
39 Christopher Street
New York, NY 10014

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

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