BRADENTON -- For Paper Panache, the clicks have knocked down the bricks.
The custom stationery and gift store in the Pebble Springs Plaza, 5917 Manatee Ave. W., is having a going-out-of-business sale, expecting to close Saturday. The last hurrah isn't without a personal note on Nancy Stephens' door about the store's online woes.
"The ever-increasing number of online shopping options continues to attract more and more of our local retail dollars," the note reads. "This ongoing revenue dilution has reached a tipping point for me. The point where the cost of remaining unique and relevant as a brick and mortar store outweighs my need to maintain my sanity, health and happiness."
She's offering 70 percent off everything in the store if paid with cash, and will remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of the week. Fixtures are also for sale.
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Inside her shop Monday, Stephens said that after noticing lackluster Christmas sales, she had a feeling this might be the end after five years in Bradenton. The shop, one of the only places to order custom invitations in Manatee County, saw its graduation announcements orders slip from about 25 orders down to five this year. Technology succeeded here for taking the personalization out of all things, personalized.
"I started out because how could you possibly order a wedding invitation online without touching it or feeling it?" Stephens said. "That served me well for my first couple of years, and really, the online thing has really taken over."
When Stephens started out on Cortez Road, she started out mainly doing printing and invitations, and grew her business to offer jewelry and gifts. That didn't work either, it appeared.
"More and more of my lines would market directly to my customers, and that just hurts the small retailer," she said.
Never the thought crossed her mind that she should become a Hallmark to move merchandise because Stephens wanted to offer top-quality items. Stephens wanted her store to be a place for locals, but they didn't seem to follow her to her Manatee Avenue store, and she admits it's tough seeing a stream of customers come in as she's closing.
"It's kind of bitter because it was like, 'Where were you?' But what can you do?" Stephens said. "It's the process that I have to go through."
Some high-end stationery and gift stores are thriving. Both Papyrus and Moleskine are coming to the two-level Mall at University Town Center when it opens Oct. 16. Lilly Pulitzer, which carries gift items in addition to clothing, will also be there.
Stephens maintains high respect for Papyrus and Moleskine, having carried lines of both products in her store. She said she would even like to work at Papyrus if she was offered a job.
"To the people where quality matters, they're going to find them," Stephens said.
Despite the hardships, she would do it again -- just in a better location.
"I don't regret doing it," Stephens said. "It was a dream of mine to open my own store, and I'm glad I did."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.