Sarah B.

x
Photo by Eric Tadsen

Madison’s only full-service stationery and gift boutique, Sarah B. is one seriously fun shop. Tucked in a quaint two-story building on Monroe Street, Sarah B. offers stationery, luxury gifts, gift wrapping services, and home and entertaining goods. But the fun and whimsy does not stop there. Christmas may be over, but this family-run boutique continues to offer a constantly rotating selection of seasonal décor, cards, and gifts for every holiday.

Named after the store’s original owner, Sarah B. (formerly Sarah B. Fine Stationery), is now run by nurse-turned-shop owner, Jan Corradini. A Madison native, Jan purchased the store in 2003 from the second owner’s family. “We excitedly took the business over, then grew it, grew it, grew it, and had lots of fun before the economy tanked,” she says. Suffering financial hardship, Sarah B. decided to shut its doors at Hilldale Mall and closed for two years. “But we never really let go of it.”

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Attracted to the Monroe Street area’s supportive community and location, they reopened in May 2013 at their current address. “Even during the hard times, I’ve really enjoyed the entrepreneur life. And the best part is that we get to work together,” says Jan, shooting a coy smile over at Renee Jackson, Sarah B.’s Store Manager, before quickly adding, “Renee’s my daughter.” This family business would not be complete without also giving a well-deserved mention to Katie, the shop’s furry and friendly dog greeter, as well as Carla, their full-time associate.

While Sarah B. offers a wide variety of gifts and products in-store, a large portion of their business is custom stationery—including custom wedding stationery. From invitations to save-the-date cards to guestbooks, programs, and more, Sarah B. works directly with couples to help them navigate and choose from the seemingly endless number of wedding paper options. “Many clients come into our store completely overwhelmed by the amount of wedding options online and frustrated with the difficulty of the process,” says Renee. “We give them a starting point to start narrowing down their options. It all starts with one question: what do you want your wedding to look like?” Sarah B. works with a trusted, curated list of paper companies—ranging from a mid-to-high price point—that offer customized stationery options. From there, Sarah B. partners with clients to put together an entire wedding package—helping make decisions on everything from color palettes to font choices to invitation wording.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

With an in-house printer, Sarah B. has the unique ability to print some invitations, and monogrammed and personalized gifts on the spot. Brides and grooms (along with all the rest of us procrastinators) who find themselves teetering dangerously close to deadlines will be delighted to know the staff at Sarah B. happily helps out those in need of more immediate assistance. Wedding consultation requests are by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead of time.

Even with their keen attention to detail and one-on-one customer service, Sarah B. is still finding it difficult to compete with the democratization of selling online. “The Internet and sites like Etsy are killing us,” says Jan. And they are not the only ones. Retailers were hit hard during the financial crisis and recession, but more than five years into the recovery, shopping foot traffic still has not bounced back. In fact, it has gotten worse. According to ShopperTrak, an in-store analytics company that tracks visits at malls and retailers across the country, retailers only received half the holiday traffic in 2013 as they did just three years earlier. However, Jan and Renee maintain that while many people—especially younger women—flock to sites like Etsy and Minted for their stationery needs, there is a downside to the trend. One of their recent customers was a bride who, after ordering her save-the-date cards online, was actually delivered save-the-date magnets. Panicked, she came to Sarah B., and they were able to order her exactly what she wanted. “While you can find a lot of great things online, there’s no face-to-face interaction or sometimes, even a phone number you can call. We offer the personal service you can’t get online,” affirms Renee.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Their attention to detail is what sets them apart. Everything in Sarah B. is hand picked, and their staff is always on the hunt for new and unique items. They enjoy constantly updating their selection of products and displays—especially for the variety of needs for their loyal group of returning customers. “Because we offer custom stationery, we do custom work for everything—Mitzvahs, funerals, and so much more,” says Jan. In addition to attending the National Stationery Show—a mecca for paper and design lovers held every spring in New York City—they also attend many gift shows. “When we attend stationery shows, it’s easy to see what products look like, how they feel, and if we like them,” states Jan. “It’s also nice to personally connect with the vendors we buy from.”

With the busy holiday season behind them, Sarah B. is looking forward to jumping into wedding season, and continuing on into the spring with graduations, and a whole host of other reasons to throw parties. Open Monday through Saturday, Sarah B. is eager to help anyone looking for a little fun and whimsy. “We offer what we think is the best product and best service. If something’s wrong, we’ll fix it,” states Jan. “It all comes back to the human touch and service that you cannot get online.”

Holly Whittlef is a freelance designer and writer who lives in Madison, and blogs about her love of good design and food at Hollis Anne.

Sarah B.
2501 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 233-2501 • sarahbgirls.com
facebook.com/SarahBGirls