The heart of Harvard square: Bob Slate

“Bob Slate Stationer is a magnet for Harvard students–and college students in general. After all, Boston is crammed to the gills with colleges and universities.”

It’s been called, “the miracle on Brattle Street”…

Harvard Square pen and stationary lovers had reason to celebrate one morning in autumn 2011, when Bob Slate Stationer returned to Cambridge under new ownership. The iconic Cambridge institution left the area in March 2011 when co-owners Mallory and Justin Slate closed the three Cambridge Locations.Their father, Bob had opened the store in the 1930s to supply the paper needs of Cambridge residents, Harvard students and faculty. With declining sales as a consequence of both the tech age and big box stores and their own advancing ages, the brothers held a giant inventory sale. Soon the doors to Bob Slate locations were about to be shut for good, when in walked Laura Donahue, a self-described “pen addict”. “I was horrified to find the store closing,” she said. “I thought to myself that we just can’t let this one go.” Surrounded by devastated patrons like herself, she marched to the back of the store, to inquire about purchasing it.


Donahue was first introduced to the store in 1981, when she was a freshman at Harvard. “It was like a treasure hunt every time I was there,” Laura said. “This place became my Cheers; a place where I went to feel good, enjoying pretty things and friendly service.”


Now 20 years later she stood, pen in hand, signing the papers to buy Bob Slate. She reopened the store at 30 Brattle St. “I’m deeply honored that the Slate family has entrusted their name to me”.


To keep customer service top-notch, Donohue has rehired five former staffers, including a 28-year veteran. Coupled with new staff, who bring in fresh ideas to keep the product lines current….it’s an unbeatable combination. Together they bring expertise to design, sourcing, and technical which helps consumers understand the different ink and paper types which when combined give the perfect “look”.

Of course their product selection is a huge draw:distinctive wraps , elegant stationery, fine writing instruments, journals sourced locally and from around the world, elegant engraved papers, delicate letterpress and vibrant watercolors, blank and greeted cards and earth friendly products. Rossi transitions well into almost all of these categories.


Of course being in a college city, journals and writing notebooks are a big draw; ”Based in the heart of Harvard Square, we have a real writing-oriented audience, so the journals sell quite well. Anything with the marbled or Florentine prints sell very quickly, with the letterpress prints becoming new favorites.


The store is quite festive right now with their beautiful display of Rossi boxed Christmas notes and cards near the front window where one can gaze out into Harvard square. In addition there is a vivid display of letterpress and seasonal decorative papers. “The Rossi individual sheets of gift wrap are seen as a real treat for customers at the holidays — many love to complete a favored gift with the hand-marbled prints”, states Laura.

slate cardsThis time of year can be quite challenging for a busy retailer.” The holidays present a host of challenges, from betting on which styles will be successful in a given year, to estimating quantities and volumes, to finding creative ways to utilize space in the store to present the additional merchandise to its best advantage, to maintaining staffing levels with the appropriate expertise to answer technical product questions. It is very tiring but also exhilarating to hear the customers rave about our excellent product selection.”

“We hear from customers that they are desperate to find quality & style, and don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two to have paper worth writing on. Our customers are constantly sneaking open the stationery boxes to feel the paper inside, and are very clear about their preferences for quality paper. Rossi provides us a great offering to customers. Thankfully, Rossi is maintaining its standards unlike some other small vendors who feel compelled to compromise their quality to meet the demands of the big box stores.

Is she still happy she happy she bought the store? ” Buying this store has absolutely been the right decision for me. It is an iconic brand that stands for quality and distinctive products and quirky individuality! — I hope that I can do it and the family justice.

·         30 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-1230

The Write Touch, the art of civilized communication.

The Write Touch is eager to share their love of paper. Their incredible shop in the San Marco section of Jacksonville, Florida, is a paper gourmet’s dream. The shelves are full of refined and whimsical boxed notes and offer an eclectic mix of stationery, custom invitations, leather goods, gifts and accessories. For more than thirty years, the store has been the consummate resource for the art of civilized communication.

In 2007, when customer, Carolyn Hawthorne learned the shop was for sale, she was instantly smitten.

After extensive renovations, Carolyn reopened the store with Tucker, her now fourteen-year-old Golden Retriever, by her side. In 2011, Golden puppy Nicholas joined the family. The boys have been featured in the majority of advertising campaigns for the shop and are dear friends of many customers.  You will find them lounging near the front door waiting for a friendly pat hello.

With career experience in journalism, specialty retail and fine art, Carolyn came to The Write Touch with an eye for quality and design. Carefully curating her collection of goods, she buys from artisans around the globe as well as pieces made in the USA.

Carolyn and her staff, including delightful and talented manager, Rebekah (who actually made a full size bridal gown in their front window from wedding invitations!) both love the quality and designs of Rossi. They offer custom printing and monogramming on any paper purchased in the store. Once the selection has been made and the desired information shared, they will promptly provide proofs featuring a variety of typestyle and ink options. 

The Write Touch, 904-398-2009

1967 San Marco Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32207

Celebrating the written word: Jules Besch, the charm of Wellfleet

It’s autumn in the US…..a time of apple cider and big orange pumpkins. Nowhere is there a lovelier place to be this time of year than Cape Cod. Warm dry days and sweater-cool nights. This is the place one dreams of when it’s Indian summer.

In Wellfleet, a small coastal town about halfway down “the Cape” and about 100 miles south of Boston, is Jules Besch Stationers. This is certainly not the ubiquitous stationery shop: The New York Times travel section says about Jules Besch, this wonderful shop “brings back the art of elegance and extreme good taste with an extraordinary collection of cards, fine stationery, journals, papers, and pens. Proprietor Michael Tuck’s warm and welcoming nature is as beautiful as his products. “

And that bring us to Michael……Michael owns, stocks, and runs this treasure, and has done so for the past 18 years. In this day of Twitter and recession, that is a miracle in itself. “The right people have found me,” he says to explain such longevity; quite the humble and kind man. Indeed they have, as the shop enjoys a dedicated customer base. This out-of-the-way shop, charmingly housed in a beautifully preserved Victorian,is graced by rich mahogany woodwork and high ceilings. Rarely does one find such a superb gallery stocked with beautiful writing paper, unique and classic cards, tasteful bookplates as well as inkwells and bookends from an era of elegance. Not to mention a gorgeous artistic display of writing journals….


Shops like this are more prevalent in Europe. ”I love the challenge of keeping up with European import choices,” he chortles. One such favorite is of course Rossi 1931. He stocks  a great deal of the products: Rolled wrap, notebooks, both soft and hard cover, writing paper, boxed notes, file folders and boxed classical Italian paper. “Rossi is just a lovely company,” he softly states. “The pricing is phenomenal, the gift wrap with the highlighted gilding is so remarkable, including the holiday paper. I love the fact that the boxed notes are in 12’s.” But his top seller in the line? “File folders. Oh my, I can’t keep them in stock. They fly out.”   

decorative file holders Rossi

He knows his products, has an impeccable sense of color and style, offers full calligraphy services and one would be hard pressed to think of any store that rivals the elegance of Jules Besch Stationer. “Oh this little slice of heaven is a writer’s delight.”


Michael Tuck


15 Bank St.


Phone (508) 349 1231

May the force be with you. (The sales force, that is.)

The expression, “it takes a village “, not only applies to raising children, but getting a product such as Rossi Fine Papers into the hands of the consumer, as well. This village happens to be scattered from Italy across continents, but nonetheless, not unlike a close knit community. Rossi sales representatives are an integral part of getting those gorgeous products from their printing dept to the retailer and ultimately to the consumer.


What a lot of people don’t know is how it’s done!