Meet Avalon Stationery and Gifts co-owner Sue Littleton, who opened her Houston shop with her daughter more than 25 years ago. Here, one of our favorite and longtime Crane & Co. retailers talks about owning a small business, her customers and the power of a particular postcard.
When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
When my daughter, Charlene, was small, her playtime adventures always centered around selling things. After graduating from Baylor University, a family friend asked Charlene what career path she would like to take. We had been fantasizing about having a store together and even called on several locations. Twenty-six years ago, we could not ever have imagined that we would get to work together and love the small business challenges, but our devotion has rewarded us beyond any goal we could have ever set for ourselves.
What’s the story behind your store’s name?
Our center was originally called Avalon Center, which is directly adjacent to the Avalon Addition, an old established neighborhood in Houston. We opened as Avalon Office Supply; our thinking was that our location would be readily identifiable to our neighbors. Soon we expanded into stationery and updated our name to Avalon Stationery and Gifts.
To whom do you most often write?
Thank you notes to customers for all of the many fabulous things they do for us. From letting us be a part of their wedding celebration, to gifts for helping the wedding event go smoothly, to sharing tickets to one of Houston’s many cultural events, we have much to be thankful about.
Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
My aunt sent postcards instead of letters. Her writing was absolutely beautiful. She could write a whole letter on the back of a postcard and you could read every beautiful word. I would stare at the letter trying to figure out how I could write like that.
Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
That extra-wide cherry blossom trees design was magnificent. The modern art stamp from several years ago — each time you put those stamps on your stationery, it had this wonderful painting as an added bonus.
What makes your correspondence distinct?
Every stationer should have a complete stationery wardrobe for each occasion, and ours are varied to inspire the recipient.
What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
Some of the monograms are truly works of art. When the Black Label album was out, it was so easy to flag ten or fifteen pieces of stationery that you would love to have. The round-cornered, gilded menu card speaks volumes about elegance in its simplicity. After visiting Crane’s and seeing exactly how the gilding process is painstakingly done, we walked away with an even greater appreciation for it.
What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
One of our very first wedding invitation orders with Crane’s, the mother of the groom brought in her grandmother’s Crane wedding invitation and wanted to match it exactly. This year, we have seen a huge revival in folder-style wedding invitations. We hope that the next decade will still appreciate the formal invitations from the past. Plus, realize that the time that is taken to write a thank you note or a sympathy note shows the receiver a level of respect that can not ever be replicated by digital correspondence.
Avalon Stationery and Gifts, 2604 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX; 713.528.0052.