Post Script: Blacker & Kooby’s Vanessa Kooby

vanessa koobyOne might say Vanessa Kooby was destined to own a stationery shop. Her father, Fred Kooby, along with his business partner Joe Blacker, opened Blacker & Kooby on Madison Avenue 50 years ago. However, it’s dedication, not destiny that has made Vanessa and her family’s shop Upper East Side staples. Here, the Wharton Business School graduate talks to us about letters to camp, Zazzle and what she would ask her 19th century French painter pen pal.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I have always loved stationery and written communiques. I was a doodler as a child and always had pen pals. When I was a teenager, I collected stationery and stickers.

What’s the story behind your store’s name?
In 1963, my father, Fred Kooby, met Joe Blacker through a business broker. They decided to join forces and literally set up shop on Madison Avenue. It was a fruitful and happy partnership, and I still work with my father and have very fond memories of “Uncle” Joe.

What inspired you to open a stationery boutique?
I guess you can say I was born into it, but it is so much more than that. I have always been a visual learner and I am artistically inclined. After completing my MBA at Wharton, I did financial services marketing for Chase Manhattan Bank, but my heart was always in retail, the family business. People fascinate me, and I like establishing relationships and creating. The stationery business let me combine my visual skills and artistic sensibilities with my management training — and work with a nice clientele every day.

Why do you enjoy sending correspondence?
A well-written thank you note makes me swoon. I can still remember customers and friends who have sent me the nicest thank you notes ever. When I receive a sincere note with a nice sentiment, my opinion of the sender is magically elevated!

Additionally, receiving mail is so much fun. One summer when my daughter was at sleep away camp, I wrote random letters to her bunk mates, and it became a game. The whole bunk would wait to see who Stephanie’s mom wrote to next. My daughter will never forget that, and it was so amusing for all of us.

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
That is so easy! I would write to Picasso, Matisse and Bonnard, and ask them what their inspirations were for their most famous or lovely paintings. Painting is a passion of mine, and I never tire of New York City and its abundant art exhibitions and permanent collections. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to ask Pierre Bonnard what his relationship was like with all the people in his kitchen and garden paintings? It would explain their expressions and Bonnard’s treatment of them as subjects.

To whom do you most often write?
I write to my kids. My grandfather wrote me the most magnificent letters when I was growing up. He told me, “be independent and to rely on yourself.” I try to impart some life lessons on them when I get a moment, and maybe one day it will all make sense.

Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
Well, Letitia Baldrige did wish me good luck with all my brides, but my grandfather’s letters had the most impact.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
For me it is the paper and the handwriting. If the paper feels like quality, and there is neat cursive or block print by a human being, I will take note and appreciate it.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
I am a total fanatic. When I do a stunning invitation, I cannot wait to coordinate stamps for my clients. I scan, I tweak, I create, until I am happy… and they are pleased.

What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
I still love Crane Kid Finish Ecru 32 lb stock. No other paper feels so luxurious and present.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think we all must accept the fact that correspondence will be a combination of electronic and hard copy. Once we accept that, it actually increases the value of a written letter. As email has become so important, and texting is almost a religion, a written letter or a printed invitation really stands out. Wedding invitations and Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitations set the mood for a celebration and leave no doubt in a guest’s mind that they were not just an afterthought.

Have a question for Vanessa? Email our Crane Concierge at

Post Script: Needle in a Haystack’s Yash Parmar


Everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes the stationery business. Catering to Dallas’s finest, Needle in a Haystack has been a purveyor of exquisitely printed paper for more than two decades. Here, co-owner Yash Parmar — who runs the boutique with his wife, Bhavna and daughter, Krishna (pictured above right and left, respectively) — talks to us about the power of pen pals, to whom he writes most and how he may not have been where he is today without sewing.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
Writing handwritten letters to my pen pals in various countries.

What’s the story behind your store’s name?
Needle in a Haystack started off as a needlepoint store in 1971 – hence the name.  In the 70’s and 80’s there was strong interest in needlepoint. The previous owners of Needle in a Haystack were avid needlepointers.  They gradually introduced gifts and stationery in the 80’s. We bought the store in 1989, when it was about 80% needlepoint and 20% “other.”  

What inspired you to open a stationery boutique?
Emphasis on stationery was dictated by the market and our interest in paper. Our customers demanded greater variety of stationery. This matched our interest.

Why do you enjoy sending letters and/or correspondence?
It is great to put your thoughts on paper. I had pen pals as a teenager and loved writing and receiving letters.

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
Mahatma Gandhi. I have so many questions that I could ask. There is so much that one can learn from his life and experience.


To whom do you most often write?

Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
As a student in England, my grandfather wrote to me regularly from India. I loved receiving his letters with all his grandfatherly advice.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Handwritten letter on personal stationery.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
Scenic American Landscapes series of stamps.  Some of these, such as Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park are just beautiful!


What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
The Black Label album (that has long been retired) had some fabulous engraved stationery with wonderful motifs and liners.

palmetto engraved black label red cards

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think the classic correspondence in a decade or two will remain classic: handwritten note on engraved stationery.

Have a question for Yash? Email our Crane Concierge at

Post Script: J. Saunders, Crane Stationery Director of Operations

J. Saunders likes organization. He listens to Podcasts on the subject. He has “medium term goals.” And he was just hired as Crane Stationery’s Director of Operations. The Maine native is in the process of moving from Kennebunk, Maine — where he managed William Arthur’s amending and boxed product manufacturing — to North Adams, Massachusetts, where he will be in charge of all manufacturing. Which, of course, will require a lot of doing what he enjoys: organizing.


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Post Script: Dan Morgan, Typesetter Extraordinaire

In a previous life, Dan Morgan worked in a photo lab. Now, the Donaldson, PA, native is the one taking the pictures — his website shows off his stellar work — and uses his keen eye for detail during his day job as a typesetter in our stationery factory.

How did you end up at Crane?
I was working at a photo lab at the time and actually saw the job in a Valpack ad for a typesetter position.

What exactly does a typesetter do?
A typesetter’s job is to make a customer’s stationery design work for what they want — even when they may not know it’s what they want. For example, we have requests sometimes to “please use your discretion and make it look good.” I love those types of jobs, because I can use my creativity and tweak the layout or sizes to make it look great. I write those job numbers down and check after a few weeks to see if they’ve returned the proof and what comments they had about the design I came up with.

Do you have a favorite or memorable design?
Well, every job is special for somebody — we all want to make our mark — but I did enjoy working on an order that featured an engraved Redskins helmet logo, because I’m a football fan.

engraved redskins cardSince you’re looking at type styles all day, do you find yourself critiquing them when you’re not working?
[Laughs.] I do. When I’m driving, I’ll notice the fonts on highway signs.

Have a question for Dan? Email our Crane Concierge at

Post Script: ThxThxThx’s Leah Dieterich


Leah Dieterich is gracious every day. It isn’t that she is regularly showered with gifts or good deeds, but rather the founder is just thankful for the little things: Tote Bags (“for being gender-neutral purses”) and a New Longboard (“for allowing my afterwork exercise to be considered play”), to name just a couple.

Her notes of gratitude can be followed on Twitter and read in her new book. Here, Dieterich talks with us about long distance letters, being a lefty and why a signature is her favorite part of the writing process.

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Post Script: Pen & Envelope’s Andreia Mateus

Andreia Mateus found solace in writing letters when, at the age of 10, her family moved from her native Portugal to Switzerland. Fast forward a decade, when Mateus decided to launch her Pens & Envelopes Tumblr, on which she posts delectable correspondence-themed images in hopes of inspiring others to take pen to paper. Here, the devoted Pen Pal talks to us about her letter writing lists, what she looks forward to getting in the mail each week and why a memorable letter isn’t always the most eloquently written one.

When did your interest in letter writing begin?
It began when I was about 10 years old. My family had decided to move to Switzerland, and being it a country with a whole different language, I was having a hard time making new friends, and I was missing the ones from Portugal quite a lot. So I asked my mother for paper and envelopes and started writing to my friends. That was around 1999, and ever since then I haven’t stopped exchanging letters.

Why did you start Pens & Envelopes?
I started it mostly to see if there were any other people from the Tumblr community that shared the same interest. With instant messages and social networking, people have forgotten about the old ways of communication. I was hoping that posting images of letters would remind people how it feels like to receive a letter that was written by someone just for you.

Why do you enjoy stationery & correspondence?
Correspondence mostly because it is how I manage to relax from the everyday stress. It helps me to keep my head clear. As for stationery, well, some girls like to spend their money on brand new clothes and shoes; I like to spend my money on pretty stationery! A letter is so much more fun if you use colorful and visually appealing stationery.

What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
That would be creating a list of the things I want to mention in the letter. It helps me to keep my writing organized, and it is also fun to think back of the important and significant happenings that I wish to share with my pen pals.

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
There are a lot of people I could think of, but I’m going to choose Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer. His works are studied in our high schools, and I got really fascinated by his books. He is also mostly known for his complex personality, and I always wondered what he was really like. I probably would send him a casual letter, asking him if life turned out as he had planned, and if he was happy with his achievements.

To whom do you most often write?
To one of my closest friends, who had to move to another city. We exchange letters every week, which I’m quite thankful for. If I’m having a bad mail week, I know for sure that there is going to be at least one letter.

Describe the most memorable letter you have ever received.
A letter from my grandmother and my now deceased grandfather. They both didn’t know how to write (not very well), yet they had made an effort to scribble down a few lines. It was simple letter, but it meant so much to me. I still have it.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
The decoration of the envelope and the penmanship. It is usually the first thing I notice, and it always gives so much out about the person who sent it.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
My favorite series so far is the Europe 2009 Astronomy series.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
Hopefully there will be more people opting for traditional correspondence. There is just so much beauty in picking up a paper and a pen and writing a letter. Even with online communication, I don’t think any other form of correspondence will be able to substitute the sentiment a personal letter gives you.

Have a question for Andreia? Email our Crane Concierge at

Post Script: Etiquette Expert Diane Gottsman

With a degree in sociology under her belt, Diane Gottsman knew teaching etiquette was a logical career path. She started out teaching abused and neglected children the art as a way to empower them, then moved on to helping the professional sector. As if to emphasize her love for the cause, she now boasts her own line of stationery (welcome to the club!). Here, the purveyor of all things proper talks stamp love, Amelia Earhart and the etiquette rule she’ll never break.

etiquette expert diane gottsman

How long have you been teaching etiquette and how did you end up doing so?
I’ve been teaching etiquette for 15 years, starting with children in the beginning and later evolving into the corporate and university arena. I was shocked at the number of successful professionals that I interacted with daily that were truly gifted in business but lacked social skills.
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Post Script: The Gracious Girl

Mindy Lockard, aka The Gracious Girl, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in etiquette. The former finishing school graduate began spreading the gracious gospel professionally nine years ago, pontificating on everything from dinner party manners to interview poise. Here, she speaks to us about her college pen pal, e-mail formality and why she’s always touchy-feely with her paper.

mindy lockard the gracious girl
How did you end up teaching etiquette?
It was just after I had my first daughter, Elle. A friend — who knew I had gone to finishing school as a child — asked if I would teach her daughter. At first I declined, but then after I thought about the life lessons I wanted to give my own child — confidence and kindness — I knew that spreading the word about manners was exactly where I wanted to focus my attention.
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Post Script: Donovan Beeson

Donovan Beeson loves a good ka-thunk: that sound one hears as the mail drops into the postbox. As the co-founder of the Letter Writers Alliance — an organization dedicated to, among other things, providing letter writing tools as well as pen pals — she hears that sound quite often. Here, Beeson talks to us about “goodie boxes,” her motley crew of pen pals and her position on supermarket stamps.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I’ve always loved sending and receiving mail. I can remember my maternal grandmother sending what she called “goodie boxes” to our house at every holiday. They were simple collections of candy and small toys, but everything was magical because it was wrapped up special and came in a box. Now, I’m the one who sends the boxes of goodies and I like it just as much being the sender as being the receiver.

How did the LWA come to be?
My business partner Kathy started her stationery business 16 Sparrows in 2003. I came on to help with production when she started graduate school, and together we evolved the business into something less like a business and more like a lifestyle. In 2007, we started the Letter Writers Alliance because the most common statement we would receive was that people loved our stationery but “no one writes letters anymore.” We decided to create a network so that all of those letter lovers would be able to write to each other and no mailbox would ever go hungry again.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The people — I have met so many different, interesting and thoroughly engaging human beings through letters. In my return pile right now is an active duty soldier, a 12-year-old equestrian, a retired engineer, a teacher returning to work soon and so many more. I get to see slices of life that I would know nothing about, direct from their sources. I love it.
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Post Script: Stationery Trends Founder Sarah Schwartz

Next year, Stationery Trends magazine will celebrate its fifth anniversary, a statement to the perseverance of the people who cherish the art of handwritten correspondence. For the magazine’s founding editor, Sarah Schwartz, stationery and letters were a natural extension of a feisty, book-fueled imagination. Here, the former summer camp letter writer extraordinaire talks about pen pals, lunch box notes and why we should think of Abraham Lincoln the next time we’re angry with someone.

stationery trends founder sarah schwartz

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
To me, writing letters and corresponding is a natural extension to the world of reading. From the time I learned to read at age four, I have loved entering and creating imaginary or past worlds. A great letter is just that, really — a little glimpse into another very personal world.

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