Joan Schnee #empoweredWritten

On Paper is a really special place. I’m not going to pretend I’m not biased — I was crushing on it before I even visited, and when I finally did step foot in the store, I volunteered to work without pay. But then I worked there for over two years, and in that time, I saw hundreds of people literally stop in their tracks as they first entered the shop, stunned by the array of beautiful objects surrounding them. And even after stepping behind the curtain and learning the tricks of the trade, I still feel that magic when I walk through the door. 

That magic is Joan Schnee's creative vision.

Before opening On Paper in 1997, Joan had a successful visual merchandising career, starting as a window trimmer at Macy’s in NYC and eventually rising through the ranks at Limited Brands until she was overseeing store design at hundreds of locations. I was more than a little intimidated by her when I first started working at the shop, but I quickly learned that she wasn’t just incredibly talented, but also incredibly sweet. 

Working on a small team of just 4 or 5 women (including Joan and Michelle), I had the opportunity to blur the lines of my role as a retail assistant, and go beyond the customer service tasks that made up the lion’s share of my days. Joan’s lifelong love of paper meant that she was able to teach me about everything from handmade papers made in an Amalfi, Italy mill dating back to the middle ages, to the 100% post-consumer waste recycled card stocks made by her own wholesale paper company. I learned about the unique offerings of each of the 30+ printing companies we worked with, and how to narrow in on which would best meet the needs of each client. I learned multitudes about visual merchandising (also known as the art of arranging objects so they become irresistible to mere mortals). And I spent hours upon hours among the racks of greeting cards, seeing firsthand which ones our customers gravitated towards. 

When the time came for me to leave On Paper and start a new chapter in my professional journey, it felt like I was abandoning my family. That, too, is because of Joan’s magic: when you work at On Paper, you aren’t just a shop girl, you’re an “On Paperette.” To be a part of the team is to be a part of the dream. 

I gained an incredible amount of knowledge and insight into the stationery world because of my time at On Paper — wisdom that I am so grateful for now that I have chosen to pursue my own paper-lovin’ dreams. But what sticks with me most from that time is how Joan’s creative vision and passion was present in everything we did as a team. Thank you, Joan, for your wisdom and guidance — I hope to someday build a brand even half as strong as yours.