Michelle Lawrence #empoweredWritten

It was a beautiful fall day in October 2010, I had the day off from Substance, I was wearing one of my favorite sweaters, and my hair was being more cooperative than usual. I was strolling the Short North with my boyfriend Max, and with a good hair day and my man by my side, I felt ready to do it. Today was the day that I would finally visit On Paper. 

You’re confused, I know. This is the stationery shop that I mentioned in my last post, that I was looking forward to visiting months before I even arrived in Columbus. Not only that, but… well, it’s just a stationery shop. Why did I need to have a good hair day to step foot in the place?

Great question! Here are a few answers, all true, but some more true than others:

  • I had built it up in my head, and didn’t want to be disappointed
  • I am not fancy, and the shop looked fancy
  • I had a secret dream of working there, and didn’t want to inquire, in case I didn’t get hired
  • I have a superpower: the ability to overanalyze even the most innocuous situation

Now that you have a better understanding of the extremely valid reasons that I needed a good hair day to cross the On Paper threshold, let’s continue with the story, shall we?

I walked in, and wasn’t disappointed in the least. There was a wall of colored paper and envelopes to my right, hundreds of cards to my left, intricate chandeliers above and a dizzying array of pens, craft supplies, gifts and jewelry everywhere I looked. The old wooden floors had once been painted a lovely gray-blue, but were now worn and creaky, just like my favorite book store back home. I don’t know how long we were there (though Max could probably give a rueful estimate), but by the time I left, I was determined to return with a résumé. 

Which brings us to the moment I met Michelle, the shop manager. When I returned to On Paper a week later, I walked straight back to the register, put on my best “confident go-getter” voice and asked if they were hiring… and she kindly told me no. I hadn’t really thought about what I’d do with a “no,” so what happened next was a surprise to both of us: I asked if I could volunteer. 

I can’t recall how she replied exactly, because I couldn’t hear much over the blood pumping in my ears, but I do remember that she responded with grace and good humor — and when I left a few minutes later, I had an appointment to come back for an interview. My self-made “internship” lasted three months, at which point I was hired part-time, and a year after that, I was hired full-time. 

It’s mind-boggling to think back on everything I learned about retail, stationery, and the intersection of the two while I worked at On Paper. But it didn’t take me long to learn that the grace and good humor Michelle showed me that day are two of her defining characteristics. This is a woman who can work Gallery Hop with a blinding migraine — and a smile. She can take a day of back-to-back, hour-long custom invitation appointments, and every client will leave feeling that they have the best invitations ever, and a new friend to boot. She can spend her evenings and weekends folding 1,000 paper cranes for a magical window display, and somehow not slap the ham-fisted customers who touch it. And she can take a starry-eyed girl who knows nothing about stationery and turn her into a woman with the gumption to start her own greeting card line. 

I will forever be grateful that Michelle took a chance on me that day, and for all the knowledge she shared with me over the years — but mostly, I’m grateful that she seems to have rubbed off on me.