If letter-writing is a dying art, then San Francisco is keeping it alive. The Bay Area is rich in old-school paperies, indie print-shops and design-savvy card stockists. Whether you’re looking for a quick birthday card, custom stationery or high-end wedding invites, these stores have you covered.
The Bay’s best stationery stores
Originally founded by Takeshi Imanishi in 1963, this Tokyo-born stationery trove is akin to a grander, more thoughtfully stocked Muji. Tucked into the Kinokuniya Building—an otherwise uninspiring Japantown mall—the 30-year-old San Francisco store is a boon for stationery snobs. The shop specializes in hard-to-find Japanese imports, including specialty papers, gel and calligraphy pens, Midori notebooks, ink stamps, and high-end stationery. The space is crowded, but neatly organized, with testers and sketchbooks scattered about for testing.
Entering this whimsical store feels like stepping into another world, where dolls, masks, puppets, and curiosities adorn the walls and dangle from the ceiling. The two-story space was founded by painter Karima Camel in 2001—her artful aesthetic is apparent. The focus is on high-end paper goods from Europe, including fine paper from Prague, leather notebooks from Germany, and hand-painted wrapping paper from Italy. The stash includes vintage-style greeting cards, postcards, rubber stamps, fountain pens, and calligraphy nibs and ink. In addition, the store regularly hosts classes ranging from beginning calligraphy to paper flower making. Head upstairs to ogle antique dollhouses and rare collectibles.
Giselle Gyalzen has headed up this artful gift and stationery store since 2011, where the focus is on handcrafted accessories and independent artists. In addition to jewelry, housewares, and art prints, you’ll find a colorful array of writing supplies: Yellow Owl Workshop’s quirky stamps and ink pads, 365 notebooks from Japan, Traido fountain pens, postcards, and nylon-tipped brush pens from Craft Design Technology. The sprawling wall of letterpress cards covers all occasions, including brands like Little Otsu, Oblation Papers, Hello Lucky, and Etui, and more.
This is a shop that understands the seductive allure of the perfect pen. Owners Suzie McKig (aka Twig) and Serge Vigeant (aka Fig) founded their Berkeley paperie and printing studio in 2003. Though it’s located amid the Gourmet Ghetto, Twig & Fig’s high-end paper goods are no less tempting, from thick, high-end sheaths from around the world to artisan letterpress cards. In addition, you’ll find a shelf of leather-bound journals, planners, and notebooks, plus wax seal kits for special letters.
Artist James Tucker opened this one-of-a-kind storefront in 2013: It’s part print-shop, part gallery, part retail. If you arrive in the afternoon, the 50s-era Heidelberg presses are frequently churning in back. Browse the arched countertop display (handmade from the decks of an old tugboat), where you’ll find pencils, richly pigmented watercolors, calligraphy pens, colored tape, pencil sharpeners, erasers, postcards, notebooks, and more—much of it imported from Italy and Japan. Tucker also creates and prints custom designs for business cards, holiday cards, invitations, stationery, and bookplates.
This Cow Hollow standby is a trusted spot for stationery and invitations. (It’s established itself as the go-to spot for fussy Marina brides-to-be.) Browse the curated selection of letterpress card and wrapping paper or enlist the paperie’s calligraphy, design, and handwriting services. Knowledgeable staff can design personal stationery, letterhead, save-the-dates, or custom wedding invitations from scratch to your specifications. (They’ll even whip up your own personal logo or motif.) The prices are high, but the results are splurge-worthy.
Most bookstores in San Francisco carry a small selection of paper goods, but Booksmith’s assortment is the best. The shop has been around since 2007, and there’s a lovely worn-in, thoughtful feel to it, from the handwritten staff recommendations to the rotating window art. You’ll find Moleskine journals, calendars, and sheets of wrapping paper so beautiful they’re practically frameable. But the real draw is the expansive card selection, which covers every occasion (plus, others you’ll end up buying for no reason whatsoever).
This stationery shop has been in business for more than 25 years. The emphasis is on high-quality Japanese paper for artists and crafters, but you’ll also find luxurious sheaths from Italy, Thailand, Korea, and Nepal. The store makes its own line of handmade cards—all produced in-shop—beautifully printed on silkscreen papers from Kyoto, Japan.
This decade-old, green- and pink-tinged gift shop is stuffed with accessories, home decor, clothing, and beautiful odds and ends. Naturally, it’s also a great spot to snag a card and some gorgeous wrapping paper. The long white shelves up front are lined with letterpress cards from Hello Lucky, Colette Paperie, and more; farther back, you’ll find stationery and pen and pencil sets. The spot stocks the full array of Rifle Paper Co. products, including collaborations and limited-edition collections.
As the name implies, this funky Oakland shop is best known for magazines from around the world. But the selection of pretty and unusual writing utensils and paper is nearly as impressive. Co-owners Noella Teele and Joe Colley preside over the inviting shop, where faux birds hover in branches overhead and neighborhood dogs pad across the lipstick-red floors. In addition to books, records, and art prints, the stock includes swivel racks filled with cards, Moleskine planners and journals, and a spectrum of pens and stamps.