The Cebu-Based Shop You Have to Know About If You Love Cute Stuff
You'd be hard-pressed not to buy everything here, stationery lovers!
(SPOT.ph) For those of us who grew up in the '90s, crafting was simply a part of life. Whether it's through curriculum-mandated arts class or a familial influence, a trip to the craft store seems to be in our collective memory. There was a period however in which the craft store became uncool, and then eventually, simply hard to find. But thanks to the pace of life, pre-pandemic—does anyone remember what burnout felt like then?—they’ve come back to the fore.
This new generation of crafts stores aren’t the one-size-fits-all businesses of yore. They’re curated niches with a point of view and go beyond arts-and-crafts supplies. Quite frankly, they’re now lifestyle hubs that draw their own crowds. That’s what Dear Paper and Makers by Dear Paper are to Cebu.
Dear Paper and Its Bazaar Beginnings
“I started personalizing stationery items back in 2017. I took a chance and joined bazaars to see how it would do,” the owner-slash-designer Katrina Paray shares matter-of-factly. Back then, she only operated Dear Paper, a stationery brand that made clean, minimal, and whimsical designs. Primarily made for gifting, they’re named so because they’re made for people you hold dear. But what started as a side hustle and passion project eventually turned into a brick-and-mortar shop that now houses other designers and artisans as well.
As early as 2016, Paray knew she wanted to create a space that brought together various makers and crafters. She shared a journal entry while she was in New York City, it read: “Small businesses and non-food stores but in a food hall concept a la Chelsea Market and Hudson Eats.”
“I enjoyed browsing through farmer's markets and cute stationery stores while travelling. When the opportunity to open a physical store and office came up, I knew I wanted to fill it with products by different artists and crafters,” she says.
In 2019, Dear Paper, the in-house stationery brand that offers personalization, and Makers at Dear Paper, the retailer that displays local artists and brands, found a home in Bonifacio District, Cebu City. Both brands are Paray’s and share one space. Browsing the shop’s display, there’s always something unique that’ll draw your eye. There's a sense of wonder that Paray talked about—a sense of discovery.
Back then, Paray was eager to fill her store. While joining bazaars—and she continued to do this even after opening the store—she built her network and found partner-makers who were interested in displaying their work in a setting that’s more permanent than a weekend market. Today, she’s more discerning and chooses them based on their values as well as their aesthetics and products. Everything in the store is handpicked, because they offer “something different from the usual—whether that's style, form, or function. They have to have qualities of Dear Paper's ethos—spirituality, self-care, mental health and wellbeing, eco-consciousness, passion are things I now consider when choosing brands. Each of the artists have styles I admire and at the same time also differ from one another,” Paray explains.
At present, they carry more familiar brands like Abbey Sy’s washi tapes, Happy Garaje’s Studio Curio wooden figurines, and Pahulay’s candles and scented sprays. But they also carry independent artists and makers who wouldn’t be typically stocked in most retail settings. For Dear Paper, it’s about giving space to the little guys who don’t have the manufacturing arm for mass production, which is something most retailers would be concerned about. Here you’ll find upcycled wooden doll paint-it-yourself kits, enamel keychains, and abstract paintings. You can find items like sage smudge sticks, desk organizers, and accessories, too.
They’ve also began selling Curated Boxes, which are perfect for gifting or as a treat for yourself. These are similar to subscription boxes full of new things to try and enjoy.
But knowing that Dear Paper started with stationery, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of its customers still love paper products. A big draw for them is creative journaling and scrapbooking. Paray herself practices it as a way to unplug and simply do something for her own enjoyment. Quite a number of customers come for the same reason, and they let her know through social media. It helps that most of the Makers’ items are cute and affordable—stickers and postcards usually cost around P20 to P80. Most of them have niche interests or uplifting motifs and are just really, really cute—you'd be hard-pressed not to hoard.
If you have more to spare, Dear Paper has some uncommon formats, such as money envelopes (a fresh take on the angpao), letter sets, and even organizing labels. The designs often take inspiration from Paray’s own life and include themes like cats and astrology. Not everything is available online though, so you’ll still have to browse the shop IRL to get the full experience.
Navigating the Physical Dear Paper Shop
Fresh off renovations, this iteration of the store is more spacious. Most of the display has been pushed to the sides of the rectangular space to give customers more room to interact with the products without bumping into each other—a post-pandemic consideration.
From the outside, there’s already an entire wall of merch made visible to you, so you can browse even before entering. Visually, the shop is bright and uncluttered, with the muted palette of white, beige, and blonde wood making sure the products themselves are front and center. Speaking of the products, they’re grouped by brand and category. On the right side are the home and lifestyle items, while you’d find all the cutesy stuff on the left—stickers, pins, trinkets, smaller paper products and supplies. At the center of the space is a plexiglass-covered counter where the staff is ready to safely yet warmly assist you. Behind them is a wall of packaging options like gift-wrapping paper and cardboard boxes.
Expanding Dear Paper
Post-pandemic, Dear Paper has also adapted by opening a new brand under its umbrella—Dear Prints. They offer design and printing services, which are perfect for personal projects and small businesses. With them, there’s no need to worry about the technical specs of the printing process, so you can focus on the design itself. You can even order just one sheet of your own prints!
Still feeling a bit unsure about your own design chops? They can be the ones to design it for you! Just send them an email to see what they can really do for you. A cursory glance of their social media shows that in-house designs feature the same clean Dear Paper sensibility, but the applications are virtually unlimited. Artist stickers, calling cards, and product labels seem to be the top picks.
Regardless of which Dear Paper brand you talk about, the original sentiment behind it—"things we hold dear"—still feels true today. Though Paray says the new normal has changed her approach “wherein now I think of how it can be used for personal expression and healing, too,” it feels as though these tenets were already embodied from the start. It’s just that the current circumstances have made us more aware of these values. Everything is more precious, and it’s not a bad thing to cherish yourself through self-care, moments and memories through creative journaling, or others through gift-giving.
The recently renovated space reopens on July 5. It is at G/F Bonifacio District, F. Cabahug Street, Kasambagan, Cebu City. They’re open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dear Paper, Markers at Dear Paper, and Dear Prints ship nationwide. Order through their respective online portals.
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this strange new world.