An inability to absorb a rent increase means Newport Stationers will stop selling office and party supplies, greeting cards, fountain pen cartridges and customized wedding announcements at the end of this month after a 55-year run, according to its owner.
The family-owned shop has served Newport Beach from the same Corona del Mar storefront since 1971 and from a spot in Lido Village before that. But threatened by big-box stores and e-commerce and the idea that a stationers is old-fashioned in the current market, longtime owner Colin West finds himself unable to keep up with the overhead.
West, 78, declined to reveal the current or proposed lease terms with the store’s landlord, the Irvine Co., but said “they and we have a different idea of what will work in a retail environment.”
West’s mother, Sylvia, started the store in 1964. Its previous owners called it Stationers Store, with a seahorse bent into an aesthetically pleasing if not anatomically correct “S.” Sylvia changed the name but kept the seahorse. Over the years it was a full-service office outfitter, with desk and school supplies, furniture, machine sales and repair, and popular custom-made party invitations that can be turned around within 24 hours.
At its peak, Newport Stationers had four retail locations, 165 workers, warehouse space and a print shop.
It now has 10 employees, but their experience runs deep.
“This is our first and only job,” co-manager Peggy Tackman said, referring to herself and her husband, John, both 66.
Peggy started working part time at the store when she was 18, selling tickets to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and shows at the Ahmanson Theatre. Not long after, she learned that the shop needed a delivery driver, so she suggested John, her sweetheart at Newport Harbor High School.
The Tackmans now split management duties. She handles front-of-house retail and buying and John works the back office. Their two children also worked in the store.
“I have a 16-year-old granddaughter that I was hoping would work here,” Peggy said.
In a letter to customers taped up in several places around the store, West said he would liquidate inventory and fixtures this month.
He said the end is eased by the help of workers over the years. He listed 26 by name, including the Tackmans. He said the memory of his mother and his late brother and business partner Barry also guided the shop.
“There is sadness in thinking about time and tide not waiting,” West wrote in the letter. “After 55 years of kindness from a community who supported us with their friendship and business, the time has come, sadly, to say farewell. With age and infirmity taking its inevitable toll on longtime principals, and no successors in sight, I have decided to close Newport Stationers.”
The Irvine Co. released a statement from Phil Vise, senior director of property management for neighborhood and community centers, saying the company “thanks Newport Stationers for its many years at Harbor View Shopping Center and values our relationship with Colin West and his team. Irvine Co. has worked closely with Newport Stationers’ owner to support his business, including providing concessions over the years. We wish Mr. West all the best in his future endeavors and celebrate his decades of business in Harbor View Shopping Center.”
Peggy Tackman said the store — the only original tenant in the shopping center — cut its square footage by about a third three years ago to get a corresponding drop in rent. The space it left is now occupied by a medical spa.
West said he has had a good relationship with the Irvine Co. over the years but doesn’t want to lose money.
Management told the store’s staff about the impending closure the day after New Year’s, and the day after that, signs were posted in the windows announcing a 50% off sale. Customers visited in tears.
Sally Griffith is one of those loyal shoppers. She ordered her wedding invitations from the store, along with the invitations to a daughter’s nuptials. Another daughter is getting married in August.
“Where I am going to get my invitations now?” she said.
Newport Stationers has been in this position before. A 20% rent increase in 2012 had West running a similar fire sale.
Supporters rallied. John Tackman said a well-connected customer made a phone call that gave it a lifeline. This time there’s an online petition with 560 signatures as of Friday night.
Griffith stopped by the store Friday to pick up pen refills and printed cocktail napkins, neither of which she needs right now, but she wanted to support the neighborhood shop she’s visited for 45 years.
She said she didn’t want the space to become another nail salon or the like.
“This is what we need,” she said.
Behind her was a rack of greeting cards, most with encouraging quotes like this one in artful bold type:
“Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”