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Meet Friedia Niimura and Christine Kim of Paper Please in Los Angeles Chinatown, DTLA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Friedia Niimura and Christine Kim.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Friedia and Christine. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Christine and I used to work at a Japanese stationery shop together and while we were there we would travel to stationery shows in NYC and came across inspiring stationery shops. And every time we came back home we wondered why LA didn’t have as many dedicated stationery shops. So we decided we would have to create our ideal analog space ourselves. A world of notebooks, pens, stickers, desk accessories and more. So we took a leap of faith and our journey began in November 2019 as a pop-up within a coffee shop in South Pasadena. We were there for two months and learned a lot. There were many ups and downs and a quick realization that it would not be an easy job but the instant support we received encouraged us to go ALL IN. Before our pop-up we were searching for a location (from around Sept) and many of the landlords we spoke to or wanted to apply to, as soon as we mentioned “stationery store” they didn’t understand or see the need and benefits for such a space. They suggested us to open a “hair salon” or “eyelash salon”.

Christine had walked around Chinatown one day and came across a beautiful shop which is now our current location. It only took us what was about less an week but we connected with the landlord, applied and we got the location! It all happened so quickly. We even pushed to open within a couple of weeks of getting our keys because we wanted to be a part of the Chinese New Year festival which is one of the biggest events that occurs in the Plaza every year. Unfortunately, this was about the time COVID-19 was hitting Wuhan and all foot traffic began to decline as tourists and LA locals began to avoid Chinatown. For a brand new business, trying to build a name for ourselves, it has been hard from the start. There are more obstacles to come and lessons to be learned but know we will become stronger for it. We cannot wait until we can open our doors again for our community and fellow stationery addicts!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been hard since day one! Haha. But we wanted to set ourselves up for success and made sure from day one that we would have our online shop ready to go. It has been one of our best decisions yet because once the pandemic hit we had a platform to share and use for orders.

Another lesson I (Friedia) personally had learned from previous businesses was that email lists are EVERYTHING! We are grateful to had known this and started a list at our pop-up from day one. From this list we know our supporters and they know us. And when we had to close our doors in March our newsletters allowed us to keep in touch with the ones who believe in us and continually support Paper Please.

Having a new business during the pandemic has kept us on our toes and quickly being able to re-strategize, adapt and be open to trying new things.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Paper Please – what should we know?
Two girls who love paper and all things stationery. They aim to create an idyllic analog world. PAPER PLEASE is a communal space to create more analog opportunities and less screen time. A place to spark creativity while supporting one’s community, one another, artists and brands from all over the world.

Paper Please is a community space for workshops. Christine and I love learning new things and we know many others are the same. Teachers too, we all need a space to be able to teach and to learn. In the loft area of Paper Please we have set-up a seating and table space for those workshops.

We also have a love for stickers and creators big and small from all over the world. The sticker wall has become a spot that we have to replenish a lot which confirms we are not the only ones who are sticker obsessed!

Our latest endeavor is the Postcard Project. We started this project to inspire and encourage people to come back to Chinatown, Los Angeles and once again become the bustling hang out spot it used to be. We asked local artists to come up with Chinatown or LA inspired postcard illustrations which we would print and sell at Paper Please. The proceeds made from the postcards would be split between the shop and artist. It’s something that we are proud of and exclusive to our shop.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We have so many people to thank! Two Kids Coffee, they graciously allowed us to pop-up in their coffee shop without even having a website or anything! Sam & Lydia from Steep LA. They helped us connect with our current space and continually check-in on us to see how we are doing. Love them! Julie Wolfson, she is a writer and has become a dear friend introduced us to everyone she knew in Chinatown. She has been our biggest cheerleader. Greg and Gary from Brother Brother. We all started our businesses during the same time. Greg is the type of guy to talk to when you’re feeling lost. He is always there to pep us up! Our families, supporting us through it all!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jonathan from Thank You Coffee + Friedia N.

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