Paper Shops Stay Open Despite Competition

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Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping district is known for its quaint charm and is home to shops that make it unique, including four stores dedicated to selling paper.

The four stores-Papyrus, Castle in the Air, Miki's Paper and Paper Source-primarily sell paper and have managed to stay open during the recession, despite selling a product used by fewer people than in the past.

As our society becomes more and more digitized, the usefulness and practicality of paper seem to be in a perpetual state of limbo.

Karima Cammell, owner of Castle in the Air, said owning a store that primarily sells paper can feel isolating at times.

"I really feel like we're the last hold out for a lot of things," Cammell said. "Pen (and paper) stores have gone out of business: We're the only pen business still here."

Cammell also said that in these tough economic times, her store is still in business because of the clientele and the community Castle in the Air has developed over eight years of being in business.

"The only reason we survive is because of the people who fall in love with the store," Cammell said. "We're trying to survive, but it is because we've fostered a community (that we're still here)."

Employees and owners at several of the paper stores have noticed a decline in customers, but the fact that the stores each carry a specific type of paper allows them to persevere.

Miki's Paper was the first paper store on Fourth Street and has been in business for 22 years. Miki's Paper differs from other stores in that it sells handmade Japanese paper and caters to those interested in the Japanese art of paper folding.

The owner, Miki Tameto, said she hopes her store informs customers about Japanese paper folding and the time and effort that is put into making every sheet.

"It is a dying art-a lot of young people are not interested," Tameto said. "But if there is a way I can provide (paper) for people, then I will provide for them."

All four stores have managed to stay afloat while still catering to the patrons who depend on them. However, due to their close proximity, there is constant competition among them. But Tameto and Cammell said the downside of increased competition is alleviated by the high number of shoppers drawn to the area.

"Paper Source came much later, and Castle in the Air came much later too," Tameto said. "Most people don't know that. They say, 'Oh, another paper store' when we were here first."

The corporate offices of Paper Source and Papyrus could not be reached for comment.

Even with a strong community base, technological advances greatly affect all four stores. However, Cammell said she is confident that even with advances in technology, people will always need paper.

"People love the feel of the paper on the pen as they write, they love to feel their work in pages," Cammell said. "(It's) the same with the book, people say the book will be dead with Kindle, but there's nothing like getting it off the shelf and feeling the pages. I think that's why it endures."


Contact Kelly Strickland at [email protected]

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