INSIDE WHOLESALE AT NOTEWORTHY
If you’ve ever been inside Noteworthy, you may have peered past the checkout counter and our mid-century Heidelbergs into the way, waaaay back of the store and wondered, “What’s back there?” or, “I didn’t realize this building was so big!” or even “What must they be hiding so far away from everyone…?” Welcome to the August blog post! This is Belanna, and I will be your guide to the deep, dark depths of Noteworthy.
Past the glimmering window lights, the stacks of stationery, and the humming letterpress machines lies our wholesale department! Our wholesale department consists of co-owner Taylor Valliant, Adrienne Langer (Wholesale Product Development Manager), Rachel Giannino (Wholesale Fulfillment Manager), and several order fulfillment teammates, (Hi Linda, Dani, Evelyn, and Colin) including me! Essentially, the wholesale department helps make the Noteworthy world go ‘round. Every step of the way, from product design to order shipment, involves the wholesale team.
What exactly is wholesale? Adrienne, whose designs have made the Noteworthy brand ubiquitous with regional stationery products in and around Montana, helps walk us through it: “Wholesale means that when we sell a product to a buyer, we sell it to them at a discounted rate from a retail cost that you would pay when you are shopping yourself, usually 50% less.” These buyers then sell our products at their stores, the same way we carry a variety of brands in our retail store. “Wholesale buyers own or work for a variety of businesses including national retailers, small mom and pop shops, bookstores, and grocery stores. Our line is currently sold in over 600 stores throughout the U.S. and internationally, and can also be found at Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Shenandoah National Parks among others.”
Noteworthy is well-known for the unique die cut state postcards we sell in our retail space, but products like these come from the demand for regional goods from large buyers like national parks and small mom and pop shops alike throughout the U.S. The wholesale department takes up the entire back half of Noteworthy because there are so many products to store! “Wholesale is a crucial part of Noteworthy’s revenue stream because it helps us to maintain steady sales from orders that are placed daily, usually from repeat buyers,” Adrienne tells me. “Our wholesale catalog features our entire line of greeting cards, artisan crafted gifts and regional designs and helps us sell our products to shops across the US and internationally. We also have over twenty independent sales representatives that sell our line in various territories or states throughout the US. In addition, we also sell our goods on multiple online platforms— with Faire being our most successful wholesale platform, and Etsy our top retail one.”
How about a little history? When Noteworthy opened in 2008, it was a retail-only store. In 2013, co-owner Taylor Valliant designed and released just twelve greeting card designs and a handful of other letterpress-printed paper items in order to exhibit at the shared Ladies of Letterpress booth at the 2013 National Stationery Show. “What began as a small dream,” Adrienne began, “has grown into a full-fledged line of hundreds of thoughtfully designed and produced greeting cards and gift products such as notebooks, stickers, wood coasters, die-cut postcards, bookmarks, bandanas, and so much more.”
Adrienne is a huge part of the history of wholesale at Noteworthy. “I came on as a designer, along with many other duties (order processing, packaging, post print production, sales, and website maintenance) for Noteworthy in August of 2014. I had previously been working for Noteworthy as a retail sales associate and custom sales person, and Amy and Taylor felt like it was time to take the plunge to expand the wholesale line. At that time, we were only producing cards by letterpress printing in-house, so I had a whole new school of thought and set of skills to learn to create the art that would go into the designs.”
“My background was in illustration with a focus on acrylic painting, with some printmaking experience, but never letterpress! I learned how to take a pen and ink drawing and convert it to a digital image to then have a printing plate created to go through the press and print the letterpress images. Taylor and I like to split the duties of drawing and hand-lettering on our designs. We also now poll our growing Noteworthy staff when we are brainstorming new products to make sure we are pursuing designs that will be appealing to many customers!”
Now that you know a little bit more about how wholesale fits into Noteworthy as a whole, let’s focus on the products! “People who have followed our work for a while can probably see that there has been a lot of growth stylistically over the years,” Adrienne says. “From simpler two-color letterpress designs to a lot of half-tone printing, die-cutting, full color printing with shiny foil, and more gift products being added every year. I like to think that our work is really coming full circle. With that being said, I think it’s also important to revisit older designs and either upgrade, improve, or take it out of the line if it is not a good seller. We like to keep our designs looking fresh and our buyers feeling like we are releasing new exciting products regularly!”
Since we’ve had quite a few redesigns recently, I asked Adrienne and Rachel to share their favorite new products with us. Adrienne’s favorite redesign that was released recently is the birthday snail card. “The original design was done in 2013 so it was feeling like it needed a facelift for 2021! My favorite part of designing products is when you draw something that makes you giggle and the snail with the party hat, noise maker in his mouth, and presents stacked in his shell made me smile immediately. We upgraded it to be a full color offset-printed design with purple and green hues that set a fun tone. After the final design was given the go ahead, the print file was prepped and sent off to our offset printer in Livingston, MT who then sent a digital proof for approval, and BOOM, a week and a half later, we had a cute new 2.0 version on our hands!”
During Rachel’s three years with Noteworthy, she's seen a lot of product re-designs, but her favorite one to date would be the Happy Holiday Vintage Greeting Card. “Adrienne took this letterpress design and changed it to offset and foil printing, while also adding a pop of color (my favorite - PINK!), which make for a really fun Christmas card to send to friends and family. I love that it still has the vintage flair of glass ornaments, but has been redone to fit in with our full-coverage greeting cards.”
While redesigns are fun, making something new is also a great experience. Adrienne’s “absolute favorite new product from last year is hands down the six wire-bound notebooks and two weekly fill-in planners that we released for sale in November of 2020. We worked for months on designing and developing the cover patterns, hand lettering, inside layouts, selecting the perfect style and size of wire binding, shape of hole punching, and so many other little details that go into making a product that can be written in and used practically everyday.”
“I love the range of colors and patterns that we settled on,” she continues. “The soft touch coating on the covers feels so lush, and I think the paper quality is the best! I use the Cactus Fill-In Planner week to week and really enjoy the freedom of the open-dated style because dated planners can make me feel like I’m failing at staying consistently organized when I get too busy to use them every week! Another important aspect of the notebooks is that they are completely made in the U.S. This can give products a higher price tag, but producing items domestically is definitely a priority for us.”
As for Rachel, she says that “This summer has been chock full of new Noteworthy items, and my favorite would have to be the new Rainbows & Hearts Blank Greeting Cards. These are available as single cards or boxed sets of 6 and are perfect to send to someone to brighten up their day. I love the vibrancy of the letterpress colors and it was a treat to watch them be designed and then printed in house. Any item that I get to experience the process of making usually becomes my new favorite, which makes it so hard to choose just one!”
So, what’s next? “This year, I’m most excited about our continued growth, moving into a new office space (in the same building), the addition of more new gift products (yay!), and some exciting new designs we’ve been working with,” Adrienne says. “You’ll be able to find some new Space-and NASA-themed products rolling out at the end of this summer that will be sold online and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and we also have new accounts in airports across the U.S., so you will be able to see our goodies in select retail locations while you’re on your next long layover!”
If you happen to bump into our products out in the wild, please let us know! We LOVE when you give us a shout-out on socials, and we love hearing where you’ve seen us when you come in for a visit. Keep in touch, and keep an eye out for all the new things we have in store this year.
Belanna Morales is a member of Noteworthy's retail and wholesale teams. She grew up in Massachusetts and went to school at the University of Maine at Farmington, where she earned her BA in English and Creative Writing. When she's not at work, Belanna spends time watercolor painting, hand-lettering, and crocheting.