The former retail branch of the world’s largest paper company is under new ownership and has returned to Richmond.
If It’s Paper, a paper and party supplies store once owned by International Paper Co., has been revived in the local market and set up shop on April 8 at 9704 Midlothian Turnpike.
The 3,100-square-foot store in the Stein Mart Festival shopping center is the third for owners Lisa DuCom and Cubby Culbertson, who purchased the brand from International Paper in 2010.
If It’s Paper had a location at 2413 Westwood Ave., just west of Scott’s Addition, until 2010. DuCom said it was one of 40 stores owned by the pulp and paper giant before it began to wind down the retail operations to focus on production.
DuCom had been the store manager at the If It’s Paper location in Columbia, South Carolina, for 13 years prior to its closing. She said long-time customers were dismayed that the store was shutting down.
“There were a lot of sad women in Columbia that day,” DuCom said. “I just had a lot of people saying, ‘Lisa, what are you going to do?’”
DuCom expressed interest in taking over the If It’s Paper brand, but she wasn’t sure she had the capital. Then, a frequent customer asked if she knew Culbertson, a prominent Columbia businessman.
“Two days later (Culbertson) showed up in my office, and we hatched a plan to move forward,” DuCom said. “I knew the stores were profitable. I had first-hand knowledge of the financials and what kind of profits we had.”
DuCom said she beat out about a dozen other If It’s Paper managers who had approached International Paper about purchasing the concept and its trademark.
“I had built my reputation for 13 years,” DuCom said. “(International Paper) knew if anyone could do it, I could.”
DuCom and Culbertson opened their first new location in Columbia in 2011 and added a Greenville, South Carolina, store in 2012. Both were profitable within a year, DuCom said.
She said Richmond was a logical choice for the next step because the area was previously one of If It’s Paper’s biggest markets.
With the addition of the Richmond location, the company now has 10 employees. And DuCom said she’s been able to rehire former If It’s Paper workers.
“I’ve had no better satisfaction,” she said. “One, they know the business, and two, they put their heart and souls into the jobs.”
DuCom and Culbertson worked with Colliers International broker Martin Blum to find the Midlothian location, which in addition to Stein Mart, is neighbor to a Petco and a Music & Arts store.
“Because we’ve been out of the market for so long, we definitely needed a place with a high volume,” DuCom said. “The visibility is just huge over there.”
If It’s Paper purchases its inventory from more than 50 vendors across the country. It caters to the paper needs of small businesses with orders that don’t meet the minimum required by bigger paper suppliers. The store also does printing jobs like wedding invitations, business cards and programs.
To stay competitive with individual shoppers, DuCom tries to offer the best prices she can.
“There are the big-box party stores, but I stay on top of making sure we are at their pricing, if not below,” DuCom said.
DuCom said it usually costs about $100,000 to open an If It’s Paper store. The company is financing the expansion into Richmond itself.
The company launched a new website last year to begin online sales, but it has ambitious plans to open more stores in various states throughout the Southeast.
“My goal is a dozen total stores in nine years,” DuCom said.
I am saddened every time that I drive past the former, and now vacant again, location of If It’s Paper on Westwood. I am overjoyed about your reorganization and reopening not just because our focus is on entrepreneurship but also because this just shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well AND I’ve missed my container options that I could only find at If It’s Paper. Welcome Back HOME!
I am so excited that “If It’s Paper” is back! It was a huge loss to Richmond and its small business owners when the store on Westwood Avenue closed. I wish you great success in your new location. I will be sure to come by, and to send customers your way.