One of the best things about moving back to the U.S. has been sorting through all kinds of stuff I haven’t seen in years. Moving across the world several times means most of your earthly possessions end up scattered about, and retrieving them upon your arrival is something akin to winning a small lottery. All of your favorite books! Your entire high school CD collection! But perhaps the best discovery for me upon coming home was a largish box I had at some point labeled with a Sharpie as “Jenna’s desk crap.” It was filled to the brim with roughly two decade’s worth of journals, which was simultaneously glorious and terrifying (the former because so many long-forgotten details were recalled, and the latter because I had to read what my 16-year-old self thought my life would look like by 29: best-selling author, married to my soul mate, and living in some green-shuttered house by the sea, etc.)
The point is, seeing all of my journals splayed out before me was a reminder of my long-time love of paper goods. There’s something romantic and even therapeutic about putting tangible pen to tangible paper and writing a letter, or scratching away in a soft, leather-bound journal. In the pre-keyboard era, words were carefully selected, permanent--or otherwise replaced by smudgy eraser marks or little blots of ink. This raw imperfection in today’s digital age is lovely.
Moving to Korea only fueled my penchant for beautiful paper. I had been warned about the naked spas and the country’s affinity for poop, but I had no idea Korea was a stationery paradise. PARADISE. Not only were paper products plentiful and inexpensive, but they were also adorable beyond all reason, usually featuring an array of ambiguous cartoon animals spouting nonsensical English. To this day, Choo Choo Cat merchandise and those oddly satisfying crayon highlighters (discovered via my students) are my favorite Korean products.
The stationery shops in San Diego are a far cry from those in Korea (mainly less cat stuff) but there are a few places that are fabulous in their own right. Here are some of my favorites.
Technically a “home design” store in a huge warehouse, this Solana Beach shop has every type of trinket you never knew you needed, along with oodles of fantastic paper goods. A passive-aggressive checklist detailing why you’re in a bad mood? Yes. A notebook boasting Ryan Gosling’s handsome mug? Obviously. A greeting card featuring a smiling llama in a polka-dotted sweater? Absolutely necessary. I could, and have, spent way too much time in here. Try escaping without purchasing something. I dare you.
This small but charming stationery shop is at home on the picture-perfect streets of Coronado. You’ll want to spend some time looking around here, as their products are unique and seem carefully selected to fit the city's aesthetic: colorful, beachy-chic, and a bit out of my price range. The candles and other knick-knacks here are nice, but as the name suggests, paper is where they shine. I went here on a sunny afternoon a few days after Christmas, and inspired by the mild 70-degree temperatures, purchased a tropical-themed notebook set (parrots, anchors, and pink pineapples).
This North Park shop, like the neighborhood itself, is just cool. It’s in an open and airy building and has a bit of everything: stationery, books, gorgeous jewelry, and lots of succulents (there is an entire area dubbed “the plant lab” where you can create your own terrarium). The store has a ton of Rifle Paper Co. products too, including the full wall calendars and phone cases. This shop is the perfect place to hit up when you’re out of gift ideas for that friend who has everything….or if you just want to treat yo self.
Rad and Hungry
Rad and Hungry is the king of all novelty, monthly subscription boxes as far as I’m concerned, because who doesn’t need mint green Mexican paperclips, a watercolor set from Finland, or a polka dot notebook from Paraguay? Yep, that’s right. It’s a subscription office supply box, delivering limited-edition office supplies from all corners of the globe to your door every 30 days. The folks at the site travel the world looking for locally sourced lo-fi goods for people “who love style, travel and design” (best job ever) and put together country-specific stationery kits (they even made a Korea box!).
Rifle Paper Co.
I am actually looking forward to the next time I miss someone’s birthday just so I can send them this card of a hanging sloth that is apologizing for being slow. In fact, the only time I ever really lament being single is when I come across their collection of insanely cute romance cards, which say things like “I Pine for You” (featuring an adorably illustrated pineapple, of course) and I realize I have no one to give them to. So yeah, I kind of love everything on their site, especially their ‘Bon Voyage’ travel collection!
With gorgeous products and a fun name to boot, I don’t even know where to start with this site. I found it through a Refinery 29 article about beautiful stationery, and I couldn’t help also listing it here. As a total sucker for fancy packaging and all things whimsical, this Tokyo-based shop might be my demise. The style of the products ranges from traditional Japanese to ultra modern to irreverent and dreamy. I’ll take two of all cat-related items, and one of everything else, thank you.
Do you know of any amazing stationery shops in San Diego or online? I'd love to find more!