From an amazing array of greeting cards to lovely home décor items, fantastic bath and beauty products to educational games—and let’s not forget the jewelry, bags, toys, clothing, candy, kitchenware, books, candles, and on and on—Paper Dreams is the epitome of one-stop gift shopping. (Even when you just want a little something sensational for yourself.)
For Kelly Evert, Village Books co-manager and Paper Dreams buyer, filling the store is an enjoyable challenge.
“I love being able to choose what Whatcom County is going to buy,” she says. “It’s fabulous fun.”
Village Books and Paper Dreams have always been owned and operated by Chuck and Dee Robinson, but it wasn’t until recent years that the two stores integrated—to the benefit of both.
“In the book world, gifts are called sidelines, but if you’re on the sidelines, you’re not in the game,” says Evert. “If it weren’t for the gifts, the bookstore wouldn’t do as well as it does. We are now one store.”
After construction of a new Village Books building in 2004, the two stores were conjoined. Shoppers can now browse back and forth between the spaces, making purchases of any items in either shop.
“Village Books and Paper Dreams transformation over the years is due to the foresight of Chuck and Dee,” notes Evert. “They are willing to try new ideas and change as the world changes.”
Evert has been with Village Books and Paper Dreams for nearly four years, having worked at several other independent Pacific Northwest bookstores: Port Books and News in Port Angeles, Michael’s Books in downtown Bellingham, and Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island. She was also an interior designer in Seattle.
Evert co-manages Village Books and Paper Dreams along with Sarah Hutton and Evert’s husband Paul Hanson.
Her role at Village Books and Paper Dreams marries her background of books and merchandising with design. Evert has a clear eye for what looks excellent—and what will sell.
Before Dee Robinson retired last year, she and Evert made some changes to the shop. “Dee and I really wanted to make it fun for everybody of all ages,” Evert says. “So we worked really hard at doing that.”
They began to attend the Atlanta Gift Show each January and the Vegas show each summer, locating the perfect items with which to line Paper Dreams’ shelves.
“But now that I do all the buying, I’m going to be in trouble,” Evert says. “It’s going to turn into Kelly Dreams!”
When something catches Evert’s eye—be it at a gift show or an item brought to her by a sales rep—she thinks about prices and potential buyers and if she wants to bring it into the store. “But I’m also picturing how it’s going to go out on the floor,” she says. “I’m already picturing where it will go.”
Evert is very hands-on when it comes to merchandising the Paper Dreams displays—quite literally. “I’m constantly touching everything,” she says. “I tell my staff, ‘I’m touching it because that’s how I learn it, by going through and organizing.’ I’m very tactile.”
The store is broken down into departments, such as kids, wearables, jewelry, beauty, kitchenware, greeting cards, and so on.
And while it’s true that the shop is chock full of amazing items, it doesn’t feel overwhelming or in disarray.
“That’s the thing with merchandising,” Evert says, “to make it look full, but not full.” Evert can take just one thing away and suddenly and entire display looks better.
Some of Evert’s favorite Paper Dreams items?
“I like the swings; I have one in a special sunny spot on my deck. And the socks—I own so many socks,” she says, laughing.
Kitchen items are really big now, too. “Holy moly—the cookbooks!” she says. “They were downstairs in the corner of Village Books, but we wanted them up here. They needed to be seen! I’m not much of a cook, but they are beautiful books. And I love buying kitchen stuff.” And while on the topic of kitchen wares, Evert adds that the tasty fudge is made in house.
Greeting cards continue to be a big Paper Dreams draw. “We sell so many cards. People still write!” Evert says.
Evert’s support team includes an assistant who helps with the mountains of paperwork and two receivers who label and input into the computer everything as it comes in. She also has a passionate candy buyer who works hard to bring in retro items everyone remembers from their childhoods.
She raves about the entire team that keeps Village Books and Paper Dreams running.
“We’ve had people here for almost 20 years and they’re wonderful and so full of knowledge,” she says. “We all try to take care of each other and support each other. We all wear a lot of hats and we all do a lot of work, but we try to make it fun.”
Paper Dreams also supports local artists by showcasing their work in both stores.
Evert stresses that her goal for Paper Dreams is just that: for it to be a fun store.
“I want people to be relaxed and have fun,” she says. “I had a guy come in around Christmas one time and say, ‘I’m supposed to be at my therapist right now, but I’m having too much fun,’ she says with a laugh. “I loved that.”
1206 11th Street
Bellingham WA 98225
1200 11th Street
Bellingham WA 98225
Hours for both stores:
Monday through Thursday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.