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Exploring Life & Business with Abbey Fowler of Pursuit Gift Shop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abbey Fowler. 

Abbey, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I personally became interested in paper goods while working as a designer at a magazine publishing company which produced party and gift B2B magazines. We started a magazine called Stationery Trends, and I became well acquainted with the industry. I left this job in 2008 to start my own custom wedding invitation business, which I did out of my home for 3 years. 

In September of 2011, originally called 6.25 Paper Studio, I opened the shop in a small, 350 sq. ft. space in downtown Grand Rapids. We started in Rockford Construction’s retail incubator called MoDiv, a mini shopping mall for start-ups and local businesses. 6.25 Paper Studio was one of the first stores to open, and we were soon joined by other local shops — creating a unique and valuable shopping experience. 

We expanded in October of 2013 to our own larger space, still downtown. For six years, we became the go-to spot on Monroe Center for humorous cards, thoughtful gifts, and specialty stationery. As our space grew, so did our product offerings. Between popular stationery brands and local vendors, we created a space to share laughter, celebrate life’s occasions, and show gratitude. 

At the end of 2019, I decided to head out of downtown and relocate ourselves in the new development of Ada Village under the new name Pursuit Gift Shop. Ada welcomed us with more love than we could have imagined and instantly felt like a perfect fit for our little business (now 2400 sq. ft1). We plan on Ada being our forever home and couldn’t be more thankful for all the support over the years during this journey! 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve definitely made mistakes. Small ones, like ordering too much of one of our wholesale products from a printer that then never sold, or starting a project, pouring money into it, then not finishing. 

My biggest mistake was opening a 2nd location. We opened a lovely little flower & card shop in an indoor market. All the plans seemed to align for success, but the traffic was never there. Thankfully, I was able to get out of this lease early, but this set us back a lot financially. I also learned that I just prefer one location and want to keep this business small in that way. The original shop suffered when I had to dedicate all my energy into trying to fix the flower shop. 

Covid obviously hasn’t been easy, I share the same stories as many small businesses there. The hardest time was the first 3 quarters of 2021 when we still weren’t seeing normal traffic, but all the funding, grants, unemployment aid had stopped. That’s when I thought we would lose the business. Thankfully, I was able to hold the business up by a personal loan from a family member, and by 4th quarter 2021, traffic and sales picked up immensely. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We believe in the power of connection and experience, and enjoying the journey. Our product offerings focus on bringing people together — providing an experience when read, held, and shared. Known for our unique greeting cards, we also offer office supplies, journals, books, art supplies, wall prints, boxed stationery, bath & body, and an array of gift items. All our product is carefully curated for quality, design, humor, or its story. Most companies we carry are small like our own — many local. I work directly with these owners and designers to bring their unique products to our location in Ada Village. 

I am most proud of our ever-changing product offerings and store displays. I work really hard to constantly find new vendors and fun, new cards and gifts. We get complimented on this often from our regular customers, which is my favorite compliment! 

In our larger location, we are now also to provide more classes and private events. We bring in instructors to teach all kinds of crafting classes including watercolor, calligraphy, book-binding, jewelry-making, etc. The classes are fun and casual, and they provide more of a community around the store. 

One other thing that our customers love is our Letters to Santa each year. We provide a guided letter for kiddos to fill out, then they put it in our North Pole Mailbox. Participants even get a letter back from Santa himself! 

What were you like growing up?
I grew up on a 1,000-acre farm in Indiana with two entrepreneurial parents. My dad is a seed production farmer and my mother is basket and jewelry artist. Both their passions and the environment of growing up on a farm instilled an incredible work ethic in my adult life. I absolutely love working and have been lucky to create a job that I enjoy. 

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