116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When “written” communication is in the form of brief, disjointed text messages or emails, who needs pen and paper?
“I did have people say to me things like, ‘Gosh, everybody texts now, who writes a letter anymore?’” Nikki Kettelkamp said one morning this past week. “I think COVID brought people back to the things that really matter, and to be more intentional and be in the moment and express things in a more authentic way.
“When you write a letter, that’s what that is, as opposed to a text or an email. It was actually perfect timing, I think.”
Kettelkamp’s encouraged by response to Scribe Stationer, which she opened last Thanksgiving weekend.
The shop on the ground floor of the 1916 former Hose Co. 4 firehouse in the New Bohemia neighborhood features fountain pens, writing paper and tablets, journals, greeting cards, and other supplies for those seeking to personalize their communications.
“Even just being open this short period of time, it’s so refreshing that a lot of people share that and come in here,” she said.
“What’s been exciting as well is the amount of young people that come in and buy cards and pens. There is sort of this renaissance of going back to a very authentic way to communicate.”
Kettelkamp sees Scribe as a natural complement to Scout, the store she opened in Marion 2018. She noted Scout’s small selection of journals and writing supplies sold well.
“Kind of like a modern mercantile, or a lifestyle store” is how Kettelkamp describes Scout. “All kinds of things from pantry items to apothecary, some baby and gifts and such.”
Kettelkamp, who grew up in the area, drew on 30-plus years’ worth of retail experience, including for the French luxury fashion house Chanel in New York City.
She and her family returned to the Cedar Rapids area in 2011.
“I traveled a lot,” she said. “I really wanted to bring something to the community that wasn’t here. That’s how Scout came to be, and this is an extension of that.”
Lingering supply-chain issues had Kettelkamp scrambling to outfit and stock the new shop.
“We kind of hit the ground running,” she said. “We opened without a sign, we opened without a lot of the lighting, but that was sort of the nature of the time frame, in terms of being in a pandemic and having to wait so much for everything.”
Unable to find display shelves and counters through the usual channels, Kettelkamp turned to online marketplaces and local vintage shops.
One wall is occupied by a mail-sorting station from a northeast Iowa post office, its slots still marked with regional town names and ZIP codes.
“We’ve outfitted the whole place, and we’ve repurposed things that probably could have ended up in a landfill,” she said.
Kettelkamp’s love of writing — or typing on an old Royal typewriter she kept in her childhood bedroom — is reflected in Scribe’s inventory.
“We’ve sold a ton of journals and notebooks,” she said. “Bullet journals are really big right now.
“It’s like writing your own book. It’s kind of a journal but you’re also putting artwork in. And we have a lot of journals and prompted journals, which speaks to mindfulness and gratitude and things that I think are pretty old fashioned but should never go out of style.
“We’ll really just respond to what the public wants.”
The “Scribe” that’s the store’s logo is in Kettelkamp’s own handwriting in the Palmer cursive style, another local historic connection. The style was developed by Austin Palmer, owner of a Cedar Rapids business school at the turn of the last century.
His most influential textbook, “The Palmer Method of Business Writing,” was published in 1901 and remains a seminal American penmanship work — for those who practice penmanship, at least.
Kettelkamp still is working through delays in the product pipeline. She plans to offer personalized stationery when a supplies become more reliable.
“We’ll be able to come back and start working with some custom companies,” she said.
“We’d love to partner with some individuals that do things like calligraphy and book binding. Just really anything to bring back that handwriting mentality.”
The manual typewriters displayed at Scribe are for display only — so far.
“I’ve had so many ask about them,” Kettelkamp said.
“Maybe there is somebody in town who restores them? I have some in the basement.”
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Owner: Nikki Kettelkamp
Address: 1111 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 200-1762