Stockist Spotlight Series: The Paper Mouse

"I often hear customers say, “You are so lucky to work at such a beautiful place.” I like to hear that—that is where all the joy comes from."

Do you ever wonder how your favorite local stationery shop picks out new products, stays inspired, or keeps a small business thriving? In our Stockist Spotlight series, we explore the day-in and day-out of your favorite small shop owners.

This month’s feature, The Paper Mouse, located west of Boston, is a cozy stationery shop started by husband and wife, Victor Lee and Jenny Zhang. Their store is the perfect spot for writing tools, letter-writing accessories, and fun, unique gifts.


Walk us through a typical work day.

We don’t have a set schedule—as business owners, Victor and I are playing it by ear most of the time! But most days, I’m working in the shop and also handling purchasing, and Victor does a lot of work behind the scenes on our website and business logistics.

In the morning before work gets busy, I try to spend a little time in the backyard looking at the sky and the trees and grass. Sometimes I make eye contact with bunnies and chipmunks and play who will move first. That’s my secret to charge my energy before starting my day! Before I head to the shop, I check emails and make a list of what needs to be done for the day. Then when I get there I do a quick run-through to make sure everything is ready to go before we welcome our customers to the store.

At the shop, you never know what the day will bring! During the day I might be helping out shop visitors, fulfilling online orders, handwriting thank you notes for customers, answering phone calls, and sending emails.

At the end of the day, there’s different work to be done—cleaning up, restocking, and receiving new packages. Most days we will be in the store until late night, especially during the holidays. It seems like a lot of work each day and it is, but it’s also joyful! I often hear customers say, “You are so lucky to work at such a beautiful place.” I like to hear that—that is where all the joy comes from.



What is your favorite part about being a shop owner?

I love meeting people from all over the world. It isn't just a buying and selling experience, it is a connection with other people. Old customers become like old friends, and I love to chat with them and show them whatever new cool items we’ve brought in. I love hearing new customers who wander into the shop say they wished they had found our store sooner. I love having young people come in and tell me our store is the best in the whole wide world. Seeing people come in with questions and walk out happy makes my day, every day.

We had a ten year old boy come in who was quite shy. He happened to stand in front of a fountain pen case, so I had him try out the fountain pens and he purchased one with his allowance. A few months later, he came back and told me he has become the coolest kid in his school because he owns a fountain pen!

Then there’s a sweet couple who usually comes in on weekends. The wife will walk around looking for new items and her husband will follow her. When she can’t decide which one to buy and asks for her husband’s advice, he always says, “We can get both.”

We’ve been lucky to have customers visit us from all around the world. When we shut down during Covid, many of them wanted to know how to purchase our products, and our online shop was born. One customer would place orders from London and have us deliver them to his family in Newton, so he could send them his love.

I could go on and on, but you get why all these moments bring us joy.



How do you decide what to stock? What qualities do you look for in stationery and paper goods?

For stationery, we care a lot about quality and uniqueness. We are often suckers for cute designs, too!

We love to see and try products in person, and we’ve never missed a trade show in New York. We value our team’s input, so we bring them to the trade shows too. We probably make 80 percent of our choices based on sales data and 20 percent based on our gut (and impulse buys!). The shop is definitely a reflection of our likes and interests!


Do you have a go-to Appointed product?

The Appointed Notebook is a great size for me to test out pens and inks, with lots of room for doodling in between! I love all the colors the notebooks come in, especially the pastel colors. They caught my eye when I first saw them at a trade show, and now the pink notebook with a gold heart is my favorite one. They’ve been bestsellers at the shop ever since we started carrying them.



What advice would you give to your younger self just starting your business?

Starting your own business takes a lot of time and hard work. And starting a brick and mortar business requires even more time and hard work! But if you do what you love, you will enjoy it even if it is hard work. I’d tell my younger self to keep smiling and do what your heart tells you.


What is inspiring you right now?

My big inspiration is our team’s recent trip to Japan! We traveled there to meet some of our vendors and learn from the stationery culture. We were all impressed by people’s hospitality, the cleanliness of the places we visited, the sweet treats that looked like pieces of art, and the unique and amazingly designed and organized shops. All of this was so inspiring, especially when I had the honor to watch skilled artisans create their products—like at Pampshade, where they make the incredible bread lamps we carry at the shop. Seeing them at work just made me appreciate and respect their products to another level. I’m excited to bring all our new ideas home to our shop!



Want to see more from The Paper Mouse? Check out their Instagram @papermouseshop or visit their storefront if you are in Massachusetts—1274 Washington Street West Newton, MA 02465.

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