Say farewell to Papermart
By Thomas Olson
Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
PaperMart, the local party-goods retailer founded 30 years ago, has one more occasion to mark: its farewell.
Owners Michael Paul and his wife, Alix Paul, announced on Monday that they would close their four PaperMart stores in the Pittsburgh region next month.
All four of their store leases — in Monroeville, Ross, Lower Burrell and Scott — come due in January and February, meaning rent will rise, and revenue has been on the decline in recent years, said Michael Paul.
“It's been a wonderful 30 years. But I had to decide whether I wanted to stay in business,” he said. “There is no one else in the family who is interested in continuing it.”
The Pauls' three adult sons do not live in Western Pennsylvania and none of them “shows an interest” in taking over the operation, Paul said. He said the business has been profitable for the past two years.
“The better that Pittsburgh (pro sports) teams did, the more revenue our stores got,” Paul said. “A Steelers trip to the Super Bowl was like a trip to the Super Bowl for us, too.”
As recently as 2007, PaperMart owned and operated as many as seven stores in the Pittsburgh region. That includes the Shadyside location where the Pauls began the off-beat business in 1983.
“My wife and I used to wait on every customer who walked in the door,” Paul said. “We'd always ask them, ‘What are you celebrating?' ”
PaperMart prided itelf on “having something specific for any celebration,” he said. The local chain had a knack for being among the first retailers to market novelty items that became a hit, such as Beanie Babies, said Paul, 58, PaperMart's co-owner.
But in more recent years, that niche was eroded by mass merchandisers, Internet retailers and deep discounters, Paul said.
With PaperMart's closing, 20 full-time and 30 part-time workers will lose their jobs.
Papermart plans to slash prices by 50 percent to 75 percent on most merchandise at all four remaining stores.
Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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