Even the dark, rainy days of November can't dampen the spirits of Bryan Heidinger, who welcomes clientele to Paper Nation with an effusive greeting.
They come to the little store in downtown Abbotsford as customers; they leave as friends.
"I want people to feel like they're home here," he said Saturday.
Heidinger started the business two years ago with partner Kelly McClendon and they describe Paper Nation as a unique paper and gift boutique, with their focus on products made by local artisans.
"We want to create an atmosphere of warmth, fun and creativity," says Heidinger, taking a break between customers.
He is succinct when describing his vision for the store, which won him the Chamber of Commerce New Business of the Year Award in 2011.
"We really wanted it to be a community store. We live in the community and we want to focus on that," explains Heidinger.
With the melodic tones of Michael Bublé playing in the background and a coffee pot percolating in the back, customers can relax as they peruse shelves of unusual paper items and gifts, and have a chuckle over the unique display of greeting cards, ranging from basic to downright cheeky and even naughty.
"We don't want to be Hallmark," said Hei-dinger.
And they're not.
Paper Nation is carving out its own little niche in the marketplace, and folks come from far and wide for their unique cards and paper products, wine bags, special packaging items for home baking and more.
In the back of the store is a work area with a large table, ideal for their workshops and classes. They also cross-promote with other businesses such as Traceycakes, which offers high tea or cupcakes for parties, and then the guests go around the corner to make their crafts at Paper Nation.
"It's all about helping each other," added Heidinger. "It is a nearly monumental challenge to be a small business owner in this economy. The onus is on us to offer something unique and different."
Paper Nation also helps with a food drive for the local food bank and has held 'make 'n take' card workshops for clients' kids there.
This Sunday, for the 25th annual Christmas Tree Lighting activities (1 - 4 p.m. in downtown Abbotsford), Paper Nation will be participating in the inaugural puzzle walk, where patrons receive a map from the ADBA and visit various stores, picking up puzzle pieces for a chance to win a giant gift basket.
Proceeds from this fundraising event will go to Matthew's House.
? Paper Nation is located at 33721 Essendene Ave., Abbotsford. E-mail BryThePaperGuy@PaperNation.ca or call 604-746-4744.