A Personal Touch in a Digital Age

Jacobson Fine Papers & Gifts Finds Success in the Enduring Appeal of Handwritten Notes

by CoVaBizMag

Small Business Spotlight | Jacobson Fine Papers & Gifts

By Gail Kent | Photos by David Uhrin

In an era of email and texting, there’s one thing that technology will never replace – the joy of receiving a handwritten note on beautiful paper or a formal invitation.

“There’s nothing like a nice, handwritten note,” says Melissa Lange, owner, president and jack-of-all-trades at locally owned Jacobson Fine Papers & Gifts in Virginia Beach. “I still have people ordering beautiful, engraved stationery.”

And it’s not just older people looking to make a good impression. “It’s a thing,” she says. “Older folks, 40 and up, know what they should do. A lot of professional young people in their 20s and 30s are also coming here.”

In addition to custom stationery, Jacobson offers invitations for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and special events; birth announcements; personalized gifts; and boxed Crane stationery. For their customers’ convenience, the store provides in-house printing for quick turnaround, calligraphy services and envelope addressing, and Lange can special order items from Caspari, such as wrapping paper, plates and napkins.

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved paper and writing.” Lange says it was that love for all-things-paper that inspired her to take calligraphy classes in 1991, where she met someone who worked for the previous owner and told her about a part-time job opening at Jacobson. She transitioned to a full-time position in 1998.

The Jacobson family founded the business in 1985, and when the original owner passed away, Lange purchased the store and maintained the name.

Melissa Lange, owner, president and jack-of-all-trades at locally owned Jacobson Fine Papers & Gifts in Virginia Beach

Melissa Lange, owner, president and jack-of-all-trades at locally owned Jacobson Fine Papers & Gifts in Virginia Beach

As digital communication has grown, Lange has recognized the need to be innovative and change with the times. “We used to always have a reply card in a wedding invitation, but with the advent of wedding websites, a lot of brides allow their guests to respond online,” she says. “Now, rather than a reply card, they include an enclosure with a link to their website, but it’s still a beautiful formal invitation.”

Lange’s business may have been one of the few winners during the COVID pandemic shutdown. “COVID really brought people back to writing,” she says. “I don’t know if it was because people had more time, or they just wanted to reach out and get back in touch with others.” The store was open on a limited basis, so many customers placed orders over the phone and Lange delivered the to their doors.

Her business has outlived similar stores that closed during the pandemic, positioning her with little competition in the Hampton Roads market. As a result, she has customers coming from Williamsburg, the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks.

“I think the art of writing has kind of gone away a little bit, but I do see it kind of coming back now,” Lange says. And many people want quality, heavier-weight paper they can’t find from online ordering. “I have had brides, on many occasions, come in and say that the invitations they ordered online weren’t at all what they thought they were getting. My customers come in here because they want to touch and feel what they’re getting so they’ll know what their end product is going to be.”

Among Lange’s favorite companies to work with is Arzberger Stationers from Charlotte, NC. “I love working with them, because they have wonderful customer service and a beautiful product of really high quality.”

She says it’s very satisfying to work with multiple generations of customers. “I have customers that I did their wedding invitation, children’s birth announcements and their children’s bar and bat mitzvahs. Now I’m doing the children’s wedding invitations and birth announcements.” Her business is largely based on repeat customers and word-of-mouth promotion.

Soon Jacobson will relocate to 1952 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach, where it will share a space with Black Iris Florist. “We’ve worked together on events for a number of years, have many of the same clients and we can help each other out,” Lange says. “It’s a great fit for us both.”

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