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The Stationer

"We don't do trendy. We do good taste."
Nannette Brown of Mrs. John L. Strong

Tell me about the history of Mrs. John L. Strong.
  • Photo by Brad Paris

The company was started in 1929 by Flora Strong, the wife of an affluent stockbroker who fell on hard times during the Depression. Flora's sister had a trousseau shop on Fifth Avenue—it was actually right where Tiffany stands today—and Flora decided to go into the paper business at her sister's store. She had a rather tony group of friends—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Nixons-social-register-type people. She catered to them and turned it into a business.

Were you a stationery connoisseur before you bought the company?
Absolutely! And so is my husband. I think that's why I saw that there was such a unique opportunity to do something with paper that people hadn't seen before—take the wonderful, rich tradition of what Flora Strong had set out to do many years ago and translate that into something that I think would be appropriate today.

How would you sum up the company's style?
I wouldn't say there's a particular style because we do everything. The sky's the limit. And because we sell, without being crass, the world's most expensive and fine papers—everything is hand-engraved, hand-crafted by master craftsmen—I feel like the onus is on me to offer absolutely anything anyone wants. A person who comes to Mrs. John L. Strong understands that, and knows that it takes time to create these kinds of things. It's not immediate gratification. You can't get your paper in a week. And unfortunately, there's a cost associated with it.

What are some ways to cut costs without forfeiting style?
I know we're perceived as being so bloody expensive, and we are, but we always try to work with brides on cutting costs. Especially younger brides. Without a doubt, they come in all the time with that question, and we work with them very creatively to make little concessions that don't affect the overall beauty. There are very subtle changes you can make. Lose the metallic bevel, for example. Go from gold ink to black ink or Van Dyke-like dark-brown inks, and your paper will still look absolutely gorgeous.

Is there any trend you wish would die a quick death?
Creative descriptions of dress codes. You know, "contemporary country attire" and all those wacky interpretations of dress that are absolutely mind-boggling. Before eleven o'clock in the morning, ceremony dress should be morning suits. Before four or five in the afternoon, it's dog suits. If it's a formal wedding, it's defined as black or white tie. And that's pretty much it.

Would you feel comfortable telling me about the kind of invitations you had at your wedding?
I would, absolutely, but you're going to laugh. I didn't have any. I eloped. Short and sweet.

Fair enough! For non-elopements, do grooms usually come in with their fiancées?
It used to be that brides came in with their mothers, and they still do quite frequently, but today, grooms participate much more than you'd ever imagine. A couple of my staff members have told me that many grooms were more conservative than their brides, which I found to be interesting. And they said another thing, which I don't know if you should print or not—that second-time grooms are much more fun! Much more lighthearted and relaxed about the process.

What was the worst disaster you've ever had?
Being in the midst of the production on a couple's invitation, a couple of weeks before the event, clearly almost finished with the order, and the bride changed the groom's name.

Huh? As in ...
She changed grooms. Isn't that a riot? That was definitely the funniest and worst disaster we have ever had. No names though!

Speaking of names, any celebrity clients you'd care to mention?
It wouldn't be hard for you to snoop around and find out what famous people we've worked with. We certainly do many high-profile weddings—royals, celebrities, all sorts of people—but I would be doing them a disservice if I told you who they were. I think that answer speaks to your level of discretion. Exactly. That's one of the things people come to us for.

699 Madison Ave., nr. 63rd St., fifth fl. 212-838-3775


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