Local Printmaker Revamps Popular Epitome Papers Brand
Evelyn Miller purchases popular stationery and gift shop with help of Open to Business
Even as a middle-school student, local designer and printmaker Evelyn Miller dreamed of owning her own print shop. With her eye on that goal, she worked hard and charted her own path to achieve success.
She began by studying at the Minnesota College of Art and Design, where she connected with mentor Jodi Williams, a local printer, bookbinder, and professor. Williams eventually connected her to an internship at the Minnesota Center for Books Arts (MCBA). That internship led to a full-time position at MCBA. And then Miller saw her real opportunity: a job listing for a store manager at a local print and clothing shop called Epitome 2.0.
Epitome 2.0 was an established brand that operated out of Edina’s upscale Galleria mall as for decades before the previous owners relocated the business to a street-level storefront in Excelsior, MN. The shop was known nationwide for its exceptional custom-designed invitations. Miller took the manager’s position with the hope that the business would be available for sale someday.
A dream opportunity at Epitome Papers
Just a few years after Miller stepped into her management role, the owners decided to sell Epitome 2.0. They offered Miller her dream opportunity: a chance to purchase the brand and realize her vision to own her own shop.
Everything had aligned just as Miller had planned it. The only problem was that she could not secure sufficient financing to transfer ownership. She worked with a lender at Alerus who was unable to offer her a loan, but still wanting to help, referred Miller to Open to Business’ nonprofit lending program. That’s where she was matched with Business Advisor Lee Hall—and the tides turned in her favor once again.
“Lee was the first person who 100 percent saw my vision for Epitome Papers and understood why I was motivated to make this work,” Miller said.
Part of the strength of the Open to Business program is that the advisors can look beyond financial statements and take into account the intangible strengths of a business and applicant. In reviewing Miller’s file, he saw that she had made significant improvements to the business since coming on as manager. She also had considerable experience in the industry and a strong vision for how to differentiate Epitome in the market. And above all, she had the drive necessary to succeed.
“I plan to be here 24/7,” Miller said. “I’m putting all my passion into this. This is everything I’ve wanted to do.”
Because of these intangible strengths, Hall was able to offer a loan that helped Miller buy the business—and supported her through the transition to launch a strengthened brand called Epitome Papers LLC.
A new vision for Epitome Papers
The new and improved Epitome Papers will build off the business’ excellent reputation in the custom invitation world. With Miller at the helm, the business continues its more than 40-year history as a woman-owned and woman-run business. Miller says the business will continue to prioritize high-quality customer service, quality products, and celebration of life's milestones.
Epitome Papers is unique in that it offers customers the choice between custom invitation design offered by Epitome Paper’s third-party vendors, as well as an in-house design team. This gives customers a variety of options and the flexibility to work within their budgets. The Excelsior location also provides a retail storefront offering unique paper goods such as greeting cards, journals, notepads, and prints. Epitome Papers plans to launch its own retail line soon.
The biggest change long-term customers can expect is a connection to more local artists and a greater variety of high-end, handmade goods. Minnesota-based vendors are important to Miller, and she has deep connections from her years in the industry. The personal relationship between Miller, the artists, and the customer sets Epitome Papers apart in the design world.
“People are looking for experiences,” she said. “They want to know why they should buy from you. When you know the people who make the goods, you can say, ‘They make it this way so you can experience it this way.’”
Experience Epitome Papers for yourself at 270 Water St, Excelsior, MN 55331 or online at http://epitomepapers.com/.