A daunting statistic from Forbes contributor Neil Patel advises that 90% of business startups fail. Fortunately, cousins Anna Boyer and Kate Wyman Reuther didn’t see Patel’s article. With an English degree and Graphic Arts degree between them, they launched a studio printing business in New Orleans in 2013. Today, their efforts have evolved into a growing lifestyle print design business with a robust social media following and an inviting drop-in boutique.
Growing up in Lake Charles, these first cousins spent a childhood forging their friendship and most importantly, shopping with their mothers who are sisters. It’s those shopping trips that honed Kate and Anna’s interest in product presentation, ideas that would sell, and the notion they could have a business together.
"I think it was at Hamilton House in Sulphur where we saw a line of bracelets that had a tag that read something like ‘we’re sisters but now we’re business partners,’” said Anna.
"And I said we could do this!” added Kate.
After graduating from University of Dallas, Kate returned to Lake Charles with an interest in letter press printing. The family veterinarian, Dr. Jay Carter, just happened to have a 1910 Chandler and Price platen printing press in a storage area; an heirloom from the family’s printing business. Dr. Carter gave the press to Kate who spent a summer refurbishing it and learning to use it. She then went to Chicago to apprentice with a letterpress printer.
Cousin Anna was busy finishing a graphic arts degree at LSU, after which she moved to New Orleans.
After a soft start with printing and design work taking place in their apartments, the Grove Street Press opened on St. Joseph St. in New Orleans in a gentrifying part of town near the WWII museum. The Grove Street name pays homage to the Lake Charles home where the 1910 Chandler press that started it all proudly resides. A ‘newer’ 1940 Chandler & Price Press traveled nearly 1,400 miles to its new home on St. Joseph St. and is quite prominently visible when you enter the store. It’s the Grove Street Press work horse, one print at a time.
The store itself is part of the ‘learn as you go’ experience the two entrepreneurs have developed. Originally Grove Street Press was a studio where designing and printing took place; orders were completed and mailed out. But then the charm of the brick paved street brought foot traffic from the Warehouse district and area museums resulting in people coming in to see what was happening. As a result, a charming retail area featuring seating, a stack of totes and pennants, as well as beautiful displays of cards and jotters impels visitors to see what’s inside. Oh, and there’s Mildred. She’s the shop labradoodle who graces the Oriental rug and manages to open one eye when anyone walks into the store. The 1940 Chandler press is quite visible among the antique touches, leather bound books, and other bits of southern ephemera, but you really need to look beyond the press to see there are actual computers that help marry the analog process to the digital design work.
Fortune magazine recently offered a list of why business startups fail based on interviews with owners of recently closed businesses. Among the reasons: not the right team, poor product, lack of passion, product mis-timed, bad location, and ignoring customers.
The Grove Street Press cousins have successfully factored these predictors into their business plan. Best friends from childhood, Kate and Anna are so close they finish one another’s sentences having a strong sense of where they’re going and what it takes to get there. Passion for their product resonates through their store, and on their social media platforms. The time for individually hand printed cards and other specialty items appears to be now, with demand growing. Reading their Instagram and Facebook responses is like a love-fest. Customers adore Grove Street Press and its creators. While it works now, location could be a consideration in the future.
"I like our walk-ins,” said Kate. "It gives us a break from printing and designing.”
But both owners agree a long-term dream is to have employees. "We do it all now between the two of us,” said Kate. "We might like to hand a little of it off to others.” And this is a conundrum for those in business -- when to take the business to the next level.
Grove Street Press cards are available locally at Papersmith on Ernest Street. Their complete line is available at grovestreetpress.com. To truly appreciate the craftsmanship and passion of these two ladies from Lake Charles, stop in their shop next time you’re in New Orleans. Let them know you’re hometown folks!