Wilshire West Fine Paper’s fate is sealed.
Up against growing e-commerce and the slow-to-recover economy, the stationery company's owners, who bought the business after selling another more succesful local company, say they can't keep Wilshire West alive.
They will close the doors for good Wednesday to the store above South restaurant at 3023 Wilshire Blvd.
“It was a nice business because it’s happy; you have happy occasions,” said co-owner Ricky Miller.
For more than a decade, Wilshire West sold personalized stationery products such as letterhead, résumés and envelopes, and custom invitations and announcements for weddings, showers, birthday parties, holidays and other occasions. Customers chose from among a rainbow of colors, textures and embellishments.
“It was like you were part of their activity," Miller said. "We made wedding announcements, baby announcements, and when then they did things for their babies and their bar mitzvahs, we got to know their children.”
Miller said she and her husband, Larry, first got into retail in 1973 when they opened a store called the Pet Department. They said that at the time, it was one of the few pet supply stores that didn’t actually sell any animals.
The Millers had good luck with the Pet Department. They expanded, opening five stores on the Westside. In 1983, a then up-and-coming retailer Petco, bought them out. To this day, Petco still uses the Pet Department’s dog-and-cat logo, Miller said.
The Millers said they didn’t want to lose the face-to-face interaction they had with customers at the Pet Department, so they purchased Wilshire West Stationers in 1996.
As the digital age began to take hold, the company responded by reducing the store’s size in 2001. It rebranded itself as Wilshire West Fine Paper.
But it was to no avail. The Millers said they also laid off employees, shrinking their staff from six to two.
Nationally, analysts have credited declining stationary store revenues on high jobless rates and big drops in consumers' reliance on paper products.
Though the Great Recession officially ended in late 2010, in a recent report for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, researches warned that in 2012-13, the regional economy would grow at a slow pace measured in years, not months.
“From a small-business standpoint, anything you read about the economy getting better right now is just not happening,” Miller said. “Maybe in other parts of the country, but certainly not in California.”