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Leyla Conlan

Leyla Conlan Gets Her Own Space.

The Write Touch gains a storefront, and a name

by Sabine Bickford

From the November, 2018 issue

New owner Leyla Conlan says she's tried to keep a lot of things the same in the new brick-and-mortar version of longtime personalized stationery-and-card store The Write Touch. One small change: the sign over the small shop at the "V" between Jackson and Dexter-Ann Arbor reads "The Write Touch by Leyla." She's added her own name to highlight the new location and its expanded inventory.

The Write Touch was started in 1993 by Adele Brinkman, who ran the business out of her west-side home for twenty years, helping customers (who were often neighbors) to design their holiday cards, wedding invitations, and other correspondence, which she would then special-order from printing suppliers. Brinkman also offered a small selection of gift items--primarily ones personalized with names and initials.

Everyone currently involved with the store has been both owner and employee at some point. Conlan first worked for Brinkman in the early 2000s before leaving to work at the ill-fated Jacobson's and finally begin a career in HR.

She missed her time at the Write Touch, and, while at her last job, she came back to the business to do occasional work. When she heard owner Terry Zdanowski was thinking of selling, she says, "I jumped."

Zdanowski, too, was an employee before she bought the business from Brinkman in 2013. She operated for five years out of her home. Both Brinkman and Zdanowski stayed on when Conlan bought the business, and the three act as a team.

Conlan brings a love of retail aesthetic to the store that she says could not have been contained in her small condo. Her mother, Ayla Conlan, founded the Ayla designer boutique downtown before passing away just four years later. "She's obviously my reason that I love retail and want to be in retail," says Conlan. "This has been my dream my whole life, to own my own store."

She's added twenty new vendors of "what we call indulgences--cashmere, pajamas, tabletop [items] ... grab-and-go things," plus candles

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and matches and a selection of monogrammed gifts, including travel bags, purses, and cutting boards.

The furniture is a rustic smorgasbord of repurposed indoor and outdoor furniture. The giant wooden center table used to be in a chemistry lab at U-M. Painted shutters hung on the wall display clients' past baby announcements and wedding invitations. A stack of crates is filled with large binders that Conlan, a former wedding planner, uses for consultations with newlyweds.

When she realized the store was too crowded to accommodate all of the extra materials she needs for holiday card season, Conlan went downstairs, set up a carpet and a long table full of binders, and sectioned off half the basement as a holiday consultation center. The other half is used for storage, including many foraged furniture pieces Conlan plans to rotate in and out of the retail space.

Conlan picked the Jackson Rd. spot, former home of Annex of Paredown, to stay close to her west-side customers. "There's a little bit more [foot] traffic just from the street," she says. "But similar to when Adele had it, people come here, and they hang out, which is what I loved about her place. So I still want to cultivate that kind of atmosphere, where you can come in, bring a coffee, bring some snacks, and spend an afternoon."

The Write Touch by Leyla, 1608 Jackson Ave. (734) 662-9171. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon.     (end of article)

[Originally published in November, 2018.]


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