“It’s just such a surprise about the millennials,” says Hope Meadows. “They’re readers!”
Meadows knows this because her Ann Arbor-based business, Fly Paper Products, sells literary and grammar-themed stationary and gifts through roughly 500 retailers in the U.S. and Canada. Her customers include the New York and Seattle public libraries, museum shops, and college bookstores; locally, Fly Paper products are sold at Found, Nicola’s Books, and the Dixboro General Store. If you’ve seen a pencil embossed with the warning “I’m silently correcting your grammar” or a mug that commands “Drink coffee. Read books. Be happy,” you’ve seen her work.
Meadows credits the library in her native Saginaw and her mother’s insistence on proper grammar for her love affair with literature and the properly written word. She opened retail shops in Texas, then sold them, only to open another one in Toulouse, France. Following the birth of her son in 2001, she closed that shop and began creating greeting cards for expats, both as a creative outlet and as a way to earn money at home as a single mother. Ann Arbor’s Falling Water became her first U.S. client in 2003.
She moved here in 2006 to take a job at the South U gift shop Middle Earth. She praises Cynthia Shevel, the store’s co-owner, for teaching her “the power of buttons and magnets.” She left in 2009 to run her greeting card venture full-time out of her home.
Her popular retro-themed 1950s and 60s “snarky women” greeting cards and products quickly became a hit. But she eventually realized that while the collection was fun, “my real passion was literary- and grammar-themed.” She and her husband christened her new business Fly (“as in cool”) Paper Products, with a paper airplane as the logo.
Along with mugs and pencils, Fly Paper makes greeting cards, note pads, and journals (some incorporating old Dewey Decimal System library cards); bookmarks; wineglasses and rocks glasses; and candles. Meadows also sells online, through etsy.com and her own website, flypaperproducts.com.
“I think book lovers have always been out there,” she says–and contrary to stereotypes, they’re not going to die out with the baby boomers. Millennials, she says, “love nostalgic images. They love old typewriters.
“You can tell from Literati–and I love Literati–you can tell when you go in there, there’s a lot of young people. My son, who is seventeen years old, buys his own books [there]. And he reads them. He actually reads them!”