Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Finigan.
Founders and partners-in-crime, Samantha and Whitney Swaffield, discovered early on that they were cut from the same cloth. The girls met while working for a small advertising agency: Samantha managing accounts and Whitney designing. And while they shared a biting sense of humor and an eye for good creative, it was their wily pups, Gus and Ruby that truly fostered a lasting friendship.
During their late-afternoon jaunts with the dogs, the girls discovered a mutual passion for design, letterpress and all things paper. Combining Samantha’s entrepreneurial aspirations and Whitney’s desire to continue in the steps of her father and grandfather in the printing industry, they realized a shared dream to own a paper boutique and design studio could become a reality.
In December 2008, the girls opened the virtual doors to their custom design and letterpress printing business.
Offering custom design and letterpress printing done on a case-by-case basis, they built a small following of fellow paper hounds and realized that, perhaps, they were on to something.
In August 2009 the Gus & Ruby Letterpress paper boutique opened for business in Portsmouth, NH in a tiny, slightly off-the-beaten-path space on Market Street. In July 2010 the girls, pups and all of their followers moved to the current double-the-size flagship location in the heart-of-it-all on Congress Street in Portsmouth and in August 2017 they opened their second location in the heart of the Old Port on Exchange Street in Portland, ME. They continue to do their in-house design and printing – still on antique presses – in their print studio housed in a historic mill building in Dover, NH.
Samantha and Whitney feel like the luckiest girls in the world to work in such a creative, supportive, and passionate industry and communities.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting a business is never a smooth road! We’ve had many challenges and struggles along the way from retail real estate woes (lease negotiations and finding the perfect space is never easy!), staffing (finding and keeping awesome employees is tough but is the KEY to running a great shop for us), and inventory management (getting the right order volumes, frequency and mix is a constantly-moving target). The biggest lesson we’ve learned and are still learning is to roll with the punches a bit and not panic at every bump and shift. Even in our most tumultuous times, we’ve found that – looking back – those lessons opened new doors for us or set us on another path that we might not have gone down. It’s hard, though! There are no days off in owning your own business; it can be really taxing and draining to not be able to “turn off” work when you get home or on the weekends.
Please tell us about Gus & Ruby Letterpress.
Gus & Ruby Letterpress is a custom design and letterpress print shop with two brick & mortar paper boutiques – one in Portsmouth, NH and one in Portland, ME.
We started out focusing on and specializing in custom wedding invitation design and printing – all printed by hand on our antique letterpress and foil presses. Wedding stationery is our passion here at Gus & Ruby Letterpress! We believe that every part of planning a wedding should be a joyous, celebratory experience. We are experts at offering advice regarding timing, explanations of the necessary pieces, tips on etiquette, and creative inspiration used to craft truly personal packages. From the story of a first kiss to the lyrics from a favorite song, we find inspiration in every personal detail and help couples create stationery as special as they are. We offer private appointments at our stores where brides & grooms sip champagne and learn all the ins-and-outs of wedding stationery while they peruse albums of design inspiration or talk about a complete custom project.
Our paper boutiques offer an ever-evolving selection of carefully curated artisan stationery, greeting cards, home wares and gifts like small batch candles, hand-thrown ceramics, jewelry, and, of course, an incredible mix of paper lovelies like notecards, journals, office goodies and more. We are constantly on the hunt for new makers and artists to bring into the shop – supporting other small businesses and introducing new lines to our customers is one of the greatest joys of running the shops.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think we would do all that much differently since every choice and lesson led us to where we are now!
One thing we’d do a little differently is that I’d start setting systems and create an employee handbook earlier. We started out as just a 2-gal team and figured things out as we went along. As we slowly added employees, things were always pretty organic and loose. Now, with 9 employees it’s imperative that we have more set systems and protocols and it would have been easier had we put those in place back when there were just a few of us.
- Address: 29 Congress Street | Portsmouth, NH 03801
28 Exchange Street | Portland, ME 04101
- Website: www.gusandruby.com
- Phone: 603-319-1717
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @gusandrubyletterpress
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gusandrubyletterpress
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/gus-and-ruby-letterpress-portsmouth
All photos by Emilie Inc. Photography