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Mar 05, 2021
A look at the main space in E. Frances Paper's Middletown headquarters.
Photography by Marial Maher
Inno Associate Editor
When the founders of eight-year-old stationery company approached Middletown about buying an old auto dealership garage at the Newport border, town officials expressed surprise that they would want such a dilapidated building.
But after a remodel overseen by a group of people who design for a living, that garage is now the home of E. Frances Paper, boasting about 6,500 square feet of bright, plant-covered, industrial-chic workspace. It holds all of the company's paper inventory, plenty of space to collaborate on new stationery designs and a kitchen stocked with coffee and chocolate.
"It was actually pretty easy in terms of rebuilding and design, because it was this huge, open, industrial space, and we wanted to keep it industrial," said owner and director of sales Jenni Laundon. "We didn't want to close it in at all. We left everything visible, ductwork and everything."
Located at 114 West Main Rd., the building was previously home to the Competition Imports car dealership. E. Frances Paper now occupies about 4,500 square feet and rents out a 2,000-square-foot glassed-in showroom at the front of the building.
It's not the stationery company's first rodeo with former industrial spaces. Its previous space, which it moved out of in 2018, was once a bubble gum factory.
Today, about a dozen people work of the space at any given time; even with Covid-19 restrictions in place, E. Frances Paper employees have more than enough room to spread out, Laundon said. The company is looking to hire another two people in its quest to become a global brand. Currently, its cards and other paper products are available for purchase on its e-commerce site and in retail stores in the U.S.
Once it's safe to do so, Laundon and her co-founders — her cousin Emily Roberts and sister Ali Flippin — plan to activate the building as a community space. They envision dance parties, and they hope to be a catalyst for the whole neighborhood to grow and change.
"You walk in, and you could be in L.A. or anywhere," Laundon said. "You have no idea. It's this cool anomaly in Middletown. We're so psyched."