Amid Pandemic Upheaval, January Letterpress Owners Plan Special Delivery

Michelle and Jon Mark are the owners of January Letterpress, a stationery and custom letterpress studio located in downtown Waco. Chase Li | Photographer

By Camille Rasor | Arts & Life Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many local businesses to relocate their day-to-day operations. With the recent news surrounding the post office and their first baby on the way, January Typography owners and married couple Michelle and Jon Mark Buckner have had quite the first year of small business ownership.

The store, located at 700 Franklin Ave, opened its doors just over a year ago on August 3, 2019. Since then, the Buckners have expanded their vision of the business from a storefront to a custom typography shop for clients. They are also working on creating a wholesale line and a collection of candles to add to their products.

“Early on, we realized that we had to be more than retail, and so we had to find ways to make custom products for people, and we had to find ways to do wholesale,” Jon Mark said.

When Waco’s shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 23, the store was forced to close for six weeks. Since then, they have slowly started to return to normal.

“When we were allowed to reopen from the initial closure, we just didn’t think it was worth going back to five days a week because everything was so slow,” Michelle said. “So we are in the process of returning to our normal hours.”

Prior to closing, the store was open five days a week. Now they are open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This change in opening hours and practices is common across the country according to to research from Florida State University. Of the small businesses included in the study, 14.5% of businesses temporarily closed while 31% operated at a lower capacity.

However, Michelle and Jon Mark haven’t just been working around the COVID-19 crisis. They are also expecting their first baby this fall.

“COVID shutdown hit us at a perfect time because it was just in my first trimester, and I really wasn’t feeling well, and so I was able to just stay home, which was ideal,” Michelle said.

Now they are looking to hire a new member of staff to take over most of Michelle’s responsibilities and help the couple continue to grow their shop while stepping back to welcome their little one into the world.

“We spend a lot of time writing procedures ranging from the really basic stuff to the more complicated stuff,” Jon Mark said. “Everything from how to clean a window to how to use typography needs to be written down and communicated somehow so that if I walk away, someone else is always able to do it without me.”

Another big development this year that has affected the couple’s line of work is confusion over recent developments and downsizing at the US Postal Service.

“As far as our activities are concerned, it has not affected us. It’s definitely been a big topic in our industry, I see a lot of brands and other stores that I follow on Instagram talking about it,” Michelle said.

Although the changes to the Postal Service have yet to affect their individual business, the couple said they appreciate the service and don’t want to see it suffer.

“I don’t think it will go away completely, but if you want it to thrive then yes, you should buy stamps, you should send more cards,” Michelle said. “We use the Postal Service for all of our shipping needs. It’s the most cost effective, and we really love our Rod factor who comes here every day.

Fortunately, the COVID-19 outbreaks and canceled events haven’t affected their business when it comes to customers ordering custom letterpress products for events such as weddings.

“We probably have the normal number of inquiries that we usually have. A lot of them are just more ahead of the times,” Michelle said. “So we have a lot more people getting married in a year, or maybe they’ve postponed their wedding. We did a couple like ‘Change-the-Dates’ for people who were due to get married this summer and who had to move in. So, you know, it’s actually a bit more jobs than normal.

The couple said that in about a year, on their store’s second anniversary, they hope to expand their business to include more options for their customers and create a wholesale line.

“A lot of our current goals are around our wholesale line,” Michelle said. “We want to be able to produce cards and sell them to other stores like ours across the country, which requires designing a bunch of cards in advance, filling out catalogs, sending them to potential buyers and then print them too. We will do this internally. »

Jon Mark also stated that they also want to create a bigger presence within the Waco community and support the Waco art scene as their shop continues to grow.

“We frequently get people who pass by our store from West Texas, Lubbock, Amarillo, Dallas, Houston that we’ve been past and who stop and shop because it’s just a place you are visiting. We want to be recognized for that more,” Jon Mark said. “But we also want to support the arts more in Waco, so we want to be more involved in events that are happening downtown and just participate and support more other local artists.”