With a gigantic yellow pencil for a door handle and a nostalgic replica of the original store sign from nearly a century ago hanging above the door, University Stationery Co.’s charm is apparent before you even walk in. As you cross the threshold of the Central Square store, you’re greeted by soft rock playing on an old radio and floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with products. They have typical school and office supplies, along with an eclectic array of other items, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg themed “Judgmints”, “Freudian Slips” Assorted Sticky Notes, Albert Einstein Pillows, and an assortment of T-shirts emblazoned with math puns.
The store’s character extends beyond its stock. Many decorative items hold a story, co-owner Gail Seidman recalls, from the pencil-shaped door handle, the artist of which died midway through its creation, to the slide rule hung on the wall in the back of the shop, which hails from an old parochial school.
The store was established in 1929 by Gail Seidman’s father, Samuel Seidman, and she began working there in 1974 after he passed away. She says that a focus on customer service and maintaining the family’s values is the secret to the store’s longevity.
Seidman says her family prioritizes “treating everyone like you want to be treated.” This carries over to their service, she adds; they make sure to “greet every customer and ask how to help” and do their best to get orders “filled accurately and right away.” She believes that a focus on customer service helps distinguish the store from larger stationery chains and the impersonal experience of online shopping.
Seidman’s favorite part of the job is getting to know customers. They hail from all over the world, she says, and the bulk of them are college students.
In addition to customer service, Seidman says a varied inventory makes the store special: they “stock as much as they can of everything,” Seidman explains, rather than only selling popular items. This vast inventory is evident from the store’s towering shelves, and, according to Seidman, they were even more packed prior to their recent move from a smaller building across the street.
When asked about goals for the future of the store, the first change that comes to Seidman’s mind is to “increase product lines” — a tall order given the current variety available. As University Stationery Co. approaches its centennial, it continues to provide wide product variety and quirky touches.
— Magazine writer Charlotte R. Rediker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.