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Pacific Art & Office Supply: Keeping up with trends, online competition

By Luke Whittaker

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 13, 2017 11:17AM

Susan Murfin first opened her printing and office supply store in Ilwaco in 1975. In 2002, they shut down the printer and started offering more art and crafts to supply a growing community of artists, now from a location in Long Beach.

LUKE WHITTAKER

Susan Murfin first opened her printing and office supply store in Ilwaco in 1975. In 2002, they shut down the printer and started offering more art and crafts to supply a growing community of artists, now from a location in Long Beach.

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When did your business begin?

“I started in 1975. It will be coming up on 43 years in April. We started in Ilwaco before moving to Long Beach about four years ago.”

How has the business evolved through the years?

“I’ve increased the inventory a lot in craft and art supplies. Originally, in Ilwaco, we were a print and office supply store. In 2002, my husband had a stroke and we shut the printing down. By then I had some art supplies and just kept adding to get more people in. Now I have office, art, craft and scrapbooking things in here — a little bit of everything.”

What accounts for the majority of your sales?

“It used to always be the office supplies, but now it’s the arts and crafts. It used to be most everybody painted watercolors here but now I’m selling a lot of acrylic paint.”

How has the Internet had an impact on your business?

“Some of the things I used to buy off wholesalers, I have to buy off Amazon with shipping and taxes. There will come a time when people will begin to miss going into a store and actually handling stuff. You don’t really know what you’re getting online.”

Are there misconceptions you regularly encounter?

“People sometimes think stores like Staples are cheaper for supplies because of their name.”

Are there any products or services you offer that you wish more people were aware of?

“Yes, a lot of the arts and crafts things. I also have things like pricing stickers and string tags, stuff that people will normally drive to Astoria for.”

Did the 2008-09 recession have an impact on your business?

“Yes, it was dead all of the sudden. It hit here about a year or two after it was felt in the cities.”

What do you feel the craft industry will look like 20 years from now?

“People still love places like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. I think those places will still look similar as long as people keep doing crafts.”

Have you witnessed crafting trends come and go through the years?

“Oh yeah. People will come in and say ‘Oh my gosh, you don’t have blank?’ Then I will put a whole bunch in and nobody comes and buys it (ha-ha). I put signs on the window and everything.”

Any particular examples come to mind?

“Scrapbooking. People hardly do it anymore, now they’re making cards. The coloring books for adults is another one. It’s still kind of going.”

Do you have a specific example of how Internet sales have impacted your business?

“When we first opened we had office supplies and almost every business bought their stuff from us, but now they go online to Quill or Staples and it’s dropped off by UPS. I had a big fight with the City of Ilwaco because I was in the building on the other side of their parking lot, and sometimes UPS would leave their deliveries with me if they weren’t open. I asked why they were buying from Staples when I was right next door and they said ‘because they deliver.’ It was just too simple to order it online. I think the cell phones have made a difference, too — you can just look up anything on your phone.”

What’s the biggest lesson about business you’ve learned through the years?

“I think the biggest one for me is being nice and trying to accommodate what the customer needs. The personal attention to customers is the biggest thing.”

Are there any particular requests or customers that stick out?

“I’ve had a couple funny things happen over the years, especially when computers first came in. I had a lady call me one day and ask for ink for her VCR.”



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