Cult Shop: the New York stationer for socialites


Since 1878, when engraver John Dempsey and businessman George Carroll determined to open a stationery store on East 14th Street, any New York get together that’s any New York get together is more likely to have been introduced with a Dempsey & Carroll invitation. Providing its clients “with luxury writing papers but also advice on etiquette and proper decorum in a variety of social settings”, the enterprise rose to prominence together with the town’s society scene – and it stays New York’s most illustrious stationer. 

Custom monogrammed playing cards, from $430 © Dempsey & Carroll

The hand-engraved notecards, invites and reward tags on pure cotton paper in white, ecru, gray or Dempsey blue (a deep cornflower), have since served “Katharine Hepburn, Ronald Reagan and George Steinbrenner, who owned the Yankees”, says proprietor Lauren Marrus. “And Tom Ford just ordered last week. I can tell he’s not shy about it because he put it in his movie,” she says, referring to a scene in Nocturnal Animals the place the protagonist’s ex is proven with D&C engraved stationery.

The storefront c1900
The storefront c1900 © Dempsey & Carroll

“Our history, our heritage, our craftsmanship” is how Marrus sums up the continued attraction of the sensible, awning-fronted store, now positioned on Lexington Avenue. Inside, glass-fronted, polished wooden cupboards stocked with paper items and writing accoutrements line the partitions. Two writing tables and upholstered chairs wait for many who like to come back in for “a single thank-you note or card”. “They’ll sit down and write it in the shop,” explains Marrus. It is an area purposefully designed to not really feel overly business. “It doesn’t look like a shop; it looks like a library in an Upper East Side apartment or a nice London flat. It has a very warm feeling”.

Ready-to-buy merchandise embody notecards engraved with a golden frog brandishing a Martini, printed with New York taxis ($65 for 10) or a single crimson coronary heart ($55 for 10), and invites bearing a golden bumblebee and, in neat print, “You are invited for…” ($50 for 10). Thank-you playing cards for sheepish get together friends that learn “[…] regrets her behaviour at […]” ($40 for 10) “are always a favourite among our clients”, says Marrus. 

Love cards and envelopes, $55 for 10

Love playing cards and envelopes, $55 for 10

New York Taxi cards and envelopes, $65 for 10

New York Taxi playing cards and envelopes, $65 for 10

The again half of the shop homes paper samples and inks in “in every colour of the rainbow”, and is the place shoppers can design bespoke monogrammed stationery, invites or bulletins. “We can accommodate most requests,” explains Marrus breezily, from painted corners to handpainted borders, bevelled edges, hand-calligraphy, invitation meeting and envelope addressing. Her private bespoke order is monogrammed gentle gray, thick, four-ply notecards with handpainted gray edges and gray tissue paper-lined envelopes. 

Rooster cards and envelopes, $95 for 10
Rooster playing cards and envelopes, $95 for 10 © Dempsey & Carroll

Marrus’s capability to steadiness conventional service with playful design (one current notecard is topped with a crimson rooster) has ensured the store’s attraction carries from technology to technology. “We might have done your grandmother’s wedding. How do we make sure we do your wedding and your children’s weddings?” she says. But success wasn’t at all times on the playing cards. When Marrus bought the enterprise in 2004, it was bankrupt and run down by the rise of digitalised communications. She renovated the area and opened the store on 15 September 2008 – the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed. It was her concept to make enterprise playing cards, and “that January was one of our biggest months ever”, she remembers. “A lot of people were looking for jobs. So we needed to shift to where the market [was] growing.”

Before lengthy, Marrus had restored the store to its former cultural prominence. When Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel The Goldfinch got here out in 2013, Dempsey & Carroll was delighted to find its stationery within the pages, within the fingers of the kindly, antique-collecting, Park Avenue-residing mother-figure Mrs Barbour, who responds to her letters with “a line or two on her monogrammed correspondence cards from Dempsey & Carroll”. “We feel proud of that,” says Marrus with a smile.