The Write Stuff

Photo by Simon Simard

Photo by Simon Simard

A stationary store might seem like an unlikely place to find love. But Bob Slate is where self-described “pen addict” Laura Donohue spent her Harvard undergrad days in the early ’80s, lusting after cards and swooning over school supplies. Donohue became a loyal customer — and she wasn’t the only one. Last March, she stopped by the Mass. Ave. spot for a new Cross pen, only to be confronted by crying patrons who were dismayed that the shop, which opened its doors in 1933, would be closing.

Ready to retire, the owners, brothers Mallory and Justin Slate, had decided to shutter all three Bob Slate locations. That’s when Donohue realized that she wanted a change, too. So she quit her stressful corporate job and, without a second thought, bought the business. “I’m a very decisive person,” she explains. “When something strikes me that I want to do, I don’t hesitate.”

Seven months later, Bob Slate Stationer opened once again at 30 Brattle Street (the site of a Bob Slate store from 1975 to 1990). Donohue knows she has big shoes to fill, and she’s started by adding a few stylish modern offerings — Moleskine iPad covers, Rhodia leather pencil cups — to the store’s selection of Letts of London planners, Clairefontaine notebooks, and other trusted bestsellers.

And to keep customer service top-notch, Donohue has rehired five former staffers, including 28-year veteran Carolyn Roosevelt, and placed a “wish book” near the cash register for customers to request specific items. She also plans to launch a Web store in the next year.

So far, her efforts are having the desired effect. “It’s a love fest,” Donohue says about the reaction to Bob Slate’s reincarnation. “It felt right to me from the very beginning.”

30 Brattle St., Cambridge, 
617-547-1230, bobslate.com.

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