News

Hey June prints a plan to build community

BY JOHN ELY

Special to the Observer

A large, antique letterpress greets visitors to Hey June, a Richmond stationery store and print studio that opened on Bridge Street last November. An original brick wall runs along the length of the store, and shelves are lined with handmade notebooks and cards.

Some are the work of owner Maria Brown. The shop’s all about “putting ink to paper and getting back to basics,” said Brown. On a recent afternoon, she used the antique letterpress to turn out a stack of neatly folded greeting cards embossed with an image of the famous mittens Sen. Bernie Sanders wore at the Presidential inauguration.

They’re expertly done. But for over 20 years, Brown worked in marketing, starting in the world of New York City magazine publishing. Stationery, letterpress and office supplies were a hobby. After moving to Richmond 10 years ago, Brown began dreaming of a shop that could bring the community together through letter writing workshops and other creative avenues.

That’s what Brown planned when she rented the space in December, 2019. The shop was going to be a “haven for creativity,” she said, a place where people could learn how to do letterpress, try journaling or have book readings and art shows. The pandemic made that impossible. Brown delayed the opening, and alongside her husband, Logan Brown, a machinist and craftsman, used the spring and summer to complete a full renovation of the shop.

While workshops are off the table for now, Brown said she’s happy for the opportunity to meet people in the community while selling and creating stationery she loves.

“[A] wonderful opportunity exists to foster connections with the people that come in,” Brown said. “Whether it’s chatting with someone looking for a card for their mom who has cancer… supporting a young girl looking for the perfect notebook to use for her burgeoning detective agency; or helping people find the perfect puzzle to get them through quarantine.”

After the pandemic, though, Brown anticipates hands-on opportunities once again. “We look forward to being able to see peoples’ faces and to have those workshops and events in the future,” she said. “For now, we couldn’t be happier with the warm welcome we’ve received since opening.”

John Ely is a reporter with the Community News Service, a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.