With the holiday season on the horizon, I set out last night to search for some special Christmas cards for friends and family. By the time I left home around 5:30 p.m., I knew I would be too late for the six-o’clock-closing of two of my favourite shops: The Shieling and Munro’s Books (more on those below). But Honey reminded me that Bolen Books in the Hillside Mall stays open until 10 p.m. nightly. (Yay!)
And what a bounty I found at Bolen! Truly, this bookstore stocks a superb collection of fanciful, quirky, and colourful cards sourced from small printing shops around the world. Here are a few of the cards I choose from the four six-foot-high spinner displays devoted entirely to holiday greetings.
Before you scold me for killing trees to send paper cards, hear me out. The sentiment of an electronic greeting card is no less valid, I give you that. And I do enjoy the cheerful *ping* my computer makes when I get a new email. But, even as of 2011, some of my loved ones have not yet embraced computers; I doubt I’ll ever get my father on email.
And, truth be told, the simple pleasure of finding a genuine, hand-addressed letter in the mailbox is incomparable, not to mention the tactile delight of slicing open a thick creamy envelope with a favourite letter opener. Besides: the niche greeting card industry supports struggling artists and graphic designers, right? So forgive me, forests; sometimes, only fine stationery will do. And for those occasions, here are the Victoria shops I visit when I’m seeking unique, quirky, local, stylish, and surprising greeting cards.
- Bolen Books (#111-1644 Hillside Ave.): This bookstore keeps shopping mall hours and carries one of the best selections of greeting cards in the city. When I checked out with my purchases and commented on the superb collection of cards, I learned that one staffer works full-time at Bolen Books doing nothing but selecting and stocking the greeting card selection. Impressive. Bolen brings in some genuinely funny (yet tasteful) Christmas cards that I’ve never seen anywhere else; I make a lot of holiday selections here.
- Munro’s Books (1108 Government St.): See my full entry on the excellent greeting card selection at Munro’s, including the 99-cent “magic card box.” Always a very good array of carefully chosen, Christmas-specific greeting cards, including boxed sets.
- Zydeco Gifts (565 Johnson St.): This should be your first stop for humour cards; they carry a large selection of truly rude and lewd ones. They stock many from the New York Uncooked line, an off-the-wall series of snarky message cards. Example: “It’s our anniversary and I’m so happy I’m not bored or tired of you. I thought for sure by now I would be.” The sumo-wrestler cats card I picked up, shown here, is from the Vancouver card-maker Paperpotamus. (Yes, I have a weakness for cat cards!)
- The Shieling Cards & Gifts (3849B Cadboro Bay Rd.): It’s worth a trip out to Cadboro Bay Village to wander the aisles of beautiful greeting cards in this incredibly well-stocked shop. This is the best place to find elegant, fine-art cards with the kind of sumptuous reproductions you can’t bear to discard after receiving.
- UVic Bookstore (3800 Finnerty Rd.): If you’ve made the trip out to The Shieling in Cadboro Bay, you might as well swing by the University of Victoria campus, too. The bookstore has a very good selection of greeting cards (just think of all those homesick students sending messages home to their parents), with a good mix of humour and sentiment.
- The Papery (669 Fort St.) This narrow little shop across from the Bay Centre carries a truly eclectic variety of greeting cards, from funny to fabulously lovely. This is also the place to splurge on handmade wrapping paper, imported from around the world.
- Oscar & Libby’s (770 Fort St.): Rivals Zydeco for its humour selection, though without the really dirty cards. It you want to make a friend laugh, you’ll find a good selection of comical cards here.
- Hemingway Boutique (560 Johnson St.): This women’s clothing shop on Lower Johnson has stylish, petite-sized greeting cards displayed throughout the store amongst the fashions. No sarcasm here; these are sweet sentiments from the likes of Two Piglets of California. I like the square cards within tiny die-cut windows revealing single words inside, produced by Egg Press. The Portland, Oregon company uses an antique letterpress to make its distinctive stationery.
- Paboom (641 Fort Street): The card selection in this value-priced home decor and gift shop is minimal, but I love the Whirled Atlas line they often carry. Artist Natisha Weissig creates collage-like images by overlaying colourful maps with vintage black-and-white illustrations, then adds a zinger for absurd effect. Example: a precise medical illustration of the human skeleton bears the line, “I found this in your closet.”
- Chintz & Company (1720 Store St.): While this distinctive home interior shop has cut back its selection of greeting cards, their stock reflects the elegant and tasteful furnishings they carry. While I no longer visit Chintz expressly for cards, I always take a few minutes to browse their carousels when I’m in the store.
Have I missed your favourite Victoria shop for terrific greeting cards? Please leave a comment here, or send a message via Contact Me.