Finding the ideal additions to our office spaces can be a massive task to undertake, no matter what we’re looking for. In nearby Historic Downtown Hampton, a great local option has stood ready to meet the area’s needs since 1932. The concave, iron-and-brick exterior of Hampton Stationery’s entrance emphasizes its established air. It’s remained a time-honored and tried-and-true paradise for fans of fountain pens, top-quality paper and all of the office non-negotiables in between.
John Cabot Ishon, president of Hampton Stationery, began describing his labor of love as “a relatively new business” 91 years in the making. “Our building was built in 1890 as a photography store,” he says. “Half of the retail space we have now was a stationery business until the late ’70s.” The building also used to be a photography haven called Cheyne Studio, leaving “hundreds of glass photography negatives” behind in the building. Some of them now hang on Hampton Stationery’s walls. These negatives serve as an important historical record, chronicling life in Hampton and its prominent figures. Hampton Stationery donated this archive of Hampton’s history to the City of Hampton to support the first fundraiser for the Virginia Air and Space Center. The building’s original floors still remain, and its welcoming central staircase was apparently rebuilt from the aforementioned photos.
Ishon is a Hampton native, and for him, operating Hampton Stationery has been a family undertaking. In 1957, his parents assumed ownership of the business, and Ishon himself got involved in 1972 after graduating from VMI and spending some time coaching and teaching.
According to Ishon, Hampton Stationery is made up of “three economic engines”: its illustrious storefront, its smattering of office supplies and its choices of office furniture. The range in the store’s offerings spans from a $3 fountain pen to commercial removable wall panels. Outside of its physical space in Hampton, its online ordering system offers anything that customers could possibly dream of.
“We deliver from Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, and our customer base includes law firms, CPA firms, financial institutions, [and] commercial businesses for many years,” Ishon says. Hampton Stationery’s creative hand has also touched commercial projects throughout the area, such as Christopher Newport University’s Lewis Archer McMurran, Jr. Hall.
When visitors look around Hampton Stationery, they find so many trails for their eyes to travel down — clusters of cute journals, oodles of office essentials, counters stocked with fancy pens and a selection of different invitations options for events such as weddings and graduations. The store’s section of Crane and Co. offers super-smooth paper products made from cotton. Hampton Stationery also showcases more distinctive items in addition to typical writing fare, including luggage. It is the only American stationery store retailer of the Gill Marine brand.
“Personal contact is very important, and electronics don’t always do the deal,” Ishon says, regarding the challenges of maintaining communication with loved ones during a pandemic. He explains: “Personal connection has become so much more relevant — this has been one of the reasons why customers come to Hampton Stationery, to be personal with their relationships.
“Everyone wants something instantaneously,” Ishon says with a twinkle in his eye. “Customers yearn for private and personal service. They can go online and select an item, but they can’t touch it, they can’t feel it.” Some of Hampton Stationery’s customers come from outside of Virginia as well.
“There aren’t very many stationery stores left,” Ishon says. “So, that is one of the unique pieces. We get a lot of customers who come here because they grew up here. Our business is iconic, and they come back because it’s a piece of home. We have unique items you can’t find in other places, but I think the real key[s] are the people, the personal service and [relationships with] a lot of people from all over.” He emphasizes, “It’s always about the people.”
In addition to his love for stationery and passion for his business, Ishon enjoys supporting his two daughters in their pursuits of field hockey. He is an active board member of Old Point National Bank. He also loves to choose which uniquely patterned bow tie he’ll wear each day from his vast collection, and on Oyster Pointer’s interview day, he sported a tie with frogs on it.
Hampton Stationery has evolved as a leader in commercial office furniture supply in the Hampton Roads area and like his parents, John Ishon has made Hampton Stationery’s core mission one based on unparalleled customer service and personal relationships.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 108 E. Queen Street, Hampton, VA 23669
Contact: John Cabot Ishon, president