Preston family stationery remains a Bel Air staple for wedding invitations and cards – Baltimore Sun
A mainstay of Bel Air’s main street for nearly a century, Preston’s Stationery is truly a stationary business. Family-owned for four generations, it has withstood a depression, a pandemic and many merchandise tinkers in those 96 years.
“I would like to get to 100,” said owner Robert Preston. Many family-owned stationers have closed, but Preston survives thanks to its reputation and a clientele that favors personal service over the internet when buying personalized invitations for weddings and social gatherings. That’s the bulk of Preston’s sales.
Here, brides-to-be meet with the staff to draft their ideal, like the fake train tickets a woman was looking for for her destination wedding.
“People are getting really creative,” said Preston’s daughter, Kim Preston Bond, who works with clients to come up with their concepts. “The invitation of a couple was like the [loan] card that goes on the back of books in the library, with the dates stamped on when they met, when he proposed, and the date of the wedding. For a pair of Orioles fans, we printed trifold baseball tickets on which the doors of Camden Yards opened to indicate the date they would be getting married there.
“It’s good to see these ideas, and we’re helping them bring them to life,” she added.
It’s not the merchandise Bond’s great-grandfather was selling when the place first opened in 1926, when newspapers, cigars and bookkeeping supplies filled the shelves.
“During the Great Depression, he sold everything he could get his hands on, from razors to guitar strings,” Preston, 73, said. “The whole business has been an evolution.”
Custom printing took off in the 1990s, at the request of Bond. A graphic design expert, she guides customers through the purchase of everything from thank you notes and graduation announcements to peripheral wedding products like menus, coasters and napkins.
Lately, wedding invitations have taken on a more laid-back tone, said Bond, 45.
“Over the past 20 years they have become very colorful and personalized. There are still some people who want the traditional classic invitations, but others choose [more heartfelt] themes,” she said. “A couple put a picture of themselves and their dog on their card; another had a nautical theme, with seashells and anchors. We made invitations in purple, for Ravens fans.
The Aegis: Top Stories
Days of the week
Daily highlights from Harford County’s number one source for local news.
Occasionally, customers will try to push the envelope, Bond said. “Some of the artwork has been questionable, but I make subtle suggestions and they sway in that direction.”
Customers can flip through hundreds of old invitations to find their own ideas.
“They’ll go through the boxes and recognize their friends’ names,” Bond said. “Sometimes they find one and say, ‘Oh, they’re not together anymore. This makes me sad.”
Not all couples agree on the style and wording of their invitation.
“We spent two and a half hours with a bride and a groom and his parents, who all had different ideas,” she said. “There was a lot of back and forth; some mothers may lose sight that it is their daughter’s wedding. But we did, and when we did, everyone clapped.
319 S. Main Street, Bel Air. 410-838-5858. prestonsstationery.com/