In early February, Melinda Morris signed the lease on a space for her new business and moved quickly to open the doors. By the end of the month, Arni Paperie, a custom printing, stationery and event planning store, in Southold had opened.
“We sort of pulled it all together and literally made the decision, and opened the store in four weeks,” Morris said. “It was insane. I was just like, ‘Look, if I’m going to do this, I got to do this now.’”
Soon, she was filling orders for custom wedding invitations.
“And then, two weeks after that, we were shut down,” she said.
As a new business that was forced to close because of the spread of COVID-19, Morris has had to change her business plan quickly. When she opened, she was preparing for the wedding season and all the stationery that goes along with it. But with weddings postponed or cancelled, she has shifted her attention.
“I’ve been focusing on the importance of handwritten notes,” she said. “Given that everybody is social distancing, sending cards is such a wonderful way to connect with people — what a lovely, personal opportunity.”
She started offering curated card packages at a discount and delivering or mailing them. “Some people have been sending them to healthcare workers and people on the front lines to send appreciation,” she said. On top of that, Morris launched an online site, where people can order directly from her.
“It’s really important to me to be a positive part in the community, and so this is the way I can do that,” she said. “It’s fun to see my vision of what I’ve curated as a little collection.”
To say that Morris was meant to be in the stationery and paper industry is an understatement. Since the age of nine, that is all she has known.
“I worked in the family business my whole life,” she said. “I grew up in that world, here on Long Island.”
In 1981, her parents sold their home in the Hamptons to open up Lion in the Sun, a stationery store, in Huntington. After spending her childhood working around the family store, Morris moved to Brooklyn, where she had a career as an event planner, but eventually opened up her own Lion in the Sun in Park Slope, which she owned for 18 years before selling it to another stationery company.
When the cottage nestled between Beckwith Ave. and Maroni’s Cuisine in Southold opened up, Morris jumped on the opportunity.
“The space was just so perfect,” she said. “It was exactly what I was looking for — a tiny little space to highlight what I do, which is partial studio space and partial retail space.”
Her and her husband have always been fond and frequent visitors of the North Fork and have wanted to move out here for years.
“I love the connections to the wilderness and the beach, but also the farming, the small community and the lifestyle,” she said. “It was a calmer lifestyle than Brooklyn for us, but also there’s still really wonderful things to do, really great culture, amazing restaurants.” She also felt like her business would be a unique addition to the area.
It’s really important to me to be a positive part in the community, and so this is the way I can do that.Melinda Morris, owner of Arni Paperie
When coming up with a name for the new spot, Morris went back to her roots, by naming the place after her dad, Arnie, who passed away in 2005. After coming back to the East End to open Arni Paperie, where her parents had sold their house to start their business, Morris realized she had come full circle.
“So we were going to name the business Full Circle, but I realized the full circle was my dad, so we just named it after him,” she said. “He didn’t spell it that way, obviously, but I love the unisex nature of the name. It doesn’t evoke anything for anybody else. They know the shop as Arni and people who know my dad understand why.”