“I’ll pencil you in!” is an expression real life couple Tony and Amanda Vassallo have never heard of. After meeting in college, their future was inked in life’s book. Both attended the same school, shared the same dorm, studied Architecture, and worked for the same firm post-graduation. Still not sick of each other, they decided to marry and prepare for an eternity together. Oh, but there’s more! After marriage, Tony and Amanda got it into their heads to start one of Chicago’s best known paper companies, Spilled Ink Press, complete with greeting cards distributed nationwide by Target – that’s right, Target! It’s not luck, but hard work and real love that have led to the wild success of Spilled Ink Press. Customers continue returning after their wedding day for birthdays, holidays, and baby shower invitations. What’s their secret? Tony and Amanda sit with Chicagoings.com to discuss the permanence of love and ink.
What sets Spilled Ink Press apart from other stationary boutiques in Chicago?
Tony: We don’t hand you a huge catalogue and ask that you select your design. Everything we make is custom and unique.
Amanda: I design the wedding invitations after meeting with the bride personally and getting an idea of what her vision is. For example, a couple was looking for a unique design for their wedding invitation that reflected who they are. With a picture of their dog in mind I sketched this (shows adorable accordion program design). It worked perfectly!
With all of the custom details you’re offering, the final estimated cost for invitations must be pretty confusing…
Amanda: Actually, there are no secrets with our costs. We don’t want to add to an already stressful process with [murky] pricing. Customers always ask, ‘Well, if I add this what will the price be? What if I add that?’ I have to keep reminding them that the price is the same across the board.
Don’t you two get sick of working together?
Amanda: Not at all!
Tony: Everyone asks us that! (Laughs) But no, we don’t.
Amanda: We drive each other crazy, don’t get me wrong. But we complement each other so well. He’s strong in the things I suck at…
Tony: She’s always thinking about the big picture. I’m always thinking of the moment, what we’re doing today and right now. She’s the risk taker, I’m more grounded.
(At this point they’ve began finishing each other’s sentences.)
Amanda: We push each other and pull each other back as needed…
Tony: She’s messy. I’m neat…
Amanda: (Laughing) He’s like a Tasmanian Devil always spinning around me straightening up my messes. Sometimes I’ll leave something crooked [at my desk] on purpose just to see how long it takes for him to straighten it.
Tony: (Not laughing) It drives me crazy to look over and see the desk a mess.
How does your relationship work to the advantage of Spilled Ink Press?
Amanda: He does the production. I do the design and printing.
Tony: It works out well since I’m –
Amanda: (Whispers) O…C…D…
Tony: …neat and organized. Things get done efficiently and I can clean up as I go. We don’t waste any product. Unlike other printers, if a customer only needs 103 of something we can make sure we print only 103 items. Most vendors ask that you buy in bulk which wastes a lot of product in the end. Details, efficiency, and quality control are a huge deal to us.
Aside from Shop 1021, where else can we find Spilled Ink Press?
Tony: Online and at Target as well. We have a line of greeting cards sold nationwide in Target stores. The design process for those is a lot more collaborative. They’ll start really wordy and long-winded and we’ll work together to simplify them.
Check out Spilled Ink Press in person at Shop 1021, 2650 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL