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In our Ask a Shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest store owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Nancy Laboz walks us around Parcel, her Montclair, New Jersey, shop that’s dedicated to gift wrap, stationery, and everything else you could ever need to give presents with presence.

Courtesy of Parcel

Why did you open your shop back in 2003?

My husband is a record collector, and I was an accessories editor at Real Simple, so I was always into small things and collecting paper goods, stationery, and miniature things. We would walk up and down Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair and say, “If we find a space, then I am meant to have a store—and if we don’t find a space, I’m going to go back to working in magazines.” Luckily we found a space, so I signed the lease, having no idea what I was doing. And then we followed this tiny little ad in The New York Times that said a 1930s stationery and record store was going out of business in New York. My husband cleaned it out for all the records, and I filled the car with as much vintage paper goods, party goods, stationery, and old office supplies as I could. I called my space a vintage stationery store, and it evolved from there. 

What from your childhood led you to this particular type of retail?

I was an oddball kid and used to love playing store, bank, or office; I would fill out little receipts of purchases with imaginary friends. I had boxes full of tiny things and I would craft characters and miniature worlds. As I was thinking about how I wanted to make this store about what I love, it all went back to those childhood quirks of filling boxes with things. That’s how the name of the store came about. The definition of parcel is a package, a present, or a collection of things.

Courtesy of Parcel

What are some of your best-selling items?

Probably the little weird stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. Like tiny fox face pins and little wood moon charms. I find that the things people come to us for the most—in addition to the stationery, gift wrap, and ribbons—are things that are symbolic tokens of childhood memories.

What kind of services does Parcel provide? 

We refer to ourselves as gift wrapping stylists. It’s as if we’re on one of those reality shows, where they’re like, “Go turn this into a dollhouse!” It’s a lot of fun because we have so many materials to choose from, and it will never be the same thing twice.

Courtesy of Parcel

We’ve wrapped a ton of crazy gifts. I wrapped a farm on top of a gift recently because the customer was treating their husband to a trip to a ranch. We created a whole farmland scene on top of the present. We have definitely done a message in a bottle, too, for cruise ship invitations.

What informed the look of your store?

One of the shop inspirations is from one of my favorite movies, Chocolat. It’s the chocolaterie that the main character created in a made-up city in a made-up country.

What’s your advice for holiday cards? 

We are all about sweet, simple, and nostalgic holiday greetings. I prefer to send out fewer cards that are more beautiful and meaningful, as opposed to dropping 12 pictures on a card you get at one of those online services. I think it’s really all in the words, and then you can always draw a picture of your family in the card. Plus a handwritten note is the most wonderful thing to receive in the mail, especially in a sea of photo cards. 

Courtesy of Parcel

What’s an easy and impressive way to wrap gifts? 

The easiest is brown paper packages tied up with string. But no matter the style of the paper, we always love to use ribbon. Or it could also be a really simple but beautiful twine. It doesn’t have to be shiny and elaborate. But always top the gift with something special that’s also a gift, like mistletoe, a sprig of rosemary, or an ornament that relates to the person. 

Courtesy of Parcel

What is a typical day at the shop like for you? 

I love the ritual of going in and turning on the lights, setting the music, lighting a candle, and knowing that I’m creating a mood for myself and inviting others to spend the day there, too. That’s pure happiness to me. It’s something I would greatly miss if I closed my shop.

Courtesy of Parcel

Shop Talk

Music that’s always playing in the store: A European boys’ choir called Libera, which is the only holiday music that I don’t get tired of.

Instagram account I go to for inspiration: @rhapsody.in.colour for its combination of photography, folk art, color, and Eastern European handcrafts.

Favorite nearby shop that’s not my own: I head to La Serra, a friend’s nearby glorious garden center and café in Totowa.

Dream person to walk into Parcel: I always hope that Wes Anderson is going to walk in at some point. His publicist came in once! She said my store is what the inside of Wes’s pockets look like. It was the best compliment. 

Favorite piece in stock right now: A candle with our own Parcel scent. It’s woodsy and homey.