Unique stamps make lasting memories

by Pamela Parks

Door County Advocate – Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oscar Hansen leaves a lasting impression with her customers. Hansen, who owns and operates Door County Rubber Stamps on Jefferson Street in Sturgeon Bay and Oscar’s Stamped on Main Street in Fish Creek, has worked in retail for 25 years.

She does not just sell her products, but she also designs and produces them on site. She offers unique designs in rubber stamps and paper that match the Door County experience. Hansen, a native of Door County, went to school and settled in the Appleton area.

She opened her Sturgeon Bay store in 1995 while operating several other stores in the Appleton area. Hansen started with gift shops but quickly rode the wave of growing interest in rubber stamping.

She opened the first all-stamp store in Wisconsin in Appleton but now only has her two Door County locations.

"When I first started in retail, I did a lot of designing at home,” she said. “I opened gift shops with stamps in them. I also immediately designed giftware and fashion for my store. I always felt I needed my own designs to make it in this world. If you are not unique—if you can buy it in Chicago or across the country— then it’s not that special."

Hansen found her niche in the market by offering unique products combined with personal customer service. It is what sets Hansen’s rubber-stamp shop apart from other retailers, she said.

"I found that customers appreciate the Door County style and flair," Hansen said. Customers can buy stamps that mirror their experience in Door County, as well as custom papers sold individually or packaged, to create custom memories of their vacation.

Hansen enjoys spending time with her customers, sharing ideas and inspiring their passion for paper arts.

"I have a hard time being out of the store,” she said. "I love being with the customers."

Hansen likened the service she provides to her customers in her store to the experience that Pudge DeGraf offered his customers. Hansen recalls that DeGraf’s woodcarving "showroom"—space on a small porch of his home—was a place where he greeted the public and never tired of explaining his craftsmanship and a few stories as well.

Hansen helps customers find just the right stamp, provides creative art examples to inspire crafters, and listens for ideas that she can develop into future products.

"Some stores do not allow customers to take photos of the examples, but we do. People love to be inspired," said Hansen.

Over the last 15 years, Hansen has developed more than 10 lines of stamps, many created from the art of Julie Young of Neenah. The images capture everything from Red Hat ladies, to western horses and nautical designs, to the cherished moments of weddings, anniversaries and births. Hansen also created a stamp line that has the image of every Door County lighthouse. Word stamps, including many that mention a variety of Door County memories, Door County Kids and Wee Ones, and images showcase activities in the county, from picking cherries to camping and time at the farm. Hansen both designs her stamps and produces them at her stores.

"I start with quality materials and end up with good quality products," she said. "It’s a lot of steps and a lot of labor. A lot of companies are going over to China, but the quality is not as good."

Because Hansen uses deeply etched plates to make her stamps, her stamps are detailed and give a crisp, clean imprint. Hansen introduced a new line of original paper to her shop just four years ago, including a Door County line and a popular local school line celebrating each area school.

And Hansen plans to unveil a wedding line after the first of the year. The paper is a collaborative effort with Paper for Designs, a company owned by Jim Baer of Appleton.

In addition to the stamps, papers and coordinating accessories, Hansen also does custom work, including return address and business stamps and one-of-a-kind stamps from personal art.

She estimates that more than 75 percent of her business is from out-of-town visitors. She does some wholesale business as well—an area she may expand in the future.

"Most of my friends are retired," she said. "I feel like I’m just starting."

Find out more about products or classes offered at www.doorcountyrubberstamps.com.

Also, the Sharing and Caring paper arts group meets every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to mid-afternoon at the Sturgeon Bay Library, beginning Tuesday.