Dedicated fans of Little Otsu, the quirky online haven of whimsical and charming planners, calendars, journals, books, and cards, may have visited the Portland-based artisan brand's "mini-store" in San Francisco. This weekend, however, the successful publishing company debuts its hometown storefront on SE Division. We sat with Jeremy Crown of Little Otsu as he and his partner Yvonne were just getting the keys to their new store.
What's the short story on what Little Otsu is?
JC: We make things for the people who want paper in their life.
How has Little Otsu evolved since its beginning?
JC: We first opened a San Francisco store in 2002. I had been laid off from a tech job (I worked a lot of tech jobs) and Yvonne thought of the idea for the store, and we opened in October. At this point our store was called Otsu and the focus was on selling vegan stuff. In 2006 we started publishing, and we called that Little Otsu. Yvonne and I always liked Portland. In 2007 it was time to take pause and make a change. We said, ‘lets go for it. Lets move.’ It was kind of like that. Our new store will be different from where we started, but also with the same focus on paper: books, cards, invitations…
I like when you said you make things “for the people who want paper in their lives.” In an increasingly technological world, why is it important to make beautiful paper goods?
JC: Sales of paper books have actually risen. With books, it’s an object of art that lives in your home. Planners you hold and are almost like diaries; you can look back on your life, and they live on your bookshelf—you can’t browse on your ICal very easily, whereas with a book you can flip through the past year of your life.
How would you describe Little Otsu’s aesthetic? You publish work from different artists, yet they seem to share a quintessential Little Otsu quality.
JC: Yvonne and I ask each other all the time, ‘does this seem like Little Otsu?’ We’ve never actually defined what that means to each other. It’s more like, ‘I like this or I like that.’ Some artists are more folky, some more whimsical, and some are more landscape-oriented. We listen to our guts and to what we like in that moment. We’re all about selling things we like, and our new store will be an expansion of that. With a planner it’s your whole life in a book, so we want to make sure that their designs resonate.
What are you most excited about?
It’s really fun to talk to customers and hear what people say in person. We get a lot of good ideas from what we talk about with people in the store. We have items from all over the world—we have these awesome bags from Finland and other items from France and England. The way we grow as people is to see different types of things from all over the world.