When Emily Johnson and her husband Nic Cameron moved to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn, they weren’t planning to run a store. Originally, they were searching for a space that could serve as a warehouse for Johnson’s fast-growing greeting card business, Hartland Brooklyn. When they discovered an empty building across the street from the post office in Leeds, “I thought, ‘That’s perfect,’” recalls Johnson.
The building, which had a studio in back where Johnson could design her cards, had also housed a general store since 1851. So not having a store wasn’t an option. “It was important to us to keep that for the community,” Johnson says.
Hartland opened in 2016, a time when “there was nothing around us,” says Johnson. Now of course Catskill and its environs are a destination. Although for the past three years, thanks to Covid, the store had been closed from mid-November until mid-March, this year it will be open until Christmas. That means more time to drink coffee (or tea) on the patio or at the espresso bar, and definitely more time to peruse cards designed by Johnson and other women-owned stationery brands, as well as notepads, stickers, and Johnson’s line of holiday cards.
While Hartland used to sell home goods, Johnson is now focusing solely on stationery. “I’m trying to simplify everything,” she says. “Greeting cards are like little pieces of art that are accessible to everyone.”
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. “I think of what I would want to send to somebody—that’s always a good thought process,” she says. Images of frogs from the New York Public Library’s data base sparked her “Hoppy Birthday” card, and her 6-year-old’s interests fueled the designs of a dinosaur birthday card and one featuring unicorns.
The cards are sustainable, too. By using 100 percent recycled paper and envelopes as well as vegetable-based inks and dyes, Johnson says her cards “hopefully make a little less impact on the environment.”
Originally, the name of her business came from the two places that held special meaning for her—Hartland in Niagara County, where she grew up, and Brooklyn, where she started her business. “I thought it gave the sweetness and coolness that my cards portrayed,” she says. “But I recently dropped Brooklyn—we moved away years ago, and I no longer feel like it fits me.”
But sweetness and coolness still perfectly describes the cards—and the store.