The Office Supply Store That Time Forgot. | A Continuous Lean.

The Office Supply Store That Time Forgot.

Apr 1st, 2013 | Categories: Cleveland, Office Supplies | by Michael Williams

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On the West Side of Cleveland sits Buehner’s Office Supply, a trip back to a time when office supply stores were the cog in the wheel of business. The shop is also a window into a world where analog was king. More than that, a visit here reminds you of the not so distant past when nearly everything was made by thousands of little independent companies all over the United States. Not so much anymore.

It’s not just a place to pick up a “scratch pad” (which I actually did, made in Murica too), Buehner’s is a time machine into a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The alternative —Staples and the like — are spacious, efficient and homogenous; shopping there is an experience that parallels a lobotomy. Almost everything is unbranded, devoid of character, cheap and easy. I understand why it is what it is, but that doesn’t make me actually like it.

I’m the type of person to seek out the specific maker of envelopes and order them direct rather than buy some cheap house brand. Some people would say that makes me a hipster (yuppie) and a lot of people don’t really get my allure to the indies, but some of you certainly understand and appreciate the alternative. I’d rather pay more for something with personality. I’d rather support the small paper company that makes very specific product and I’d prefer give my money to support “know how,” rather than just perpetuate a lifetime of cheap shit. This store actually makes me think about some experiences I’ve had traveling, it’s always so disappointing to fly halfway around the world and find that everything is exactly the same. A better word for it is depressing.

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Deadstock Robinson Reminders refills still actually for sale on the shelves. RR shut down a long time ago.

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At Buehner’s I had a chance to talk to the owner about how the business has changed and how so much of what was a massive industry that has just been completely decimated. Think of how many printers and manufacturers are out of business. Every time I walk into Terrapin Stationers in Midtown I am happy that Ted continues to fight the good fight to keep the machines running. While the people at Buehner’s are obviously not pleased about what has happened, they were surprisingly candid about the road that led to the way things are now. Maybe that’s why this place hasn’t changed? Maybe they keep the store frozen in time so people have a better understanding of just how much the world has changed.

Buehner’s Office Supply | 5818 Detroit Ave | Cleveland, OH 44102 | (216) 651-6559

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Above: I used these things like crazy delivering firewood in Cleveland growing up.

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Related: In NYC there’s also Phil’s Stationery on 47th street in NYC that is very similar

Comments: 17

17 Comments to “The Office Supply Store That Time Forgot.”

  1. Suzanne
    on Apr 1st, 2013
    @ 9:03 PM

    I loved those street atlas books growing up. My dad bought me one of my own as soon as I got a car. I wish I still had it. I would probably frame a couple of the pages from the places I have lived around town.

  2. Tim Collins
    on Apr 1st, 2013
    @ 11:58 PM

    Buehner’s seems like a real gem, I haven’t been out there yet. At first I thought it was Hollo’s Papercraft out in Brunswick, also worth a stop some time.

  3. Lauren
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 8:35 AM

    What a fantastic spot in Cleveland. In Downtown Pittsburgh, there are Staples and Office Max (or used to be, I think the latter closed.) But there’s also a gem called J.R. Weldin Co. which is a stationary/office/knitting supply store that’s a step back in time.

  4. R.Biggs
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 9:11 AM

    Reminds me of University Stationary Co., on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, near MIT. Organized chaos, great staff.

  5. steven wade
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 9:43 AM

    As a recent transplant to Cleveland (yes, I actually chose to move here from Chicago) I am pretty excited to go check this place out. It’s not too far from me. I love when you post Clevo stuff!

  6. Kenneth
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 2:45 PM

    I don’t collect office supplies, I’m not super knowledgeable on the topic, have some giant stockpile, or even a great need for office supplies but for some reason I love office supplies even if it’s just browsing office supplies. Whenever I do need office supplies I make sure at the minimum to buy made in USA whenever I can. I’m only in my late 20s so I know that I missed the office supply hey day. Even though office supplies were always so utilitarian it just seemed the stuff of yester-year was better designed and more durable. If you love old office supplies I suggest researching to see if your local university or college has some sort of second hand store. I’m in Seattle and the Univ of Washington has a huge second hand store with all sorts of old office supplies and furniture. BTW this shop in Cleveland looks awesome.

  7. mat
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 4:22 PM

    beauty of a post matey, i am very much down with this and agree with your sentiments. i collect small office supplies. partly reminding me of being a kid (hence the pencils, rubbers, sharpeners) and now to do with finding brands i didn’t know about and their graphics and design. I know many who would appreciate this store and your post

  8. Mg
    on Apr 2nd, 2013
    @ 4:24 PM

    There used to be one of these in Denver, on Broadway, Aarons Office Supply. Was a treasure chest of awesomeness run by a simultaneously lovely and cranky Asian woman that would lecture men about opening the door for ladies, and give you quarters to fill the parking meter out front, but would otherwise leave you on your own to find what you were looking for. That store fueled a lot of early projects and materials I used for my business that revolves around a vintage aesthetic. You could find so many great things there, then without warning..they were closed for good. Had I known I would have bought up half the store, just in case I needed something. Took them for granted…I miss them dearly.

  9. Sam
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 12:17 AM

    That’s lame.

  10. Thom
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 4:25 AM

    I always regret that I didn’t have the space or resources to grab up card catalogues as libraries stopped using them. A friend’s parents have one in their house and it’s as awesome as you’d imagine – each drawer just full of interesting random things.

  11. Michael Leddy
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 11:45 AM

    These photographs remind me of a now-defunct store in Mattoon, Illinois, Warner’s Office Supply. The same columnar ruled pads, Sparco products, and so on. My greatest find in Warner’s, in 1991: Faber Castell 9000 pencils, with the barrels stamped “Leads Imported from American Zone Germany.” “They never sold,” was the explanation I got.

  12. Matt
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 12:45 PM

    Beautiful pictures – I’d take buying office supplies from a place like this over the cold, boring, lifeless approach of today’s stores any day of the week. It’s a good thing I don’t have to buy office supplies all too often.

  13. AJ
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 1:16 PM

    Michael – I don’t think your affinity for this kind of thing necessarily makes you a yuppie hipster. I think what throws people, though, is that nostalgia for the old can seem arbitrarily selective. What’s the stopping point? In an Apple age, we fetishize the Remington typewriter and Buehner’s, but why not go all-in and fetishize parchment, quill pens, and candlelight? And why do we cry rivers over the disappearance of some old timey goods (travel atlases and metal lunchboxes, say) but not others (wooden tennis rackets and the original fat cell phone)? I’m not saying you need to have some grand theory that explains what is and isn’t worth preserving, but I think it’s the random, a la carte nature of the vintage-seeking that makes people think it’s more about hip posturing than conscious consumption.

  14. Jeff
    on Apr 3rd, 2013
    @ 4:41 PM

    The best part of the store is the large Jolly Green Giant in the window!
    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Gordon+Square+Arts+District,+Cleveland,+OH&hl=en&ll=41.484916,-81.726952&spn=0.003528,0.00501&sll=41.312897,-81.831555&sspn=0.113207,0.160332&oq=gordon+square+&hq=Gordon+Square+Arts+District,+Cleveland,+OH&t=m&z=18&layer=c&cbll=41.484951,-81.726815&panoid=xAu56FOlylEecDEMo-CSdg&cbp=12,338.71,,0,8.57

  15. Dave
    on Apr 5th, 2013
    @ 2:41 PM

    AJ — “why not go all-in and fetishize parchment, quill pens, and candlelight?” some people do. there is an entire fetish culture built around the renaissance. or around the victorian era. and don’t get me started on steampunk. “we fetishize the Remington typewriter and Buehner’s” because the 20th century is the most recently faded memory on the horizon. i can imagine there were people in the 1890s that longed for the simple times before the telegraph. but perhaps not. the pace of change itself was slower. we’re now on a track in which the most simple technology takes mere years to be completely obsolete. i find that for myself, personally, objects, materials and ways of the recent pass quell my anxieties about the relentless pace of technological change. forty years from now, my pad of paper and pencil will still work. i can’t say that for most everything else in my office or home.

  16. Michael C
    on Apr 9th, 2013
    @ 6:33 PM

    another cool benefit of this store is it’s right across the street from The Happy Dog

  17. Genevieve Albers
    on Apr 12th, 2013
    @ 7:35 PM

    There is a store just precisely like this in my town. I love its untouched-by-progress mood. Corricks, in Santa Rosa, CA. I think about writing it a love note, every time I go there.