Dabney Lee in her new shop on Purchase Street
Open for Business
Dabney Lee Brings a Splash to Town
By Robin Jovanovich
Soon after moving to Rye with her husband and triplets nearly four years ago, Dabney Lee asked her good friend and realtor Siobhan Dolce to help her find downtown retail space for her eponymous “paper, party, lifestyle” business. She already operated a successful seasonal shop on Shelter Island, but it was a long drive and the distance complicated family life. Lee wanted a “flagship” store and one closer to home. A few months ago, after looking at lots of spaces that were not quite right, Lee saw a sign posted outside Papyrus advertising a 30 percent storewide sale, and she called the landlord.
On March 1, she signed the lease — “just before the world ended!” But remarkably her world didn’t.
She hired local contractor Fernando Marques and interior designer Nina Draddy who worked fast to build out and enliven what had been a gloomy, inefficient space. The result is a bright and chic shop, anchored by the bar in back (“Fernando’s idea”), which is painted in Benjamin Moore’s vibrant True Blue, as is the base of the main counter.
In order to open by July 4th weekend, she accepted assistance from everyone — her 10-year-old daughters, who helped her unpack and label; her husband Peter Woglom, who transported all the boxes that arrived at their home to the shop; and her friends, who volunteered to pitch in at night and brought wine.
On June 9, nearly a month before she was set to open, her friend Siobhan stopped by and after a quick appraisal told her, “Today’s the day you’re opening.” Lee said she didn’t realize just how fast the store had come together and maybe it was indeed ready for its close-up.
About the store, Lee said, “This is what my life looks like! Here is where you can buy a quick gift, grab all the paper goods you need for a party, and get the dress for that party.”
From the day the store opened, Lee reported that party items have been flying off the shelves because parties are coming back! Maybe smaller and at a distance, but they need to be fun and colorful, which is her signature.
Lee hails from southern California and comes from a bohemian/preppy family. “I wanted names put on all my things from a young age and luckily had a grandmother, who was my best friend, who’d buy me stationery with my name or initials on it.”
While always partial to monogrammed paper, it wasn’t until she got married that she started drawing and making stationery for friends. Next up were trunk shows. In 2005, she had a booth at the Javits Center and picked up 50 wholesale assignments. A few years later, she was licensing her line of Lucite trays.
The year the triplets turned 2, Lee opened the Shelter Island store. Somehow, she made it all work. But one day living in the fashionable Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn in a pricey but crowded apartment did not, and they packed up and moved to Rye.
Dabney Lee loves everything about her commute from Indian Village, other than having to cross the poorly marked and dangerous intersection at Purdy/Purchase/Theodore Fremd. Don’t be surprised to see her at a future City Council meeting. She works fast and she works wonders.
When life settles down and business is good, Lee plans to offer everything from calligraphy to gift-wrapping classes after hours at the shop. Did I know that she did corporate wrapping for Shiseido in a past life?