Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Q&A: Susan of Black Ink

I am heading to Boston to go to a food conference in September and I am hoping (fingers tightly crossed) that I can find time to check out Black Ink. Read on to find out why!

Name: Susan Corcoran
Hometown: Chicago
Website/Shops: Black Ink and the Museum of Useful Things

Tell me a little bit about your stores and how you decided to open them.
Black Ink originally opened in 1994 selling a large stamp collection and a few accessories, we now sell a large collection of personal accessories, gifts and cards and a few stamps. Black ink is my favorite color to stamp with, hence the name. Our original store is the Charles Street location, under 500 square feet and packed with goods, it's a sentimental favorite. Our Harvard Square location opened in 2001 and is twice the size with a slightly different collection of goods and a lot more space to play with and merchandise.

What is your shop known for?
Both Black Ink stores are known for their eclectic and idiosyncratic products and merchandising. Laura Sabolefski and I do the buying and she blends it all together beautifully in the stores. We have new merchandise arriving constantly and look for the unexpected yet functional pieces. Our cross-merchandising is the real essence, it's done with a sense of balance and humor.

What do you hope customers experience by stopping by?
Many of our customers stop by frequently to see what's new (and to pet our store dog, Toby.)

How is Black Ink connect with MUT?
The Museum of Useful Things grew out of my search for truly functional yet beautiful products, which is as hard as it sounds. While theMUT was once a brick and mortar store, we have reverted to the website only, which gives us a much wider audience.

Do you have a favorite product in your shop right now?
My favorite product is usually what's newest, and that is subject to change day to day. We all have our favorite classic Black Ink product, mine is probably the Super Clip, it's truly beautiful and is something I enjoy using. That's the essence of Black Ink.

What are some things you have coming up at the store this fall?
We're just back from New York, and found some amazing new stuff for Fall and Holiday. One of Laura and I's favorites was the Japanese stress-reducing bread slices! Also some twisted new products from the classic French doll manufacturer, Petit Collin.


  1. Love that store. And love Boston!

  2. I was interested in a product that MUT carried at one time, but that they no longer seemed to sell, so I both went to one of the stores (Harvard Sq.) and emailed them to find out more about the product.

    They were unhelpful to the point of being rude. Although I had hoped they would just share their source just out of a neighborly sense of goodwill, they apparently felt if they don't sell it, no one can buy it.

    I've never been back to either MUT or Black Ink.

  3. I'm sorry to hear that you had a not great experience, but all I can think is that they must have been having a bad day—we all have them! My interactions with them have been nothing but completely pleasant.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    Over the years we have had literally thousands of product SKUs, and when I am approached for a source by an individual I try to do my best to help them locate the product elsewhere if we no longer carry it. Many wholesale vendors cannot sell to consumers so I am always wary of releasing that information, and I admit that I am protective of my sources. It's really "intellectual property" - I have spent time energy and money researching and traveling to buy products and in the competitive retail world I am not always willing to share that information. And in this industry, styles and seasonal changes are the norm, many products have a short availability.
    Sorry you felt slighted, we do our best to be helpful.
    Susan C.

  5. I used to frequent Black Ink (especially the one on Charles St.) when I lived in Boston. One of my favorite items from there is a beautiful purple dragonfly bag I use to hold stationary!