For Pretty Papers & Gifts on Hilton Head Island, the keys to lasting success are top-notch customer service and a wide variety of quality merchandise.

Original owner Susan Woods opened the shop in 1983 in Sea Pines Center as a high-end party store that sold Caspari napkins, Crane stationery, gift wrap, ribbons and balloons.

“We were the first stationery store on the island,” owner Gene Arrington said.

Pretty Papers & Gifts is still the only stationery and wedding invitation store in the area.

Over the past four decades, the boutique has evolved into a stationery gift store. In 1999, the shop moved to the Village at Wexford, and in 2000 the Arringtons took it over.

Arrington’s wife and co-owner, Ellen, said the one thing that has been consistent since the shop opened is customer service being the owners’ primary concern.

“Our customers will say, ‘It’s a social occasion to come to Pretty Papers. We just feel that we’re comfortable, and we can carry on a conversation with the staff,’” Ellen said.

The Arringtons have a large clientele that has been with them for years. Most are local residents and owners of second homes on Hilton Head. Through their interactions at the shop, their customers have become more like friends.

The couple works hard to continue those relationships. If they know a client’s husband has been ill, they ask how he is doing. If they know about a new grandchild in the family, they offer their congratulations.

While fewer people send handwritten notes on personalized stationery these days, there’s still a segment of the population that prefers to stick with tradition.

“If someone writes you a note, you’re going to remember that note a lot more than you’re going to remember somebody saying ‘thank you’ on a text,” Gene said. “And frequently people will read a note more than once. That personal touch is still important to a lot of people.”

Just like with stationery, wedding invitations have become very customizable. They are a large part of the Arringtons’ stationery business. It is still important to brides to have an invitation that can be cherished for decades to come.

“Like any other business, we have to evolve with the customers,” Gene said. “And that’s what we try to do.”

Proofs can now be emailed to brides anywhere in the world. The Arringtons have designed invitations for brides as far away as England and Hong Kong. There are more choices now than they could offer years ago, when there were a limited number of colors, fonts and shapes of paper.

The Arringtons have also greatly increased their gift selections. Now their shop sells all kinds of gifts – from jewelry and cosmetic bags to picture frames, serveware, monogrammed soap, baby gifts and scrumptious treats.

Their shop is the only local store that sells Christmas cards, both boxed and special order. They carry lines of greeting cards that other stores don’t. They carry a variety of high-quality brands, including Michael Aram, Mariposa, LAFCO candles, Caspari, Julie Vos and Enewton.

Of course, Pretty Papers still sells Crane stationery, but the shop also sells stationery from William Arthur, Stationery Works and other fine stationery sources.

Gene has worked in retail his entire career, and his wife said he’s very good at nurturing the lines that have become most important. He enjoys getting to know the vendors and developing new lines.

Heritage Shortbread cookies are a customer favorite. The locally made cookies are sold year-round at Pretty Papers and are popular as hostess or birthday gifts. Gene said they are also great “for people who have everything.”

The shop also sells John Kelly Chocolates, which are made in California and are not carried anywhere else nearby.

The Arringtons are at Pretty Papers six days a week, ready to assist customers in choosing the perfect gift, invitation or stationery.