Cartoleria Fontana, a shop just waiting to be discovered in the centre of Milan

Cartoleria Fontana, a shop just waiting to be discovered in the centre of Milan

A historic stationery shop in the heart of the city, whose window display beckons you inside to discover greeting cards, notebooks, wrapping paper, pens, coloured inks, nibs and many other items selected with care and great taste by the owners – a place where you feel compelled to buy something.

Interview with Debora Prosen and Alessandro Croci, owners of Cartoleria Fontana



What is your own story and the story of your shop?


We both worked for years in a multinational company as employees with strategic tasks and operational roles and then, having grown tired of the job, we took advantage of a window of opportunity to leave the company and open something ourselves. We learned of a historic stationery shop that was about to close, as the owners were nearing retirement and wished to sell up. We decided to take it over, seeking to understand what people's tastes and preferences were, while also transforming it to suit our own needs. The name Cartoleria Fontana came from its location on Via Fontana. The customer who had first pointed out the shop to us, an expert on Depero, Marinetti and the Futurists, told us that it had existed since 1900 and was originally in Via Montenapoleone, so my husband and I tried to recreate the ambience of that time by furnishing it with antique furniture.



How do you view this return to paper and items for writing? 


I see it as something natural, in the sense that it is merely a return to what is a natural human need – setting down your ideas on paper and being an active producer of one's own thought. This activity should have no need of mediation or help from an external medium, such as artificial intelligence (if taken to extremes) or even simple pre-defined writing programmes, which are also contributing to impoverishing human language, because we are no longer accustomed to thinking about what we write. 



How do you define the style of your shop and who are your customers?


It has a vintage, antique, romantic, charming and nostalgic retro style. 



Do you have a digital e-commerce social media approach?


We only use Instagram 



What characteristics do the brands and products you select for your shop need to have?


They must be original, niche products – products you cannot find in supermarkets or ordinary shops. We travel the world looking for precisely these items and we also seek to create a trusting, friendly relationship with our customers and always offer them new and special products.



Which categories are your biggest sellers? 


Greeting cards, notepads and notebooks. 



What is the biggest challenge that stores face today?


Pleasing the public, so that people come in and don’t just buy on Amazon, so they are attracted by a particular, sophisticated, original store that entices them to enter and creates emotions – indeed, the sale of most of our items is emotional.



What is the thing you enjoy most in your work?


Dealing with people! We also really like to go around Europe, and around the world, looking for the slightly niche items that customers adore and come to us for.