National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 2


Editor's Note: For those of you wanting to create your own paper goods company, I’m now teaching an online course called Stationery Business 101: Starting Strong National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 2 (Find part 1 here.) 

Here in the Sycamore Street Press studio, we are right in thick of preparing for our annual trade show in New York City -- the National Stationery Show. Finishing up last minute designs, rolling art prints through the letterpress, planning our upcoming photo shoot, etc... A couple of first time exhibitors recently reached out with travel-related questions for the show, and I thought I'd post my answers here for all of you!

Note: Even if you never intend on going to the NSS, the info on NYC lodging might be helpful if you're planning a trip to the city. Happy travels! - Eva

Keep reading for insider info on the National Stationery Show and in depth info on where to stay in New York City.

Q: How much time do you need to set up for a show / When should I get there?

This depends on a lot of factors. How involved is your booth set up? Are you putting up hard walls or did you order walls from the show? Are you setting up your own lighting or is the show taking care of it? How many people will be there with you to help set up, or are you doing it alone? In general, for a first time exhibitor, I recommend giving yourself at least two days to set up for the show. We put up our own hard walls for the Sycamore booth, and like to start on Thursday as soon as they deliver our crate. That way, not as many people are there yet and we have more room to move around.  We usually work all day Friday as well and have it set up by that night. This gives us Saturday to relax and explore -- or shop for clothes to wear to the show. There have been a couple of times where we didn't get everything done and had to work on Saturday, too. But to be honest, those were years where we weren't as organized ahead of time and were having to go all over the city running errands for booth supplies.

Q:  When would you leave? (The Wed night the show ends or the next morning?)

I would not plan on leaving until Thursday morning. You never know how long it is going to take the union guys at the Javits to bring you back your pallet, crate, stored boxes, etc... However,  if you aren't going to have them store anything for you, and you will have it all in your booth and are just taking it home in your suitcase, your car, or shipping it UPS, FedEx, or USPS (rather than a freight company), then you don't have to worry about waiting and could leave Wed night.
Q: Where do you stay?

Days spent at the NSS are long and grueling. We've found that we just want to pick up some take out, go back to our room, answer a few emails, and crash. With that in mind, the ideal situation would be to stay someplace close to the Javits, which is located in Hell's Kitchen. (Surrounding neighborhoods include Chelsea, the Garment District, Midtown, and the Upper West Side.) However, NYC hotel prices are soaring, and for many small business owners (including us) budget is a big factor. We've stayed in a lot of different types of places over the years. Each has pros and cons. I'll go through them here:
Free (or practically free) Options:

Friends: The first time we did the show, we split our stay between three different friends who were living in Brooklyn at the time.

Pros: 1) Great company, 2) Very low cost. We just gave them some product and offered to buy dinner.

Cons: 1) Great company (we were so exhausted after talking to people all day at the show) 2) Long commute. Our friends lived in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which meant our commute was anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. Kirk and I have not tried this option, so I cannot personally vouch for it. One of our former interns has done quite a bit of it, and had wonderful experiences with it. But I also remember talking to a vendor at Renegade Brooklyn who tried it in NYC to disastrous results. (Her host had an erotic photo shoot going on in the living room while she was there -- which was also the room where she was supposed to be staying/sleeping. She ended up having to leave and spend hours on the phone and a lot of money to find a last minute solution.)

Pros: 1) Potentially great company, 2) Very low cost (again, it's free, but buying/making dinner for your hosts and giving them some product is a nice gesture.) 3) Potentially awesome living conditions

Cons: 1) Potentially terrible company 2) Potentially terrible living conditions 3) Potentially falls through and you have to scramble at the last minute to find something else.

Home Exchange: I have never done this but am really intrigued by the idea. I took a Creative Bug course that included the couple behind Oliver + S ... One of the things they said that really struck me was that although they make less money than they would with traditional jobs, they still have a great quality of life due to more flexibility and creativity. Along those lines, they live abroad for a month every summer as a family. They are able to afford it by continuing to work while they are there and by doing a home exchange rather than paying for hotels or rentals. So far, they have found friends and acquaintances who are willing to exchange with them, but they also have a friend in NYC who has had great success using (Like in the movie, The Holiday.)

Pros: 1) No money required 2) You get to spread out in an entire apartment / home, use their kitchen, etc... 3) Have a more local, "authentic" experience.

Cons: 1) Takes a lot of planning and luck to set up 2) You have to have a home that someone would want to exchange with  4) Could potentially go very wrong.

Paid Options: 

Hostels: Back when we were in college, Kirk and I stayed in YMCA hostels a couple of times when coming out to NYC. I've stayed in the one on the Upper West Side and the one in Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Both situations included a private room for us with a shared bathroom down the hall.

Pros: 1) Less money than a hotel ($120 / night for a single private room w/ shared bath in May 2014 as of Feb 2014) 2) Good location. The one on the Upper West Side is near Columbus Circle, The Lincoln Center, and Central Park. Approximately a 25 minute commute by subway or 7 minutes by cab. 3) The Upper West Side location has a fantastic historic gym and pool that you can use for free.

Cons: 1) You have to share a bathroom 2) Rooms have zero charm / style & possibly aren't as clean as a super nice hotel.

The Jane Hotel: This place is in a category of its own. It has some regular hotel rooms and also some private bunk rooms that use a shared bath. Great if you're traveling in a group of people with various budgets, or if you have a hostel sized budget but appreciate style. (The bunk rooms are a step up from a hostel, in that they are relatively recently renovated to look like luxe, classic ship cabins with wood paneling.) Kirk stayed here last year for the NSS (I was home with our baby) and said it was clean and nice. We'll probably stay here again this year.

Pros: 1) If you stay in a bunk room, it's less money than a hotel ($125 / night for a single private room w/ shared bath in May 2014 as of Feb 2014) 2) Great style and luxe details 3) One of our favorite NYC restaurants is located downstairs (Café Gitane -- get the couscous) 4) Great location -- within steps of the hip Meatpacking District and the spectacular High Line park. Approximately a 25 minute commute by bus or 5 minutes by cab.

Cons: 1) If you stay in a bunk room, you have to share a bathroom 2) The bunk rooms are teeny tiny 3) It's not super close to a subway stop.

Apartment Rentals: Places like Airbnb and Homeaway offer entire apartments / homes as well as rooms within someone's apartment / home for rent. Kirk and I have used Airbnb twice -- once in NYC during the NSS a couple of years ago, and once on a trip to Stockholm. We had great experiences both times. (Tip: I recommend only book apartments with multiple positive reviews.) One thing to take note of right now, though, is that Airbnb is in a fight with the city of New York. As far as I understand it, the city is trying to pass a law (or did already?) supposedly aimed at slumlords, but would make it illegal to rent out an entire apartment on vacation. (Just renting out a room in someone's home is fine.) From what I've read, the risk of you being kicked out during your stay is slim to none, but be aware... I am not a lawyer and do not know all the implications involved.

Okay, so Pros (to renting an entire apartment): 1) You get a much bigger space (and a kitchen) for a much lower price than a hotel. (Example: This clean looking, modern 1 bedroom within walking distance of the Javits is renting for $184 / night in May 2014 as of Feb 2014.) 2) Have a more local, "authentic" experience.

Cons: 1) Possibility of the owner or the city of NYC canceling on you  2) Possibility that it's not kept to the same standards of cleanliness as a hotel 3) There's usually nowhere to leave your bags if you arrive before check-in or after check-out before a late flight. 4) Unlike a hotel or hostel, you have to pay up front. (If reservation is cancelled, they will give you a refund, though.)
From Budget to Big Bucks -- Where to Stay in Manhattan


Hotels: The most traditional and familiar option. If you are going this route, I recommend trying to book through the NSS site, to take advantage of show discounts. I did this once and got a great rate at the New Yorker hotel, which is a classic, and only a few blocks from the Javits. For this coming show in May, I found that most hotels through the NSS site are in the $250 - $350 / night range. For example, the Yotel, which is only 6 blocks from the Javits, is $250 / nt through the NSS site, and $319 / nt through the hotel's own site for the same room and same dates. As I write this, there are still many hotels available, but I would recommend booking early in future years to get your pick of the hotels through the site. Hotel Wolcott always seems to be the least expensive option (and is pretty close to the Javits), but sells out early. Kirk and I stayed there one year, and although a bit shabby, it's charming in a quirky, antique, Wes Anderson movie kind of way. Also, it's around the corner from Little Korea, which is a huge bonus in my book. Now if you have a luxurious kinda budget, I'd recommend the NoMad Hotel (From $450 / night in May 2014 as of Feb 2014), which is nearby and impeccably decorated. I've never stayed there, but a girl can dream, right?! My mom and I treated ourselves to breakfast there once, and the food was delicious, but the decor really stole the show. Okay, to wrap things up...

Pros: 1) Room service, maid service, concierges, restaurants in the lobby, etc... 2) Depending on where you stay, could be pretty charming or luxurious. 3) Often have gyms and other amenitites.

Cons: 1) Expensive 2) Small space 3) No kitchen.

Stay tuned for part 3...

Also: National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 1, some NYC favorites, and our 2010 NSS booth.

Photos of the 2013 Sycamore Street Press booth at the National Stationery Show by Nole Garey of Oh So Beautiful Paper. Photos of the Nomad Hotel from the hotel's own site.