It’s been quite a year for the owners of Papermaker Pride.
Karen Gibson and Sherly Obegi had already grown their business at warp speed — from a seed of an idea sprouted during a road trip with friends to a full-fledged retail shop in less than six months — when they celebrated their first ribbon cutting during the December 2019 First Friday festivities.
The shop owners were looking forward to introducing the community to their Camas- and Pacific Northwest-themed apparel and to donating a portion of their proceeds to the Camas Athletics Boosters Club to help school programs.
“We thought we’d be this pop-up shop, then we found the space in downtown Camas and we kept growing,” Obegi said, recalling the shop’s first retail space above the Arktana shoe store.
Three months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“COVID forced us to get creative with our social media marketing, the expansion of our custom business and in forming collaborations with our fellow downtown merchants,” Obegi said.
As they continued to grow their customer base despite the pandemic, the Papermaker Pride owners watched others in their community struggling and wanted to lend a helping hand.
“It has been extremely difficult to watch families and businesses around us struggle,” Obegi said. “We formed Camas United as a way to give back to the community and help Camas families in need.”
With the help of other merchants and residents who have purchased the business’ “Camas United” signs, Papermaker Pride has been able to donated about $15,000 to the Camas Family Community Resource Center and the Inter-faith Treasure House’s backpack program, both of which help feed students and families in need.
A few months into the pandemic, the Papermaker Pride owners, who had added a third co-owner, Kaiwi Crabb, a Camas High football coach, to their roster, found themselves considering another expansion — a move from their tiny retail space above Arktana to a prominent, corner retail space at the intersection of Northeast Cedar Street and Northeast Fourth Avenue, just across the street from the Camas Hotel and Tommy O’s.
Lizzabeth A, a home goods shop that had occupied the space for several years, was set to close its doors in July.
“This was the premier spot in downtown Camas. We were sad to see (Lizzabeth A) go, but this was a golden opportunity for us,” Obegi said. “We’d been looking at different properties on Fourth Avenue and we hemmed and hawed, but we knew if we didn’t do this, the spot would never reopen for us.”
Papermaker Pride moved into the former Lizzabeth A space in August. Since then, the company has expanded its merchandise lines: now offering the Camas spirit wear that caught people’s attention when the business first launched in 2019; a “Pacific NW” section with apparel with designs like “”Ski Camas, Livingston Mountain” and “Cottonwood Beach Surf Club” that highlight various places in Camas-Washougal and throughout the Pacific Northwest; and the new Crown Collection, a casual apparel collection that pays homage to Camas’ roots — Crown Zellerbach was the original owner of the Camas paper mill and Crown Park is one of the city’s most beloved public spaces — through its “crown” design.
The new space allows Gibson, a graphic designer, to meet with custom design customers and is big enough for Papermaker Pride shoppers to safely physically distance while browsing for gifts and new clothing.
So far, Obegi said, the community has continued to support Papermaker Pride and celebrate its growth and expansion.
“Camas is one of those towns where pride just runs deep,” she said. “People here are proud and excited about their town.”
And the business owners said they’ve experienced a coming together with other downtown Camas merchants since the start of the pandemic.
“The Downtown Camas Association has been such a positive force for all of us here in Camas trying to survive these unprecedented times,” Obegi said, adding that she feels like the pandemic has forced many business owners to rethink their strategies. “We’ve worked hard, thought outside the box and maybe have been just a bit lucky.”
The DCA will host a ribbon cutting for Papermaker Pride’s new location, at 339 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6. The shop will have grand opening specials during the First Friday event on Nov. 6 and throughout the weekend to celebrate their new space. For more information, visit papermakerp ride.com.