The shop will close, but Joan Bunte’s work will continue

After more than two decades inspiring Claremont’s crafty inclinations, Stamp Your Heart Out is wrapping up its projects for good.

The beloved boutique on Harvard Boulevard will close its doors for the last time on February 25, as founder and owner Joan Bunte, a Village treasure in her own right, sets to retire after more than three decades of business in Claremont.

The decision to close wasn’t a hard fought one, Ms. Bunte insists. And it wasn’t influenced by lack of sales. As any customer can attest, the downtown staple has never ceased to bustle with patrons ready to try out an influx of new classes and craft projects. It was simply a matter of timing.

“People in my generation have always said you’ll know when its time,” she said. “It’s something that just came over me one day, I just knew.”

The reach of Ms. Bunte’s business has been evident in the past few days following her announcement to close. The lines have wrapped around the building as patrons wait their turn to wish Ms. Bunte well and stock up on their supplies. Stamp Your Heart Out fans have stampeded social media sharing memories and offering praise for Ms. Bunte.

“Joan has provided the community with a creative place to pursue dreams, projects, friendships and fellowship,” Juli Lloyd, a former employee, shared. “So much fun to work there and be part of the SYHO family! Wishing her well.”

Ms. Bunte may be closing up shop, but she has no plans to leave behind her creativity. Whether writing a postcard every day or finding the time to knit, she employs her patrons to continue on with their artistic license as well.

“People go at a very fast pace these days. If you stop and think about doing something creative that will hold you in good stead,” she said. “It just instills in you a balance.”

Crafting has always been the cornerstone of Ms. Bunte’s busy schedule, and it shows in the success of her business. While she has turned her passion into a full-time profession, it wasn’t intended. Opportunity simply presented itself, she says.

Ms. Bunte and her husband moved their family to Claremont in 1965. Holding true to a piece of her mother’s advice, “get involved in your community,” the couple took to volunteerism right away. Ms. Bunte has been a confirmation teacher at Our Lady of the Assumption and her husband as a committee member for the city. Further volunteerism teaching quilting and patchwork for the city of Claremont Ms. Bunte down the route of entrepreneurship.

Ms. Bunte always had a knack for the artistic, a trait inherited from mother, a seamstress.

“There was always something creative happening in our house,” she said.

Her crafting hobby came in handy in 1979 when she joined two business partners in running Craft Designs, selling wares by local artisans, first located where Tutti Mangia now resides. The shop moved to the Harvard Square complex soon after, where Ms. Bunte, seeing a niche, expanded on the store’s inventory by supplying materials for local crafters. It was at this time she began buying stamps.

In 1989 Ms. Bunte took her stamp collecting to a new level, opening up a shop off Bonita Avenue. Despite friends’ initial concerns, the business boomed and soon Ms. Bunte was moving from her 400-square foot facility to her current 1700-square foot shop on Harvard. She had little trouble filling the large space with her collectibles, nor finding the clientele. Her business expanded again in 1997 with the addition of a scrapbook store down the street, which thrived for 10 years before being combined with her current business.

While keeping busy as a businesswoman, Ms. Bunte has stayed true to her call to volunteerism. She may be best known for her work in helping found the Village Marketing Group. VMG events have included yearly staples like the Vintage Village Wine Walk and Brews and Blues, drawing thousands to the Village each year.

Her giving goes beyond the Claremont Village. Ms. Bunte has helped collect thousands of hand-knitted or crocheted pink scarves for those recovering from Breast Cancer through her Power of Pink project. And she continues to be a strong supporter of Shoes That Fit, helping low-income kids by working each fall to fill dozens of backpacks with shoes and school supplies and each spring to enlist customers and Claremont merchants to fill a basket with footwear and Easter treats. These activities won’t stop with the store’s closure. Mike Manning of Last Drop Cafe will now take the reigns for Ms. Bunte, who says she also plans to stay involved with the VMG in her retirement.

While closing up shop is bittersweet, Ms. Bunte has been overwhelmed by the love and support she has received not just in the last few days, but over the successful run of her business. Among her most cherished recollections is sharing in her customers important milestones through designing invitations, thank you cards and other favors for special occasions.

“It’s been wonderful to watch our creative staff assure our customers that they can do it and send them off with the perfect paper projects that the customers have helped design,” she said. I “I have a really good team here. It’s going to be hard to break up, but things move on.”

Ms. Bunte may be moving on to the next great adventure, but she has no plans of moving away. The “Village mom” looks forward to staying active in the Village Marketing Group and continuing to foster the relationships built from her business.

“I love these daily interactions,” she said. “It’s what keeps you going.”

—Beth Hartnett


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