Walking into Alice’s Mountain Market in the Village at Squaw, I’m immediately drawn to the one-of-a-kind greeting cards and postcards with images of chairlifts, a trail map of Squaw Valley and heartwarming sayings set in debossed, handwritten cursive and bold lettering. They sit by the cash register.
The handcrafted paper goods are produced by sisters Sunnee Calhoun and Ayla Corrigan under their business name The Presserie.
“The hardest part is homing in on where we want to go. We have so many ideas. We’re creating products that we’re really passionate about.”
When the sisters were growing up in Tahoe, their parents managed small markets in Olympic Valley, Kings Beach and Truckee — now called New Moon Natural Foods. When the girls got older, they sold their Kings Beach and Truckee locations and moved to Grass Valley but kept their Olympic Valley market, managed by the sisters’ Aunt Alice, which was renamed to Alice’s Mountain Market.
Meanwhile, Calhoun went off to college, lived in the Bay Area and eventually came back to Tahoe in 2016 to help with Alice’s Mountain Market. Corrigan studied to be an urban planner at California State University, Chico, then moved to Carmel Valley. There she got into graphic design, found her soulmate and discovered the art of the letterpress.
“When I got married, we sent out letterpress invitations and it was then when I learned what a letterpress was,” Corrigan says.
She was doing graphic design for weddings and noticed that no one was really doing any letterpress, so she asked Calhoun if she was interested in trying to figure it out.
“We both went to the Waldorf School and Ayla is very creative, so I told her that we should just try it,” Calhoun says.
Soon after they found a 3,000-pound Heidelberg Letterpress and began researching how to use it. Next they found a smaller tabletop press for sale from a print shop called Aesthetic Union in San Francisco that is now kept in Tahoe with Calhoun.
“You literally have to use your physical strength to impress the paper. It’s hard work,” says Calhoun.
They launched The Presserie in 2018 and have since done wedding invitations, business cards, greeting cards and leather nametags. The Presserie is a full-service company from design to the finished product.
“We never necessarily intended for this to be a business; we just wanted something to do together and enjoy and then it evolved from there,” Corrigan says.
“Ayla comes up with all the designs and she also does Web site design and corporate branding, but we focused a lot on The Presserie up here [in Tahoe] because this is where our roots are,” Calhoun says.
To create the original artwork, Corrigan hand draws her designs and scans them into the computer. She edits and translates the design over to photo polymer plates that she places on a base inside the letterpress.
Calhoun explains that the photo polymer plates are made with a sticky backing — like a die-cut plastic sticker — that is placed into the machine and used to deboss into the paper. They like using cotton because its texture makes better impressions and it’s more sustainable. Along with paper goods, The Presserie prints designs on leather and tote bags. Recently, they acquired a hot-foil stamping machine to press designs onto textiles.
“There are so many things you can do with [a letterpress],” Corrigan says.
Right now, Calhoun and Corrigan are happy to be able to maintain roots in Tahoe by creating handmade, Tahoe-esque mementos to sell in Alice’s Mountain Market.
“It’s really elevated the space in the store for our souvenirs. It makes [the market] more classy and authentic feeling,” says Calhoun.
Now the two want to expand their offerings and try new things, including making paper.
“We’re lucky that we get to do this together and that there’s no pressure,” Corrigan says.
“The hardest part is homing in on where we want to go. We have so many ideas,” Calhoun says. “We’re creating products that we’re really passionate about.”
“We’re excited for what else we can do,” says Corrigan. | thepresserie.com