Noe Valley Voice September 2011

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice column profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a shop on Noe Valley’s eastern fringe that is devoted to all things paper.


At Nick Sarno’s stationery shop on 22nd Street, the vintage books, journals, and writing implements are displayed like art objects.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

Press: Works on Paper
3492 22nd St. at Dolores Street


Vintage paperbacks, ’50s art books, letter-pressed cards, and paper mobiles live happily alongside staplers, paperweights, pencil sharpeners, and manual typewriters at a new boutique and gallery called Press: Works on Paper.

Hoping to cater to the city’s artist and writer community, husband and wife Nick Sarno and Paulina Nassar opened their doors last spring, in a quiet row of storefronts on 22nd Street near Dolores. “We wanted somewhere slightly out of the way,” says Sarno. “Valencia Street was just a little too much.”

They found like-minded company at shops next-door and down the block. “We all have the same idea,” says Sarno, referring to neighbors Pot + Pantry and Dun Up Boutique. “Vintage things, but we specialize. We complement each other.”

As their store name suggests, Nassar and Sarno’s specialty is paper—items printed on paper, made with paper, or used for paper. “We have these little rules that we don’t break,” says Sarno. “It has to be paper-related.” It also has to have an artful design.

Among the classic books you might find are a 1950 edition of Franz Kafka’s The Trial ($26), with illustrations by George Salter, or a 1969 illustrated edition of Andre Gide’s The Fruits of the Earth ($75).

Also on display are Venus drawing pencils ($2), Pink Pearl erasers ($1), and fun Japanese art projects called saka karakuri ($8)—paper models you can make that move, like a flopping fish on a cutting board. Paper diorama kits (tatebanko), depicting scenes by Japanese artists like Hiroshige, sell for $10.

Nassar curates the store’s art books, many of which are by midcentury fashion and photography icons such as Christian Dior, Helmut Newton, and Peter Max. “She [Nassar] worked for a vintage clothing place called Resurrection in New York City,” says Sarno. “They had a collection of fashion and photography books, and that got her really excited.” (A San Francisco native, Nassar also co-founded the local wedding cake bakery Two for Two Cakes.)

Sarno, who worked for a small press in Chicago for five years before moving to San Francisco in 2002, takes care of the selection of new books, all published by small and independent publishers. “They’re willing to take a little more risk than a big publishing house,” says Sarno, himself the author of two books, God Bless the Squirrel Cage and A Season in Hell.

Press: Works on Paper also has prints and posters, but not of birds and flowers. “We sort of like stuff that’s slightly creepy but not too creepy,” says Sarno. “I’m attracted to the things that are a little weirder, a little on the dark side without being morbid. I like Edward Gorey.”

The best-selling item in the shop, he says, is the colorful, geometrically patterned Japanese paper, which comes in 24-by-36-inch sheets ($17 to $21). “I originally got it for bookmaking, but I’ve found a lot of people are buying it to frame or put on their walls,” he says.

Since opening May 13, the store has hosted several bookbinding classes and author readings. This month, local artist Jennie Hinchcliff will teach a herringbone binding class on Sept. 14 and a longstitch class on Sept. 20, 7 to 10 p.m. (Register at On Sept. 22, local authors Lizzy Acker, Fia Maxwell, and Diane Salier will read from their work at an evening soirée.

Press: Works on Paper is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Sarno says the shop is often open on Friday nights until 10 p.m. “We hang out late.”