Love Notes from Lakewood

Greeting cards from local design firm Chartreuse are giving Clevelanders a reason to sign, seal and deliver - by Kristen Hampshire

The cheeky letterpress greeting cards created by Lakewood design firm Chartreuse hit a sweet spot with Clevelanders. They are perfect for those of us who take pride in our ethnic cuisine, endless East-West debates and beloved-but-often-beleagured sports teams.

Pretty please with a pierogi on top?

I would brave traffic on 480 to see you!

"If you date someone who lives on the other side of town, you think that's funny," says Charity D'Amato, who collaborated with business partners Michelle Zelasko and Sara Misconish to create a line of 30 different Cleveland-centric greeting cards ($6 each).

After taking a trip to Seattle for an inspirational getaway and attending a letterpress class together, the women behind Chartreuse decided it was time to launch a creative project of their own. They named the line Underground, both as a nod to the inventive space in the basement of Chartreuse's design studio and to communicate that the line is separate from the firm's daily work for others.

"We do work for our clients all day long, but we never do anything creative for ourselves," D'Amato says.

The Chartreuse crew developed its first greeting cards for the Bizarre Bazaar craft show last December. They brainstormed, writing sayings on strips of paper, and then whittled the stack down to the wittiest one-liners.

"We really worked together on the project from start to finish," D'Amato says. "A lot of times our work is more one-on-one with the client, so all three of us aren't working together like this."

The cards are currently available at Paper Trails in Rocky River, The Dredgers Union on East Fourth Street and Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Sweet Shop in Cleveland. They are not yet available online, but the women are considering opening an Etsy shop.

Chartreuse's Underground line not only fills a gap in the market for greetings cards focused on the city, its landmarks and its inside jokes, but it does so while also offering a smart twist on the usual fare. The tone of the cards is consistently cheery, with some just celebrating the regular stuff in life (Just another Malbec Monday, Everything is better on a bicycle, Let's find a friend with a boat).

But it'll come as a surprise to no one that the biggest sellers are the city-specific cards, says D'Amato. "Clevelanders just love Cleveland stuff."