By Pamela Dozois

In this age of electronic communication, letter writing and sending cards seems to be an antiquated idea. But going to the post office and finding a hand-written envelope is surprisingly uplifting to the spirit, a romantic interlude and a throwback to the past. 

Letter writing is a way to connect the hearts of people, most any time, but especially at this time of isolation. The Giving Ink in Solvang has everything one needs to make someone’s day special.

“My background is in the restaurant business, spending 20-plus years managing restaurants. Part of my job was to manage their special events,” said Michelle Castle, owner of The Giving Ink.  

“I always loved the artistic details of the business, the printed menu, place cards, etc. I graduated from UCLA School of Design and details for special events was a way for me to make something functional, also aesthetically pleasing. This naturally led to designing custom invitations and starting my own line of stationery. I enjoyed connecting people through well designed products.” 

Castle moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2013 and it was natural for her to continue her invitation and stationery design as the region hosts numerous weddings and events and Castle said she was thrilled to be a part of this industry, opening her store, Honey Paper, in Los Olivos. 

“There were no stationery stores in the area so opening a small store front seemed like a natural thing to do,” Castle said. “The retail portion grew and designing custom invitations became too much as a single mother. My twin girls, one of whom is a special needs child, took a lot of attention and my children were my priority, so I stopped the custom design and expanded my retail portion.”

“Last fall I realized that Solvang may be a better fit for my retail store,” she explained. “In the process of moving I went to Trademark ‘Honey Paper’ and there was something similar already trademarked. The move became an opportunity to start over and really emphasize what was important to me and my business, which is selling quality products that promote a more analog lifestyle – through writing, journaling, etc. The Giving Ink was born.

“I continued to embody a desire to connect the hearts of people through handwriting, illustrations, and a renewed interest in a slower form of communication,” she said. “My shelves and online shop are filled with items to inspire all forms of written correspondence. I offer a curated selection of high-quality products from around the world, including my original watercolors, maps and illustrations, which are printed individually on high quality paper at my boutique. The benefits of incorporating the handwritten note into your life are many and our selection includes items you can share with others and create meaningful connections.” 

Business was doing well in her new location until she was notified that her store must be closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Both of her children were destined for home schooling because of school closures. 

“There have been so many changes at such a rapid speed that sometimes I feel as though I am holding my breath,” Castle said. “I am so proud of how parents have prioritized the well-being of their children and families over all the stress and loss of employment and finances.”  

“It is difficult not only to take charge of our children’s education and well-being mentally, emotionally and physically but to then have to spend numerous hours navigating the web in order to find financial help and information is frustrating,” Castle said. “The task is daunting and like many, 7 weeks into the shut-down, I have not received a single penny from the government stimulus program. 

“I was one of the first to apply to Union Bank for a business loan and for the Paycheck Protection Program, but I’ve heard nothing and have received nothing. I continued looking but I was drowning in the pages and pages to read through, link upon link to follow and applications to fill out only to receive nothing. Who has the time to do that?“

“With my business closed and no money coming into the household the stress began to mount along with my unpaid bills,” Castle continued. “I am actually paying my employee to handle any on-line orders that might trickle in. My business is down 85 percent and as of April 23 there has been no information as to when I can open or how to prepare to open my store again.

“Fortunately, a friend directed me to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department ‘Stay Well at Home Order 2020-8 which was issued on April 24, which replaces Order No. 2020-7.1,” Castle said. “After searching through the reams of attachments, I fell upon one that spoke about essential businesses with the county that could reopen and #37 referred to ‘online wholesale or retail sales business’ under which my business falls. It stated a list of business that could reopen (under certain safety guidelines). It also listed those businesses who were still to remain shut down. 

“I printed it out to be on the safe side, which was a miracle of sorts, because when I went to retrace where I had found it, to make sure I was following the proper procedures for my employee and my online business and my store operation, I couldn’t remember the steps I had initially taken to find the exact page.  I am more comfortable in the knowledge that I can now reopen my store under the conditions laid out by the authorities. 

“For the moment I’m super excited, but you never know if things will change and if I will be able to find the newest guidelines online. Good luck to everyone. Let’s open, keep everyone safe and get back to business.”

The Giving Ink specializes in stationery, gifts, cards, journals, and high-quality office supplies. It is located at 1607 Mission Drive, Solvang.

“During this pandemic and self-isolation, the need to connect with others has never been so important,” Castle said. “It has broken my heart to close – not just for the obvious financial reasons, but I have had customers needing cards to send love ones.

“The Governor recently listed ‘manufacturing and distribution of paper goods’ as one of the essential businesses. We are not fully open yet, but I am excited to be there again in a meaningful way as we go into the future, perhaps with renewed priorities,” said Castle. “Our products are now all available online, however, we pride ourselves in our quality and believe there is something special about the feel of good quality items as well as connecting with our customers with service and a simple hello.”

For more information, call 805-325-9320 or visit