For former corporate-girl turned stationer, sky is now her only limit

Debra Startup: Definitely knows what her customers want. — Wrangler News photo

When Debra Startup was planning her wedding some years ago, she recalls having only two books of sample invitations to choose from.

“And they were all ugly,” she said, laughing at the memory. “In fact, I think I had my mom just pick them out because I didn’t like any of them.”

So when excited brides-to-be come into Startup’s south Tempe store Definitely Debra, a full-service stationer that opened in August 2003, she enjoys offering them a much bigger selection of sample books to browse through—150, to be exact.

“Plus there are the custom invitations that I can come up with,” she added.

Definitely Debra, located at 1761 E. Warner Road, carries a full line of wedding, mitzvah and birthday invitations as well as Christmas cards, candles and small gift items.

Although her inventory has changed a bit over the years due to customer needs and the economy, what has not changed is Startup’s passion for people, paper and the special memories that can be created when the two combine forces.

“I think about the beautiful cards and letters that I have received over the years, and I would have never had those if people had just used emails and Evites back then,” she said.

“I have handwritten notes from my mom, and when I read them I can see her taste in the paper she chose and see her handwriting, and I just think about how lucky I am to have them.”

Startup, who describes herself as a “corporate girl,” once worked for Motorola. After getting laid off in 2001 she went to school, got a financial degree, and thought about what she wanted to do next.

Her love of paper, combined with an interest in etiquette, inspired her to open her store. Her genuine interest in and affection for her many customers keeps her coming back.

“I don’t just work with them and then out the door they go,” she said. “Nothing is more fun for me than for a customer to walk in, and to get the chance to work with them on a very important event in their life,

Startup said she especially enjoys having repeat customers who work with her over time, selecting different invitations for a succession of personal occasions.

She gets a kick out of helping a bride and groom choose their wedding invitations, and then when she sees them again, they sometimes have exciting news to share.

“Maybe a year, or 16 months later they will come back in and they are going to have a baby. It’s so special to start with a couple at the beginning of their married life and then there are baby showers, baby announcements, and spouses’ birthdays. We work with people for a long time, and they become our friends.”

With Christmas just weeks away, Startup said she and her staff have been busy with holiday card orders.

“I have worked hard to bring in some new things, including digital photo options. People started shopping at the end of October for their Christmas cards,” she said, adding that she tries to make sure she carries a variety of styles and price points on all of her items.

“We have everything, from the very inexpensive—but not cheap—things to beautiful and extravagant items; definitely something for everyone’s budget,” she said.

“Paper has come a long way; it is amazing what can be done with paper. I love the design elements of paper and all that you can do with it, the sky is the limit.”

Information: 480-491-0903 or



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