My Minnesota: Juggling dual roles drafting greeting cards and pouring draft beers

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2014 - 3:56 PM

“ … it’s nice to cut through the filler and get to the point.” Andrew Shannon, who started Bench Pressed cards

The date and venue of Andrew Shannon’s upcoming wedding provide a glimpse into the personality of this greeting card entrepreneur by day and bartender by night.

He’ll marry his business partner and girlfriend from their Minneapolis South High School days, Jane Vardeman, Dec. 13 in the Uppercut Boxing Gym in northeast Minneapolis.

“That’s 12-13-14,” he said. “I guess our lives are inundated with quirky wordplay.”

But a boxing gym?

“It fits into our aesthetic,” Shannon said. “When they take the rings down, it’s a beautiful weathered space with old charm. It’s not clean cut, but we don’t do things that are supposed to be primed and polished.”

The pair attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, hanging out among the steins of German beer after class at the nearby Black Forest Inn bar. That’s where he is a bartender a couple of nights a week these days.

Others have had to fill his shifts lately because he and Vardeman have been hawking their 105 different cards to wholesalers at the National Stationery Show in New York City.

“It’s hugely competitive with hundreds of printers, designers, artists and card markers,” he said.

From their hard-wall booth No. 1653, where offbeat cards hang down both sides, they hope to wow store owners and larger reps.

They launched Bench Pressed, their card business, in 2012, using a clam shell-like platen press from the 1950s to produce hand-drawn cards in a studio retrofitted inside the old shipping and storage warehouse at the defunct Hamm’s Brewery on St. Paul’s East Side.

Their cards tightrope walk between snarky and schmaltzy. You can check them out at www.benchpressed.net or in shops in 17 states, including Minneapolis outlets such as the Electric Fetus and Corazon. One example: a pregnancy test with the words: “Oh S---” on the readout.

“Some have swear words, but it’s nice to cut through the filler and get to the point,” he said.

“I like to say we’re tongue in cheek with a little sweet. We’ve never been on one side of the fence without being able to go back to the other side. If we want to be snarky, we can. If we want to have some birds flying in the sky, we can do that, too.”

He handles the drawing and designs while Vardeman helps come up with the wording. Despite e-mail cards and invitations eroding greeting card revenues, he doesn’t worry.

“With every advance in technology,” he said, “there are just as many people interested in taking a couple minutes to send a heartfelt note.”

CURT BROWN

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