Photography by Jessica Turner.

As a child, Melissa Wayte’s favorite make-believe scenario was a retail store. 

It started as a pretend career, but after 15 years in the investment industry, she made it real. 

Wayte, who has a finance degree and an MBA, worked in New York and Dallas, where she was born. She realized that she wanted to spend more time with her son, 5 at the time, and daughter, 2, so she left her corporate job and opened a paper store, Paper Affair. 

“I was just passionate about paper. I still am,” she says. “I love all types of paper, all types of printing methods, calligraphy. I still write the hand-written thank-you note.”

The original business plan called for seven locations across the metroplex, in areas where residents could afford high-end products and where Wayte saw a need for that kind of store in the market. 

The first one opened on Lovers Lane near the Dallas North Tollway, 15 years ago in May — one month after she left her investment job. Wayte says she liked this spot because it had plenty of traffic. A location in Plano opened a year later, and the third, in Frisco, opened two years after that.

“I had visions of a bigger thing, and then, I will just be honest, I got tired after three,” she says. “It’s a lot of work.”

She also says she’s working more now than she did during her finance career, usually visiting each location daily, “whatever’s needed, whatever fire has to be put out.”

Early on, Paper Affair was focused on paper products, such as invitations, announcements and stationery. Then online invitations became more popular, and the business had to adjust.

Wayte, who now lives in Plano, noticed after a few weeks that the table she stocked with gifts sold out consistently. In response, Paper Affair expanded its gift offerings, and now, shoppers can browse tables and shelves full of gift items.

The five most-popular products have been the same for the past seven years.

Nora Fleming makes serving pieces and home décor products that can be accessorized with “minis,” decorative add-ons made for different seasons and occasions. Big O key rings, designed by a couple of Highland Park women, are the second-most-popular purchases. These are followed by Nest candles, Peepers glasses and Karen Adams calendars. 

Paper Affair closed for about two months when the pandemic started. Wayte knew she had to come up with a way to open her business again, so her daughter helped create a website that allowed people to shop online. 

“I’m a big believer in brick-and-mortar stores in a community, and I’ve never had a website to sell because I didn’t want to be an internet seller,” she says.  

The store also started offering home deliveries and curbside pick-up. 

During the pandemic, many couples canceled or postponed weddings, and large gatherings weren’t common. But eventually, lovebirds started celebrating again. Over the past year, Paper Affair has created products for three to four times the typical number of couples. Along with the increased demand has come problems with the supply chain. Certain products aren’t available, and Wayte, like many others, can’t say when they’ll be back in stock. 

“Being open 12 years and always being able to get whatever I wanted to have in the store, it’s been a weird time,” Wayte says. “I have to bring in whatever I can get, and it may not be what I want, but it’s what’s available.”

It’s not just wedding-related business that has picked up; the past two years have been the store’s busiest. 

Wayte says she knows it’s cliche for a retail store to say it prioritizes customer service above all else. But Paper Affair’s business model creates long-term relationships between the store’s employees — most of them 10-year veterans of the company — and its customers. 

“It is kind of like a family business where we’re involved in their lives for every event,” she says. “The paper side keeps us actively involved in our customers’ lives.”