Inviting success

The story behind Renner’s Invitations & Stationery is familiar: It’s the kind of small business success story that continues to inspire the American Dream, and we never tire of hearing it.

As editor of an automotive repair magazine, Patti Renner longed for a more feminine way to express herself. A colleague suggested she try selling wedding invitations on the side, and the idea blossomed into a business that continues to flourish six years later.

In 1996, Renner started the wedding invitation business out of her family room. Two years later, she moved to a small space in the Wallhaven Building on West Market Street in Akron.

She expanded her product line to include invitations for all social events, gifts and business stationery. When she outgrew her space, she moved into the 2,000-square-foot space of her former competitor, PIP Printing, which had just closed its doors.

Today, Renner continues to expand her invitation business (she has picked up lines of greeting cards and journals) while trying out another entrepreneurial idea: Coco’s Coffee Bar, a shop she opened in April that specializes in espresso and chocolate.

She says the coffee shop “was a natural extension” of Renner’s, because she found that the gift her Renner’s customers were giving most often was chocolate.

She researched her idea thoroughly, visiting coffee shops on the West Coast which were selling both espresso and chocolate, then hiring Starbuck’s original consultant, who came to Akron to help her open the shop.

She stresses that while she wants the coffee/chocolate concept to grow, she is sticking to the business principles that made the Starbuck’s shop — not the Starbuck’s franchise — a success.

“It’s interesting to see what they’ve had to change to make the business as large as it is,” she says of Starbuck’s. “We are more of a purist.”

She is also applying to the coffee shop many of the business principles that made Renner’s a success. Like her invitations, the coffee and chocolates she sells are hand-picked to be the best in the world.

She also pays impeccable attention to customer service.

“We like to do the little unexpected acts,” she says.

Her goal for both businesses?

“That everyone who leaves is a raving fan for us,” she says. How to reach: Renner’s Invitations & Stationery, (330) 836-0377.