Located on 23 S Chester Road, “Of Aspen Curated Gifts” is Swarthmore’s local stationery shop. Inside, a variety of pens, notebooks, and other stationery items are sold. Unbeknownst to the average shopper, Of Aspen has amassed a significant following on the social media platform TikTok, boasting over 600,000 followers and over nine million likes. The Phoenix interviewed Of Aspen CEO and founder Caroline Stockman about her business and social media following.
Stockman shared that she wants to create a venue for artists to sell and promote their work. Of Aspen collaborates with artists from around the world to sell a curated collection of goods.
“I feel like there’s a connotation that there’s always starving artists, and they don’t make a lot of money. But doing what I do, artists can do what they love — paint or screen print — do whatever they want. And then I get to do the marketing side of it,” she said.
Although Stockman has lived in Swarthmore her entire life, she was adopted from Aspen, Colorado, giving the store its name. Stockman launched her business in July 2019 while still in college. When COVID hit, Stockman moved back home and continued to grow her business.
Stockman explained how, in May of the same year, Of Aspen suddenly went viral on TikTok, gaining millions of views. TikTok is a social media platform where users post short videos that can range from three seconds to ten minutes. The app’s most popular feature is its “For You” page, which features videos based on users’ activity on the app.
“Whenever you’re in a small town like this, you only have so many people who really like notebooks and journals and stuff. But when you sell online, the number of interested customers increases exponentially,” Stockman explained.
To keep up with growing demand, Stockman needed more space. Of Aspen’s first storefront opened in Swarthmore in November 2020. However, the business quickly outgrew its new space again and moved to a new location.
“The TikTok account kept blowing up with videos, so we needed to expand. This space was the perfect size … we have a storage warehouse room next door. Downstairs is where we keep all of our online fulfillment,” Stockman said about the current storefront.
Of Aspen’s hallmark videos are “pack an order with me” and “refill the kraken,” a giant trunk Stockman fills to the brim with different pens. These videos highlight the store’s whimsical and artistic stationery and colorful varieties of pens and markers.
“I liked using TikTok as a platform more than Instagram because Instagram is a more perfectionist social media platform, and we are all about being imperfect and who you are … it’s fun for us to be silly,” Stockman said.
Of Aspen’s most popular items are their “mystery packs.” Each pack has a theme and accompanying story picked and written by Stockman. The mystery packs also include pens, notebooks, and stickers. The packs’ midnight releases are advertised on the store’s Instagram account. According to Stockman, the latest mystery pack release on Feb. 23rd sold out in just half an hour.
As Of Aspen continues to grow, Stockman said that she has had no trouble adjusting to the new location.
“It’s a really nice retail space and I fill space when I have it,” she said.