We live in a time when a sweet sentiment easily can be shared through an email, text or even as a post or a tweet—without a pen, without a stamp, and without, you know, one of those things that folds in half: a greeting card.
But for those of us who still enjoy holding a book in our hands, we understand. Susan Gutnik of Nature’s Bounty, a brand new line of local greeting cards, gets it, too. “I think greeting cards are very special, and I don't think that's going to change,” she says. “The convenience of sending an email is there, and it's great. But, there's something about holding something tangible in your hands, being able to reflect on a message and receiving that personal handwritten note from someone you love. I know that when I receive a card that someone has taken the time send to me, it makes me feel special.”
Now available at Straub’s, what makes a Nature’s Bounty card even more extraordinary is the subject matter (healthy, local foods) and the mission: to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “I started thinking about it last spring,” Gutnik recalls. “I am very much into healthy foods, and I love to cook. I just began noticing how beautiful healthy foods are as I handled my vegetables.” And when she cut into that red pepper and that cauliflower, Gutnik thought beyond the dish she was preparing and envisioned greeting cards!
A graphic artist by trade, Gutnik has a BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through the years, she has worked as a book designer and was a partner in the design firm. “I have always loved greeting cards,” she explains. “As a child, I made the cards in the family—it's always been something special to me. And the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking about the people who bring this wonderful food to our kitchens.”
From there, Gutnik started taking her trips to the local farmers markets more seriously. She started talking more and more with the farmers, and when she brought their crops home, she and graphic designer Stacy Brazier didn’t just prepare and eat the goods. “The farmers (who appear on the back of the cards) were very open to being photographed,” she notes. “People are increasingly becoming aware of the whole homegrown economy, so I thought, Boy, wouldn't it be great to know who these farmers are? We bring this beautiful food home and serve it at our tables, but then I took my idea one step further by thinking about how everybody should have nutritious food at their table.”
This brought Gutnik to the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “We mocked up some cards and took them to the St. Louis Area Foodbank—and it was on board!” she elatedly explains. We’re contributing 10 percent of the profits from the sale of each card. It’s just really exciting to see it all pick up steam! We got started late in the season last year; it’s been great fun shooting the spring vegetables, fruits and flowers—and meeting new people every time I go out to the markets.”
Gutnik feels she is planting seeds, herself, with what she calls her “full-time preoccupation.” In the future, she anticipates the brand expanding with a line of T-shirts and kitchen accessories like aprons and dishtowels. But beyond the merchandise, she realizes the much bigger picture. “It's about supporting our local farmers, the economy and sustaining our local neighbors, as well. And I just love the spontaneity of it! There are so many farmers and markets to explore. There’s just no end to it.”