The Gilbert couple behind Prickly Pear Paper cards

The Gilbert couple behind Prickly Pear Paper cards

Posted by John Wolfe on 18th Mar 2020

Funny how lives cross and where they go.

Lauren and Mark Johnston are married and running Prickly Pear Paper out of the Barnone area of Agritopia in Gilbert. Their fun desert-inspired cards are now available at Sibley's West in Downtown Chandler and in 40 other stores from here to Boston.

But their story goes back to their college years at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles.

Mark, from Arizona, was into graphic arts and Lauren, a Californian, studied fashion and retailing. They met and started dating, and particularly enjoyed visiting the small stationery shops of Santa Monica.

Jump forward a few years and Mark is designing the Barnone logo for the "makers" building at Agritopia, the multi-dimensional project on the former farm of his grandfather. Mark's father, Steve Johnston, operates Johnston Arms gunsmithing on the property and his uncle, Joe Johnston, started Joe's Real BBQ in Downtown Gilbert before creating Joe's Farmhouse Grill and Agritopia.

The couple decide to make a move from L.A. to Gilbert and become entrepreneurs. They settle on something that will combine both their interests -- designing and retailing.

In 2016 Prickly Pear Paper was born.

They began hand-crafting greeting cards on a small letter-press in Barnone. The barn, just west of the restaurant on Ray Road, has more than 10 makers displaying their skills -- and collaborating with each other on projects.

"We wanted a place where people can see how things are made," Mark said.

They now have more than 100 card designs, plus prints, stickers, coasters and a tote, which features an image from Saguaro National Park. The shop is open Tuesday through Sunday.

About the business's name ...

"We wanted something with a desert touch and something fun," Lauren said.

Mark noted that there are many varieties of prickly pear cacti, they're unique, they flower and they are part of the broad family of cacti.

Added Lauren, "I had heard of prickly pear margaritas and I knew I liked them.

"And we're a 'pair.'"