The Endangered Wonders of Paper House

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The last bastion of this stationary store franchise boasts great Easter finds

By Laura Shanahan

And then there was one ? Paper House, that is. Longtime city residents may recall when there was a chain of Paper Houses (PH, henceforth) dotting Manhattan. They're all gone, save this one ? the original, at 269 Amsterdam Ave., near 73rd Street ? which dates back a good 30 years or more.

Pretty unique, eh? (I know it's illiterate to modify "unique," but give me this one pass.) I mean, invariably we start with one indie store that proliferates into a chain; here we have a backward sequence. What's weird is that I don't think this lone remaining outpost gets the respect it deserves. Its long, seemingly endless aisles are chockablock with greeting cards, stationery, party and seasonal merchandise and a treasure trove of novelty items. Yet where do most of us go for many of these items? Right ? Duane Reade or Rite Aide. C'mon, yea of so little imagination.

With Easter minutes away, why not explore the back roads and byways of this not-so-little indie. Elsewhere, you will find the usual stamped-out chocolate bunnies ? but here you can get a Pez dispenser with a chocolate- ? or vanilla-colored ? bunny head, which unlike the real chocolate versions, can last in perpetuity, in addition to being a bona fide collectible. Bundled with two packets of Pez candy, the dispensers are tagged at $2.99 per. And because it's impossible not to eat more than two packets once you start popping these distinctively tangy sweet candies in your mouth, refills are also available.

You may find fuzzy yellow chick toys elsewhere, but the ones here walk when you wind them up; $5.99 per ? a dollar less will get you a fuzzy white pink-eared bunny that will, appropriately, also do a hopping kind of walk.

Attention, my fellow mini lovers: Check out the 12-count boxes of the teeniest yellow chicks ? these items do not wind up; but they more than fill their function by being impossibly adorable ($4.99). There are also other-size fuzzy cuties, such as the slightly larger (about 1-inch high) 6-packs of toy chicks ? what they lack in wee cuteness they make up for in splendid colors: pink, turquoise and pistachio green.

Here you can also pick up an egg-coloring kit that contains 6 coloring tablets, one egg dispenser, one egg stand, a drying tray and ? if all that weren't enough for $2.99 ? an "Easter matching game" (whatever that is). "Pure food coloring, quick and easy, no vinegar needed!" assures the package label.

Maybe you don't celebrate Easter (though you don't have to be enamored with those mini toy chicks) ? and maybe you can tell I don't celebrate either, by my ignorance of the Easter matching game ? but PH is filled with so much more than just seasonal and celebratory goods. Continuing in the mini vein, there is a tiny clear-plastic packet here filled with diminutive (under 2 inches) impossibly skinny pencils, lined up like little soldiers, in a rainbow of colors. I'm told they sell very well, which doesn't surprise me: They are so cheery and dear and novel, though their price is not as wee as one might hope ? $6.99.

Speaking of novel, here you can find the kind of gag gifts normally associated with Times Square joke shops. Consider: Priced at just $2.59 and up are packets of Fake Bed Bugs (oy, not so funny these days); Garlic Candy ("for the breath they won't forget"); and Fake Kitty Crap.

The last is intended for "ages 3+," because, y'know, you have to be real mature to appreciate it.

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