A tribute to Joel Kvernmo, owner of Shorthand

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Alice Feng/The Occidental

“Where do you begin to describe an entire person and their life?” Rosanna Kvernmo said, referring to her husband, Joel Kvernmo.

Rosanna and Joel own Shorthand, a local stationery store on York Boulevard. Joel passed away in June 2019 from brain cancer, more specifically known as a Grade III Glioma Anaplastic Astrocytoma, according to a GoFundMe page started in his honor. He was 36 years old.

“He was just the nicest, most welcoming person, and he made everyone that he encountered feel really comfortable,” Rosanna said.

Rosanna originally entered the letterpress industry after graduating from college with a degree in English literature. Joel attended the Cornish College of the Arts to earn his BFA in photography. Rosanna said that at first, she did not really understand the business of letterpress, but took a few classes and found herself completely invested in the art. She started by making custom business cards and wedding invitations for anyone willing to pay. It was mutual friends who led her to cross paths with Joel.

“The very first time I met him, the press I had was hand-operated and he helped me hook a motor that I had — like, the second month we were dating or something,” Rosanna said. “He’s been around since the very beginning. I started printing and then that morphed into making our own greeting cards. A few years later, we started making office supplies like notebooks and pencil pouches, and all of it just happened so organically.”

Fast forward eight years, and Rosanna and Joel own a letterpress company called Iron Curtain Press. In 2016, they opened Shorthand, which has been growing for three and a half years.

The Kvernmos found themselves in the Eagle Rock/Highland Park area, choosing to settle there because of its suburban vibe. Rosanna loves how she and her family can walk almost everywhere, and she even admits to feeling strange when she gets on the freeway. Additionally, the couple has friends in the surrounding area and had been visiting them for several years prior to moving to Highland Park.

“Both of our parents owned their own businesses growing up, so it didn’t feel like a scary thing when we did it,” Rosanna said. “I never anticipated it would be what it is today, but it has to keep growing. What we do love about owning a small business is the hands-on nature of it.”

Customers such as Mia Jones (junior) appreciate the small business feel of stores like Shorthand. Jones commented on how nice the employees within the store always are, and she especially likes how customers can see the love and effort Shorthand staff put into their business.

“They were always super friendly and eager to help you pick out something,” Jones said.

Following Joel’s passing, Rosanna has taken on the lead role of keeping her company going and reassigning tasks Joel once did to existing employees.

“We have a really great team. We have been taking the summer to just think about what were the things that were Joel’s job and how to split them up between people,” Rosanna said. “Certain things like, now we may have to hire someone to do build-outs or other things, but he left us in good shape to get things done.”

Joel’s passing has not only affected Rosanna and her family but the Eagle Rock community as a whole. Ryan Dodge, a retail associate and printer at Shorthand, weighed in on the impact of Joel’s passing.

“Joel always had an uplifting spirit about him,” Dodge said. “If there was a problem, or even just anytime he came in, it was always, ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’ It was something really unique about him that I haven’t seen in anyone else.”

In spite of everything, Rosanna has found a way to stay positive. She says that cancer is obviously a terrible thing, but she is grateful Joel did not suffer or lose any part of his personality. Since brain cancer attacks several different regions of a person’s brain, it is hard to ever know how the individual will be affected, or if they will lose any part of their ability or personality.

“Joel went into surgery making jokes and as far as he knows, he just didn’t wake up,” Rosanna said. “It was so hard to watch that, but at the same time there’s a lot of joy I feel because I do love him so much, so to have him not be suffering or worrying about the future that brings me a lot of peace.”

Joel is survived by his wife of 11 years, Rosanna, daughter Judith, parents Jon and Judi, and sisters Jennifer and Julianne.

This article was revised Sept. 25 at 6:30 p.m. to correct factual errors related to Joel’s age, the date Iron Curtain Press opened, among other minor details.