Behold the pen, behold the shop

August 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Welcome to Aladdin’s cave.  You’ve just come into a real pen shop.  You look around at the beautiful stock displayed in glass cases.  Each case, thoughtfully lit in order present its contents in the most favourable way.  Some of the pens you are familiar with.  Some new models or brands draw your attention.  You may feel intimidated by the glass barrier and reluctant to ask to hold the unfamiliar implements.  Alternatively, the shop owner notices your interest and offers to open the display and allow first contact.  You feel the weight. The balance. Observing the detail of the metalwork trim.  The soft sound of the cap being removed. The smooth twist of unscrewing the barrel to reveal the converter.  You may be lucky enough to be offered a dip to test.  You may even feel the twinge of guilt as you reach for your credit card, but it will soon pass!

What has drawn your attention to this model in the first place?  The brand?  Not seen a Conway Stewart fountain pen in the flesh before? What makes the Parker Premier range different from the Duofold?  Pen manufacturers all work away with their products, launching new models or new colours and trims in order to refresh the market, or to entice new users.  But how do they try to convince you to look into their new offerings.  The budgets are no longer available to produce high profile advertising and the web is so busy that new products are often lost in a sea of special price reductions and promotions, some of which are simply designed to shift older stock.  The only answer is a regular visit to a real pen shop.

As a shop owner, at PenFountain.com in Cranleigh, Surrey,  we have just taken delivery of the Parker Premier fountain pens and, in much the same way as you need to handle these products in order to truly appreciate their finer points, so do we.  I have to say that with the Premier, although it is quite a chunky pen, with its contemporary styling and finish, it is quite a breath of fresh air in terms of design. I am not a particular fan of Parker but this pen is quite desirable!  However,  it does need to be held in the hand to truly understand its qualities and this is not something you can do on the internet.  It  may seem strange for us to promote retailing, from somebody who sells on-line, but we believe that there is still something more fulfilling about buying a pen from a person in a shop than buying from a usually inadequate description and a fuzzy picture.  What’s more as a shop owner, we can often make recommendations based on a discussion as to what the customer is looking for and adding significant value.

A personal view of the fountain pen market is that there is an increasing number of soul-less companies stalking the web with a view to commoditising anything for a small profit.  They suck the life out of brands selling only the faster moving products and missing out on the important aspects of service and range.  As fountain pen aficionados, if you want the more interesting inks and surfaces, and nibs beyond medium, please support your local pen retailer – even if it involves a small price premium.

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