As We Grow

It’s been a bit crazy here the last few weeks, although I think it’s been feeling like that for the last 6 months with the move and everything. Maybe for the last two years, really.

It’s sometimes a bit hard to keep up with everything going on, with just the two of here. With running a small business, there’s always the good and the bad. We’ve been hashing out some potential price increases with this wreck of a Canadian dollar – heads up for you Sailor fans, and Platinum pens also come from the US. We know price increases are never popular.

On the other hand, this week, we got a massive and much-needed order of Rhodia pads and notebooks, and I’ve been spending a few evening hours inhaling the scent of fresh paper while counting and re-stocking the shelves. Jon has been going crazy listening to techno pop trying to get all these Emeraude de Chivor orders packed. Just kidding. No techno pop. Or maybe a little. Who knows??

But over the last few weeks, we’ve had a bit of unexpected good: our shop has been popping up here and there in a few places. We’re kind of that sleepy, quiet shop here in Toronto, and although we ship throughout Canada, I know we don’t have the flash and pizzazz of larger retailers.

Recently, I had a chance to send a few emails back and forth with Jonathon Deans who writes the blog Pen Economics, and who is also thoughtful and interested and insightful (I mean, just as a human being, in addition to being an economist, haha!). Last week he wrote a blog post about our shop and our hopes and dreams of staying alive as a bricks & mortar in this age of technology – I laughed when he calls the decision to open up the bricks & mortar a bit brave and maybe a bit foolish. Most days, I feel like we’re falling on the side of foolish, but I loved reading his blog post about us because it really does try to share the hope that businesses like ours can survive and maybe thrive.

The Ink Doc was great in so many ways, spurring on conversations and stirring up a bit of interest for what’s going on over here in Toronto, including catching the attention of Brad and Myke from the Pen Addict Podcast. I posted last week how great it was that our shop was mentioned in passing as “that shop with the boxes piled up against the windows.” What a thrill!

But most recently, in the latest Pen Addict podcast, Episode 165, Brad Dowdy mentions us as their blog of the week!

As soon as I heard we were in the podcast, of course I went and skipped ahead to the part we were at.* We got to the bit where Brad announces us as the pen blog of the week and I almost choked on my bubble tea. Those tapioca pearls can be dangerous.

I had to listen to the part about us a few times – it starts at 31:11 – and Brad talks about the blog and how we write about the shop and new products, but also about the family and what goes on behind the scenes. He also mentions (ugh!) the noodle soup! I moaned every time I got to the part about the soup recipe. All those episodes of the Barefoot Contessa and I’m caught making noodle soup!!

I laughed out loud when Brad said we’re “sucking people in” with the blog ! HAHA. I guess I laughed because I’ve been writing the blog since the shop opened, and it sometimes feels like I’m just writing into this massive cyber black hole of information. A lot of our customers do follow the blog occasionally, but I’ve been trying to convince some of my favourite customers that they need to read the blog, and they tell me they are, but then they ask a question about a product I’ve already reviewed on the blog and AHA! I’ve caught them.

I must say that writing the blog is one of my favourite parts of the business – I get to write about what’s happening with the business and new products coming in. Some days it seems like new products and new events are coming in hot and heavy, and I can barely keep up, but some days I get a chance to share a bit of our life here. I get to write about how this business is giving our family this pretty incredible opportunity to live and work together.

Just this week, we had Laurie from Hornblower, who helps us with Clairefontaine and Leuchtturm stuff, stop by the shop. At the back table, she bounced the baby on her lap while he chewed on some pens and a binder clip, and we chatted over catalogues and samples. Then I got to go into the apartment and put the baby down for his nap, come back out and really get down to business with her, looking over some new notebooks and discussing paper weights and ivory or white. How incredible is that, that I don’t have to choose between staying home with the baby or being able to help run this business.

It’s all still pretty surreal in the best possible way.

And for the long weekend coming up, just a note to let you know that our hours won’t change at all – we’ll still be open 11-6 this Saturday, August 1st, and closed as usual on Sundays and Mondays. We’ve got a slew of stuff coming up for the Sundays in August – Letter Writing Club, Vintage Pen Market and Children’s Handwriting Class – so we’re going to make the most of this, our last full weekend of the summer! Not sure how yet, but will definitely involve ice cream, watermelon, and possibly some bubble tea.

*I was momentarily distracted by the discussion of the Transparent Orange Pro Gear from Sailor: I have waffled over that pen for a long time, but I also like the completely transparent. I rarely use orange ink, but I do like brown ink. It’s a tough choice. In any case, good thing I have Jon here to keep me focused.

25 Comments

  1. mickeyobe

    “…it sometimes feels like I’m just writing into this massive cyber black hole of information.”
    No fear, Liz. I am sure there must be many faithful addicts like myself who are reading, enjoying and archiving every episode of W.P.

      • mickeyobe

        Liz,
        I came to your shop several weeks ago. Jon was there but not you or Caleb or Super.
        I live at Steeles E and the voyage down was an ordeal not to be repeated.
        Construction wherever I turned. I think our potholes and sinkholes are preferable. They, at least, don’t roar or emit smoke.
        Next time I will probably wait for a mid winter blizzard when the going should be much easier.

        • I’m sorry I missed you! Yes, the summer is the construction and marathons, parades down Yonge – we got caught with a few of them during the move across the city. The winter may also have its own share of snow delays, though! You may have to just move a bit closer to Leslieville 😉

  2. I love reading your blog – both informative and personal, and very much you. You’ve created something really special and it’s great to watch it grow. Also love the lovely pics of the little guy…

    • Thanks so much for reading! Writing a blog can be a labour of love but I’ve hit my share of writer’s block! I’m sure you’d probably be able to help me out with all my fumbling 🙂

  3. Lilith

    I love reading the blog! It’s a refreshing slice of life with a little bit of everything – mostly stationery! Your noodle soup post also inspired me to make noodle soup for lunch that day!

    • I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying the blog! And I’m also glad to hear I had a small hand in your having noodle soup – it’s good for the soul, right?? 🙂

  4. Sean

    Liz. I know you have a few spare minutes. I love the brick and mortar shop. I have made the trip to your new store twice now. What would look great in your shop and add a little extra for those shopping for stocking stuffers ? Cigar box pen boxes .. I would buy one. But one or two on your front table would look cool

    • We have definitely thought about this! The great thing would be how the wood might work in over the years, something you might even be able to pass on. This might be something we could partner up with someone local for, who knows! Thanks for the tip 🙂 (And for reading along!)

  5. LisaRR

    Could you tell us more about the letter writing club?
    Sorry I could not find it on the website.
    Thanks!
    Lisa R-R

    • Of course: the Letter Writing Club takes place on the second Sunday of every month from 2-4pm. There will be stationery, pens, stamps and other letter writing accessories, as well as some refreshments, coffee, tea. You are more than welcome to bring anything you like to use or share, but otherwise you can come with just some addresses of people you’d like to write to! There is no cost.
      Here is a link to photos from our first Letter Writing Club:
      https://wonderpens.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/our-first-letter-writing-club/
      Hope to see you at our next LWC – Sunday, August 9th 🙂

  6. Hello Liz, I’m a fan of your blog for quite some time now. I really like reading about how your business is being run, and I’m very happy that you’re getting the attention that you deserve. I will most definitely put a trip to your store on my agenda if ever I find myself in Canada! 😀

    • Thanks so much for the support! As a small business, we really appreciate it. And I’ll look forward to your visit if you’re ever in our neighbourhood 🙂

  7. Awww, this post was wonderful 🙂 I too giggled at cyberspace – what you are doing is being your own brand=awesome! I’d love to stop by one day-when in Canada :))))) Take care guys!

  8. Susan W.

    I love reading your blog posts – both the shop related things and the little snippets of your life that you share with us. I don’t comment all the time but I never miss reading a post. And your blog is how I discover new products that go onto my wishlist and eventually get ordered. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for following along! It’s been fun writing both about all the stationery I get to try out, and also about everything else that goes along with running a family business – I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying it 🙂

  9. parobertson

    I am truly pleased to see so much feedback to this post…you deserve to hear more of how your blog is appreciated! I know I enjoy it. Not only because I am a paper and pen lover, but I also appreciate your commitment to family and fun. You continue to put a positive spin on life – I love it. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for your support! Sometimes we laugh only because if we think too hard about it, it’s a bit crazy…but it’s truly wonderful how we’ve reached this place, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way 🙂

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