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.