Scriptus Pen Show Madness
Scriptus came and went in a blur, and we're still standing to tell the tale! The pen show Sunday one of my favourite days of the year, but also one of the craziest days of the year for our shop and team and family. The show itself is only six hours, it seems like many, many more. We started the day nice and early and went home after dark, completely wiped. I'm blessed with two babies that typically sleep in until 8:00 am, or at the very least, have to entertain themselves independently and in relative quietness until 8:00, so this was a special experience for our family. We made our way to the main shop as the sun was rising, and packed up the cars to make our way to the library. I love that it's been enough times now that there's some familiarity: we know where to expect certain friends at certain tables, where our tables are going to be, where the show raffle will be, where the bathrooms are, we're prepared for the polite elbowing to get into the line-up to use the single service elevator in the morning. That being said, each show is its own beast, and we're always glad to have made it to the end.
Some of our crew talking to Mark Lurz, calligrapher and calligraphy teacher extraordinaire. Among many favourite things at Scriptus is talking with the other exhibitors before all the chaos. Set-up was the usual hectic digging up of things from deep in the boxes, passing things from hand to hand, everyone wondering whether or not we packed the price tags. I spent a lot of time walking around getting in the way, making suggestions that weren't helpful.
You can tell this is our pre-show table, since it looked like this probably right up until 9:59, after which it was a construction site of buttons, postcards, raffle tickets, bags, and various supplies.
And what a crazy day it was! From the minute it opened until basically 3:30 pm we had a line-up down the wall. Every year we love our line-up, but knowing that some of you standing in the line-up may not love it so much, we always try to work on what's bottle-necking the line. Our first year, it was the check-out, so we've been adding lap-tops, changing processes on our back end to facilitate faster check-outs, bringing new hardware like our own router and terminal. While we've had our share of lines from events in our shop to Scriptus, we're always trying to fine-tune it and see how we can move things along. All hands on deck, that's for sure, and thanks to everyone for bearing with us.
And you might recognize the wax seal and yellow tags from our closing day at Carlaw. We had a yellow ticket raffle draw with every purchase - you pulled out a yellow ticket and opened it on the spot to see if you won. We gave away discount cards to the shops, free samples, notebooks, ink bottles, washi tape, pens.
We also had a raffle draw for a pouch! We've chosen the winner, who we've emailed - Andrew H.! Of course there were a few things that slipped through the cracks, but we haven't made it this far without being able to wing things on the fly. Thanks for the sign, Josh!
And our friends at Crestar! Moving too rapidly to be caught on camera! We're always glad to see Marie, and this year, a special treat with Robert. They had some pretty spectacular deals going on at the show, and we were glad to send a few people their way this year. Brad commented on how great it was to see the Canadian Pilot distributor, Crestar here at the show, not even knowing that they make the trip from Montreal every year. As a shop, we appreciate all the effort they put into helping small businesses like ours succeed, and we look forward to seeing Marie and her team once a year. Pilot is such an important part of the fountain pen industry, and for our shop in particular, and it's in large part to the work Crestar does.
We had the new Esterbrooks on display, the first time for our whole team seeing them, including me. We'd heard lots about them already, and it was terrific to have them at the show. I was aching to get one of the Tortoiseshell ones, but after the dust settled our stock was quite low, so I might be waiting until our next shipment. To my surprise though, the cobalt and the black and gold don't look half bad either.
And here we are! Literally half our team is missing here, squeezing in lunches and breaks in the last two hours of the show, or back at the main shop, opening it up for the afternoon. I also struggled, as I do every year, to figure out the lighting, with the window behind us. It was great to have Brad, Myke and Ana at our tables. They really were pros at the whole pen show things. I was joking/semi-joking/not joking at all about how nervous I was to have them at our tables because then they would really see how the sausage is made and go back to Atlanta/the UK/Kansas never wanting to return. But it turns out they already know how it's all done - sausage experts, you might say. For a few minutes while I was standing there with Brad, someone came up and asked for an in-store pick-up, and Brad knew where it was before I did. It was also great to see how many people were waiting in line just to talk to them. I got to hear a few wisps of stories of people listening to podcasts on long commutes or finding the blog for the first time, or people who already knew them well from previous pen shows or meet-ups, or looking for that pink hair in the sea, and I honestly just love that we're this tiny piece of helping to connect people together. One of my favourite surprises about opening this shop is this opportunity to do this, to be a piece of the community. I remember when Brad announced he was going to be going at Nock Co. and the Pen Addict full-time, leaving his day job, and thinking, oh man, this is when it's going to get good (/stressful/crazy/exciting/completely bananas), if only I wasn't too busy doing my own good/stressful/crazy thing so I could break out some popcorn and cheer him on without seeing implications and omens and foreboding in everything he does in my own future. While there's luck and timing, I think a large part of people who successfully make it, like him and Myke, as a creative, blogger, podcaster, writer, entrepreneur or whatever it is, is that they have to be good at and passionate about creating communities and building relationships - and this weekend, we certainly saw that magic in action.
The kids did great(ish) again. I can't count the number of people that held Naomi that day as I tried to snap a few photos or brought Caleb to the bathroom - from Priscilla, one of the show organizers, to customers, to being handed down the line of staff. Caleb has reached the stage where he waffles between being pretty interested in helping and pretty interested in wreaking as much havoc as possible, but overall he handled a busy day with busy adults pretty well, all things considered. People sometimes jokingly ask when he's going to start really helping out at the tables, and while I'm really looking forward to that, the idea of him being old enough to help out in our family business, us and the staff teaching him the ropes and him being a part of all the action, I also sometimes have a hard time really envisioning if/when he's ever going to be able to do anything seriously at all. I might possibly always have this image of him rolling around under the table, leaving a trail of bagel crumbs behind. Naomi took a nap on my back for the first rush of the morning, and then caught a nice, long, deep, beautiful nap for seriously maybe almost three hours in her stroller. The quietest part of my day was walking her through the shelves of the library, waiting for her to nod off, and then after I parked her next to our tables, I think the ambient noise of the show kept her sleeping.
And before we knew it, the show was over. Without a doubt, events like this wouldn't be possible without our team. They're the ones maneuvering around to help customers through the crowds, sorting out the inventory, trouble-shooting all the things that come up that I forgot to take care, and who take care of so many little and big things, a lot of which I'm sure I don't even know about. Perhaps it's accentuated because we have Caleb and Naomi, and so I'm always looking for extra hands to hold onto a baby, but our team really is our extended family. Whether it was the meet-up at the shop, where we had furniture moved around, and our staff squeezing in and out and through people to help customers and to keep things moving smoothly, or at Scriptus, packing up inventory, setting up tables, passing products hand over hand, these are two days where I really get to see the team around us come together and pull it off. Special mention goes to our ringer, Derrick, who no longer works for us, but is still part of the family. He came to spend the day with us, and re-live the rush of a pen show at the Wonder Pens table, and we're pretty grateful he's still around.
And that was the weekend. One big rush of familiar faces and hugs and nerdy stationery jokes. Despite all the words already in this blog post, it's hard to sum up a day where we see so many people who have helped us to build our business over the last five years. We wouldn't be here without all of you, and so it really is you all who have created this community and this pen show out of your passion and energy and generosity. And your willingness to stand in long lines. And to watch over babies that aren't yours. We can't wait to do it again next year. And what was it that Brad brought? His newest collaboration with Franklin-Christoph, a translucent orange with a grey grip - what a beauty. I remember seeing a sneak peek in his weekly Refill and already being excited, so I couldn't believe it when I opened that F-C pen box up to see one for me. I've inked it up with Sailor Kobe No.59 Hirano Romance Grey. That grey section against the orange is just perfect. And a pen from Brad and my favourite pen makers? I got mine just a little early, but I think Brad's putting them up on sale soon. F-C pens, as we know, disappear in a hurry.
And, in case you missed it, Brad, Myke and Ana recorded their re-cap of their North American stationery tour - you can catch it here. As always, we're blown away/completely embarrassed/filled to bursting. I don't think I have any more words for this weekend.