Ah, the proverbial question for all shop owners these days: when are you reopening?


There is so much to look forward to as the vaccine numbers increase and the good weather comes. Somewhere in all of that is the tiniest wisp of a dream of reopening a pen shop.


There are a lot of factors, not least of which is when the government does allow us to reopen, in whatever capacity in whatever stage. That being said, for us, as a very small shop with a very small team, the answer is a bit murkier. We had remained closed through last year’s holiday season, through December, despite how important that season is for us, because it was all just too hairy, and the risk of everything closing up again seemed imminent and constantly looming.


This time around, with vaccines, it seems like things could be reopening more permanently, although who knows. And so a whole host of other questions: When are all of our staff going to be vaccinated? What are the guidelines from the government going to be? If it’s 15% or 25% or even 50% capacity, it’s still a bit tricky for us. With a limited and decreased number of people in the shop, but the same or increased staff labour in cleaning, retrieving items in an effort to limit touch, the numbers don’t always seem to work. An additional problem we ran into when we were open for that one shining month last summer before we closed again in September was that having a limited number of people in the shop was frustrating for a lot of customers. When we put a time limit on each person’s visit, someone might be making an important purchase and needed more time, and while we absolutely did not want them to feel rushed or pressured, we had customers waiting outside, naturally impatient. A customer might bring with them 4 or 5 friends, and while we had a guideline that only the shopper come in due to limited capacity, our single, loyal shopper might be so passionate about pens that they wanted everyone to see what all the fuss was about—and our entire shop’s limit would be filled.  


No one wants to or wants their staff to police masks, or whether or not a baby in a stroller counts as an extra person, or if we’ve technically closed at 4:00 but there’s still a line of very sad pen friends looking at us with puppy eyes. Who wants to tell a person that they can’t have a bottle of ink?


Our shop front, having been closed for 8 months, is in a state, to put it lightly. I moved this large tree plant into the main area around the pen displays to get more sunlight, and for all we know it’s grown roots through the floor and concrete into the ground below. Empty shelves, shelves now used for storing other things like overstock and dust bunnies. Caleb and Naomi have set up their own “pen shop,” some tiny alien form coming out of Signourney Weaver, where they only sell empty ink bottles and don’t give you any receipts and berate you for not bringing snacks.


This all sounds really pathetic, and that’s certainly not the point, even if some days it does feel like it. The answer to all of this is not to bury our heads in the sand and just say never! It’s just to say that we are working hard on it, but we may be on the later end of things in an effort to make sure that when we do open, we do it well and we do it thoughtfully, even if there are some hiccups and adjustments along the way. After a year of this pandemic we are still no experts in the way things should be done, the right way, the fair way, the profitable way. When we reopen, it will certainly be with limited hours, likely involve limited appointments in some form before we reopen to general in store browsing. We are indeed already preparing with plans, purchasing items that we know we’ll need, stocking up on sanitizer as we know it goes in and out of stock.


Thank you so much for all of your support. Your patience, good humour, enthusiasm and understanding have kept us here and we are so tremendously grateful for this community.


This month, we’ve made a $500 donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, which supports First Nations in Kamloops and throughout British Columbia.

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May 30, 2021 — Liz Chan

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