Fountain Pen 101: Stores

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101, and happy Fountain Pen Friday. Sadly, this is the final issue. But fear not, pen enthusiasts! I’ll be back in a few weeks with Fountain Pen 201. If you missed any of the previous issues, you can check them out here:

Why Fountain Pens | Anatomy of a Pen | Where to Start | Nibs | Ink | Ink Reservoirs | Cleaning & Filling | Paper

For now, however, I’ll be discussing the benefits of brick and mortar stores. While online stores are fabulous, there are some things they simply can’t provide. To aid you in your brick and mortar store search, I’ve compiled a map of stores known to sell fountain pens. But before I get to that, let’s discuss brick and mortar store benefits.

Most important, in my mind, is the ability to handle a pen before you purchase it. You can see it from every angle and learn how it feels in your hand. Depending on the pen, and the store, you may be able to dip-test it, meaning you dip the nib in ink to test the writing quality. This is probably the only thing that is absolutely impossible for an online store to replicate, making it a HUGE point in a brick and mortar store’s favor.

Next on the benefits list is the relationships you can cultivate with store employees and owners. Depending on how often you’re in the store, you may become a “known quantity” (aka, a regular customer). Developing relationships with the owner and/or employees can mean learning about releases early, having pens held for you, information about new stock, suggestions about pens to try, etc.

Beyond the personal relationships, depending on the store, the staff may possess a wealth of knowledge. For example, at my local store, Bertram’s Inkwell (check out my review of how awesome they are), the owner has been in the fountain pen business since before I was born (sorry for the age reminder, Bert :-P). And Adam, fountain pen salesperson extraordinaire, either has the answers to your question, or knows someone who does. I’ve learned so much at the store.

An often overlooked, in my opinion, benefit to brick and mortar stores is the community. Fountain pen stores are, sadly, few and far between, so people flock to them. It’s a great way to get to know fellow fountain pen users  in your area, especially if you don’t have a meet-up near you. And the fountain pen community has their own wealth of knowledge to share as well.

Another plus to some brick and mortar stores is the secondhand market. By purchasing a pen secondhand, you can get an amazing deal on an otherwise out-of-budget pen. And if you’ve developed relationships with the staff, you may get a first look at “new” stock.

A minimal, though still useful, benefit is that you won’t pay shipping fees on an order you pick up from a brick and mortar store. Nice, right?

Those are the main benefits that come to mind when I think of brick and mortar stores. Do you feel I missed any? Let me know in the comments.

And that brings me to my map of both dedicated fountain pen stores and stores known to sell fountain pens. It was developed via crowd-sourcing. A huge thank you to the Goulet Nation Facebook group. The members chimed in with their local stores and other store lists which allowed me to build this map. If you know of any additional stores, you can let me know with this form and I’ll add them. You can use the same form to request a store be removed. But I’ll only do so if  you provide a good reason.

If you want to share this map with friends, you can use this link: http://bit.ly/fountain-pen-stores.

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