When my parents first divorced and my dad was new to figuring things out as a single dad, he'd fill our Christmas stockings with things he'd find exclusively Office Depot, which was the only real office supply shop in our region of the Mid-Ohio Valley in the early 2000s. Mini staplers (with refills), Scotch tape, a pack of Pilot gel pens, a fresh dozen of Ticonderogas, a sharpener, a box of novelty paperclips and all of the knick-knacks they sell by the register. My first love is pencils, but I must admit that my general love for office supplies had endless bounds. My second love is classic office supplies (side note on this: do Mr. Sketch markers count?), which, like pencils, are different depending on where they come from. Around the pencil HQ it's a known fact that I have a serious thing for glue (have you ever smelled Coccoina glue? or made a collage with Yamato sticking paste?), but I can't make a whole shop about glue, can I?
I often fantasize about what my perfect version of a general office supply store would look like. With a limitless budget, it'd probably take me 24 hours to design and stock because I've thought about it that much. The worst part, though, are the feelings of shop-owner jealousy that come with all of this. Yes, I know that my shop is a special little space, but I would kill to do the buying for a shop with a broader theme.
These feelings come up especially when visiting trade shows. Since opening the shop, I've had the great pleasure of traveling abroad to visit ISOT in Japan and Paperworld in Germany. On a more local scale, we have the National Stationery Show, which happens every May at the Javits Center here in NYC. This year, Alyx, Caitlin and I was walked the show together for a day where we found a few new things for the shop and had a blast checking out everyones stuff. The thing about these shows is that only about 20% of what's on show is applicable to our shop. So mostly, we go for fun and to visit the vendors and industry friends we only see a couple of time each year.
As I walk these shows there are always a lot of questions in the back of my mind. How would I fill the card carousels in my imaginary shop? What type of staplers would I stock and how can I possibly choose from all the colors? How many types of paperclips can I get my hands on? Why can't I shop this trade show? My first stop on any trip outside of NYC is usually to a stationary or office supply shop where I tend to spend way more than my allotted budget and leave feeling high and also kind of angry because I wish I could sell all of the things I just bought.
The things is that I can, but I don't think I ever will because there are a lot of other people who are really good at it. I'll stick to spending too much money in other people's shops and selling only what I really really know.
Photo: one I stole from Caitlin on a pile of swag collected at NSS this year.