May has been a pretty easy month for us at CWPE--I'm happy to report that nothing crazy or particularly challenging has come up and that for once we got our subscription box packed up and ready to ship AHEAD of time. Apart from some trouble changing a lightbulb in one of our huge globe lamps yesterday (have you seen how high our ceiling is?!) it's been smooth sailing. Yesterday also marked the last day of our first ever intern, Antonia, who has been with us every Wednesday since October. It's sad to see her go but Caltech is calling! Our next challenge will be finding an intern who comes close to being as awesome as her.
Distractions and updates aside--I thought I'd take this opportunity to write about three things that we're going to be rolling out in the next month or so that might come as a bit of a surprise to those who know our shop well (and to me as well). But let me explain:
1. A pen
A few weeks ago, Alyx and I were sitting around the shop on a slow afternoon and came up with the idea to stock a single pen--a Bic Clic, our favorite cheap one. This came from a conversation about all of the people who come in here and say "Do you sell any pens?", which is almost always a joke. We thought it'd be fun to have a joke pen to offer them in return. We quickly drafted up a handwritten bit of text to put on it and wound up with a cute Bic Clip in blue, red and yellow that says "I went to a pencil shop and all I got was this lousy pen", a nod to stupid, cheap souvenirs of decades past. We'll be selling it strictly in-store only and won't have it out in the shop like the rest of our stuff but will be hanging it on the wall in a custom made shadow box frame instead.
2. Individual colored pencils
One of the biggest gripes I've had in the past three years of selling pencils is the constant debate of whether or not to sell individual colored pencils. Let's face it--they're a pain to buy and keep in stock but in the past few months I've realized that they just might be necessary. I've mostly been encouraged by the way that Caran d'Ache does their individual pencils in their shops and in their display at the MET. They're kindly going to help us do the same in our shop. We're going to set up a table with tiny cups built into it to store all 120 colors of our favorite Supracolor pencils. There will also be empty tins for customers to fill with the colors of their choice, something I really enjoyed doing last time I was at a Caran d'Ache shop in Geneva. These won't be sold online because, to be honest, the idea of making 120 product listings is terrifying and probably not worth it (but of course you can always email us if you're looking for a specific color and we can make it happen!).
3. Mechanical pencils
This is the one that pains me the most. Maybe I shouldn't put it that way--I don't really have a problem with mechanical pencils, I just personally don't really enjoy using them. I've always maintained that we don't sell any mechanical pencils because their only relationship to a wood-cased pencil is that they contain graphite, and that I'm not an expert on them and don't feel comfortable selling them if I can't talk about them convincingly. Well, the time has come when I can't deny the many many requests we get for them. My approach for this is like my approach for most things we sell--we're going to quality over quantity and we've done a sizable amount of research in deciding exactly what we're going to sell. With a lot of help from Antonia, who knows A LOT about mechanical pencils, we've selected 7 new ones (in addition to the Caran d'Ache Fix Pencil that we already stock) of varying price points and lead sizes that we think are going to fit into our store nicely. We've even commissioned a lovely, unobtrusive wooden display for them. These will be in-store and online along with their various refills sometime within the next month.
I've written about this before, but after 3 years in business, we have a lot of customers (way more than I ever imagined) and this thing is no longer a personal project where I feel comfortable just stocking the stuff that I personally love to use. I realize the importance of selling the things that fulfill the requests of our lovely customers, even if they're not always things that I would buy. I guess I've been a selfish shop owner, but I think that's part of the reason why this place has been such a hit--that its vision is cohesive, thoughtful and direct. That said, there's always room to grow and there will always be new things to try. Stay tuned over the next month or two as we roll out these new things!