Last Friday, I had the immense pleasure of attending my very first Pelikan Hub, right around the corner from Pen Boutique at Cafe Columbia. None of us at Pen Boutique had ever been to a Pelikan Hub before, so we were very excited and a little nervous. I really had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that Pelikan Hubs are an annual event sponsored by Pelikan Pens for Pelikan pen lovers around the world. On Hub Night, participants gather in the place appointed by their local Hub Master, and share their love of fountain pens, ink, and writing. This year, Pelikan selected Hubs in roughly 220 cities spread across 47 countries. Imagine, that many people worldwide celebrating fountain pens together on the same day! Pelikan is one of my favorite pen brands, so I was thrilled by the opportunity to participate and couldn't wait to find out what would unfold. When the night finally arrived, it was even better than I'd imagined!
I was only tangentially involved in planning the Columbia, Maryland Pelikan Hub, but, as the event grew closer, I heard more and more about it. Back in May, Pelikan announced the date and time of this year's Hubs, and sent out instructions on how to register. To protect the privacy of participants, registration was a two-stage process and was a bit complicated. I had a little trouble signing up, but managed to officially register after several tries. Columbia wasn't one of the original cities listed, but Pen Boutique owner Leena volunteered to host a Hub in our area, and, once enough people had asked to attend the event in our location, Pelikan selected Leena as a Hub Master and added Columbia, Maryland to their list of designated host cities!
Because the registration process was difficult, and a lot of our local pen friends had missed the initial time window, we allowed additional people who expressed interest to sign up through the store. At first, we weren't sure how many people would end up wanting to come, or how large of a space we'd need. As our plans coalesced and the time grew closer to the event, Leena secured Cafe Columbia as our location--a brilliant choice because the locally-owned crepe restaurant shares the same parking lot as Pen Boutique, so it would be easy for our customers to find. Cafe Columbia ended up being the ideal place for our Hub. The owner agreed to open that evening just for us, and there was room for everyone to spread out, sit down in small groups, mingle and share pens, paper, and accessories. The intimate and colorful space made everyone feel welcome, and the friendly staff served coffee and sweet and savory crepes that filled the air with delicious scents.
(Thank you to Aurora for this photo she took during Shriya's welcome speech!)
Even with our location in the bag, there was a lot to plan, so our store manager, Leila, took on the role of coordinating the event and making sure everything went smoothly. Her first task was to merge the two guest lists and keep all the guests updated with new developments as our plans slowly became reality. As Leila explained to me, "The time and date was set by Pelikan, but it was up to me to figure out the rest."
Replying to each RSVP kept Leila very busy, just because of the sheer number of people involved, and she worked hard to answer any questions. There ended up being 46 signed up, and almost everyone came. Leila told me she prepared 42 gift bags (they contained goodies that Pelikan sent us, supplemented by additional gifts donated by Pen Boutique and by our friend Cary at Esterbrook), and she thinks we had about 45 people at the event including store owners Leena and Raj and their daughter Shriya.
Leila also took charge of the decorations, giveaway raffle, and "pay it forward" table, where participants could leave pens, inks, notebooks, etc., that they didn't need, so that others who might want the item could take it and share the love. (I brought in a bottle of ink that didn't excite me, and someone else immediately grabbed it and handed me another bottle to try in exchange!) There were lots of ink samples to choose from, strange and interesting pens to try, and some nice paper goods. In addition to those fun freebies donated by participants, Leila created slips of paper for people to choose from a green "magic hat." These contained descriptions of various small prizes that could be redeemed at Pen Boutique. I could tell that it was stressful to juggle all the different elements, and that Leila was concerned about everything being perfect, but I assured her that people just wanted to be together and connect with fellow fountain pen lovers. All the rest was extra.
The Hub was held on a Friday evening, so I had a busy day at Pen Boutique to focus on first. I knew that a number of people who were attending the Hub planned to stop by the store before heading over to the cafe, so I asked my team mate Lauren to stay later to help with the extra volume near closing. That ended up being a good call, as we had a small crowd right at the end of the day, including Hub participants and others! Quite a few people stayed past 5 PM, so, by the time I rushed over to Cafe Columbia after finishing our closing procedures and gathering my belongings, much of the group had already arrived. I was on cloud nine from the moment I walked into the restaurant and saw so many of my favorite customers all gathered in one place, rekindling friendships they had begun through chance encounters at Pen Boutique and making new connections over a shared love of pens. It was sort of like the after-hours part of a pen show, but even more special because I knew almost everyone there and felt like I was surrounded by friends.
I had only been to Cafe Columbia once before, last summer, because it normally closes at 3 PM and I always bring my lunch to work. So, like many of the other Hub participants, I didn't know what the event space would look like. The colorful walls and brightly-lit open kitchen immediately felt like home to me, and the motto, "Come by yourself. Come with others. You're family" painted along the edge of the room seemed perfect. Even though I'd had a busy day, it had been a good day, and I was still full of energy and feeling happy and calm. I could palpably feel the love from being surrounded by people who wanted to spend time with me, and who shared the same passion for pens, ink, and paper that I do.
When everyone had arrived, Leena's daughter Shriya opened the night with a brief welcome speech, urging everyone to have fun, learn about pens, and get to know the people around them. I was glad the event didn't really have organized activities other than the raffles. As I'd predicted, everyone just enjoyed being together, and the evening flew by.
Unlike at events we have at the store, or when I'm working at a pen show, I didn't need to stay in my role as salesperson. I didn't have any specific duties, other than helping with the raffle and making sure I took lots of photos and videos, so I relaxed and spent time talking with many different people. While Leila worked the room, linking wallflowers, bringing around the "magic hat," and checking to see if people were having a good time and that the restaurant staff was handling the volume of orders all right, I was completely oblivious to any of that because I was having so much fun mingling with people! For me, the whole event was a sheer joy, and I allowed myself to just live in the moment.
I had even brought along my Girologio denim pen case filled with most of my nicest pens, so I could share them with others, just like I'd seen people do after hours at pen shows. I often bring two or three of my own pens to let customers try at work, but this was different. This was the majority of my pen collection, and I had felt hesitant and shy about bringing it. My pens are an expression of me, and almost seemed too personal to share with other people. Most of them are pens I bought before I started working at Pen Boutique, and I am a very reserved person, reticent about opening up my life to others. Bringing my pens felt like a big step. I'm glad I took the plunge and did it, though. Everyone I showed my pens to seemed to love seeing them, and I loved the connection I felt by sharing my favorites. I was delighted to see that Steve, the first person I'd sold a Girologio case to, had brought his case as well, and we compared the contents side by side. So cool! Some of the other Hub participants started to want one of their own after feeling how soft they are and seeing how perfect they are for a situation like a Hub or pen show. Sorry, it wasn't my intention to tempt you! (Okay, maybe a little. Haha.)
One of the best parts of the night was when I turned around and saw Erik standing in the cafe's doorway. I've mentioned Erik a few times in my blog, and interviewed him in my article about TWSBIs. Erik's been an avid pen enthusiast since December, and often came to Pen Boutique on his way to work just to talk with us and see whatever was new that week, but we weren't expecting him to be able to make it to the Hub, since we knew he had gone back to college upstate in August. Even though he wasn't registered, he had decided at the last minute to come, and had driven several hours to attend! Unexpectedly seeing Erik again was like that wonderful feeling you get when a favorite relative from far away surprises you by showing up for a birthday party or Christmas. Even though Erik is much younger than most of the other Hub participants, age doesn't matter when you share a passion for pens, and I loved watching him mingle.
Later, I chatted with Erik about his finds from the pay it forward table, and showed him the pens I'd brought. Along with most of the nicest pens in my collection, I'd thrown in a Preppy inked with Platinum's new blackest-black Chou Kuro ink, from my recent article about black inks, because I thought it would be fun for people to have an opportunity to try it. He was excited to write with it, as were many other people. Everyone was impressed by how smooth it is and the lovely dark color!
Meanwhile, Liz, one of our long-time regulars, had brought a bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Golden Beryl ink to share with anyone who wanted a sample. This gorgeous and highly coveted shimmering ink is no longer available except in the Pelikan M200 Golden Beryl gift set that includes both the beautiful fountain pen and its matching ink. Erik eagerly took her up on the offer, and she encouraged him to fill one of the free pens he'd snagged. It wrote beautifully and glistened with a stunning golden line in the evening light. I got a sample, too, to take home and try later. Thank you, Liz! What a perfect and very generous thing to share at a Pelikan Hub.
I had also brought something else I wanted to show people: a sheet of Kartos writing paper. You may have noticed Kartos paper in the background in some of my recent blog photos and videos. I discovered this beautiful Italian stationery at the DC Pen Show and worked to bring it to Pen Boutique because I thought our customers would love it. It always takes a while to bring in a new product, and there's an element of risk involved because you are taking a chance by introducing a new thing without knowing for sure how it will sell. However, I'd seen some of my best customers buy it at the show, and tried it myself with many different pens and inks. It's extremely fountain pen friendly, and, to prove it, I asked people at the Hub to put it to the test by writing on it with their own pens.
One of my favorite customers, another Eric (but with a "c"), belongs to an international postcard exchange called Postcrossing, and is a big stationery and correspondence enthusiast in general, so I was particularly excited to show the paper to him. He inaugurated the sheet with his own Pelikan by writing,
Thanks so much for carrying stationery."
Later, married couple Jeff and Donna really challenged the paper by writing on it with all sorts of interesting pens that they'd brought. Even the most extreme pen and ink combo they could throw at it barely feathered or ghosted on the other side!
Partway through the evening, we paused the socializing, and Leila got up to MC our raffles. But, first, she had a big announcement to make. The two of us had discussed it ahead of time and decided that the Hub was the perfect place to share the very exciting news about the "super-secret project" we had been working on together since May. Over the past six months as colleagues and burgeoning friends, Leila and I had discovered that we are an amazing duo. We are very different, but that's what makes us a great team, and people really respond to the combination of our personalities. We had decided to take that success further and were about to announce the next big step. I asked my friend and wonderful customer Martin to record a video of the announcement on my phone so that I could be at Leila's side.
"Well, first of all, how's everyone doing? Is everyone having a good time?" Leila asked, and received a huge cheer in response.
"Very good! Um, I have a special announcement to make. Laura and I have been working very hard for the past couple months planning, prepping, trying to figure out logistics..... We'd... I'd like to announce tonight, among friends, that we're actually going to be starting a YouTube Show for Pen Boutique."
The room gasped in delight, and applauded. I knew it was a big deal and a little scary to be sharing our plans in public, but, simultaneously, the time felt right. We were ready. Behind us, Leena, who had proposed the idea and funded our equipment and set dressings, beamed with joy.
Leila continued, "Laura came up with the name... and it's called..." She gestured toward me, but my throat was very hoarse from talking loudly all night--plus, I hate speaking to large groups--so I deferred back to her... "For Your Penjoyment."
People called out, "All right!" and "Nice!" and "Ah!"
"Pretty cute! So, if you follow us on Instagram, just keep an eye out... the inaugural episode should be rolling out in early October. So, we'll post on Instagram promoting that. If you see it... 'like' it, give us a nice comment, subscribe to the channel if you are compelled to do so. We would greatly appreciate the support. Now that I've said all of that... we have a raffle!"
The YouTube show is Leila's baby, and, although I'm supporting her every step of the way, she is the one who has previous YouTube experience and is responsible for making the plans come together while I'm at home writing this blog. When she asked me to co-host, I was honored and immediately accepted, even though I knew it would be a big stretch for me. I'm a writer and an introvert, not a big bold personality like Leila. I enjoy one-on-one connections with people, but I'm shy in groups. But, I know a lot of the fountain pen community is introverted, too, and that my style will appeal to a different segment of viewers than Leila's will. Together, as partners, we will play off one another and be a strong and united team. It will be a lot of work to make the show happen, and I know it will be challenging and exhausting, but we think it will be worth it. We believe in each other and think our show's unique vision will be special and different from any other fountain pen show out there. We hope viewers will agree!
After our big announcement, Pen Boutique gave away a Pelikan M200 Golden Beryl gift set. I think I gasped out loud when Leila announced this prize, as I didn't know ahead of time what it would be, and it's definitely something I'd want to win, if I'd been able to enter! The Golden Beryl ink alone makes this an amazing set, and I love the Pelikan M200 series pens. My own M205 is one of my very favorites in my collection. We actually have both this special edition set and individual pen on sale at incredible prices right now, but Golden Beryl is retired and there are only a limited number remaining.
(Handwriting sample is courtesy of my mom, who loved the feel of the pen and wrote that without any prompting from me! Ha! The golden ink is actually very shimmery in the right light, but it's difficult to capture in a photo.)
Another similar set we have on sale right now is the Moonstone M205 and matching ink. Either of these would make a beautiful gift, depending on whether your recipient prefers sparkly light or sparkly dark!
One of our wonderful customers, Penny, also donated two other fantastic prizes for the raffle--a Diamine 2022 Inkvent Calendar and a bottle of Lamy Petrol ink (a very desirable and difficult to attain retired ink, in one of my favorite colors!) Leila asked me to draw the first ticket out of the green "magic hat," and then asked Aurora and Leena, in turn, to draw the next two. It was lots of fun and very exciting!
Toward the end of the evening, I realized I was hungry and hadn't paused to eat or drink, so I checked to see if the kitchen was still open. Lucky for me, the super-nice Cafe Columbia staff immediately agreed to make something for me, and I finally sat down for a cup of coffee and one of the delicious-smelling crepes I'd been enjoying inhaling for the past hour and a half. My senses were probably heightened by everything, but it tasted heavenly and seemed like one of the best meals I'd ever had! I actually kept dreaming about that crepe for the next several days.
At 8:00 when it was time to leave, I couldn't believe two hours had passed, and I wished I could have stayed much longer. Leila, Leena, Aurora and I got together to pose for a happy photo together, and then we started to pack up.
I didn't want the night to end, but, thankfully, I got invited to an after-party! (My first one ever, but I'm sure it won't be the last.) Thank you to everyone who made the Columbia, Maryland Pelikan Hub such a wonderful experience. I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. What a night!
I can't wait for next year's Pelikan Hubs, and I am actually very excited about the coming year for Pelikan in general. I was talking with Joy about Pelikan yesterday, and she remarked that there have never been so many cool new releases coming out in such close proximity. Joy has been with Pen Boutique for over eleven years, and places most of our orders, so she should know!
In addition to the stunning Pelikan M600 Art Collection Glauco Cambon Special Edition pen that our Pelikan representative Gary showed me a preview of at the DC Pen Show, four other exciting Pelikans will be coming to our store over the next month or so. The Glauco Cambon will be released in mid- to late October, the Special Edition Pelikan Classic M200 in Copper with Rose Gold Trim will also be coming out in October, and so will the Special Edition Pelikan Classic M205 in Rose Quartz, and the new Special Edition Souverän M600 Red/White, which has striking red stripes offset by a white cap and grip section. Gary told me this is the most beautiful combination he's seen in years and that he immediately fell in love with it. You can pre-order all of these pens now! If I could afford it, I'd order Glauco Cambon in a heartbeat, and I am definitely eyeing the M200 in Copper with Rose Gold and wondering if I should set some money aside for that.
Pelikan is also coming out with the incredible limited edition M1000 Maki-e Dragon in November. This fountain pen is a "masterpiece that combines the craftsmanship of Pelikan Germany based on 185 years of tradition and technology, coupled with superior Japanese traditional Maki-e painting techniques." Each Souverän M1000 fountain pen is made in Germany and then decorated in Japan. Only 123 were produced for the entire world, and only 10 were allotted for North America, so it is a great privilege that Pen Boutique was selected for the option to buy one. Our Pelikan Maki-e Dragon has already been sold, but feast your eyes on this!
We also have a few copies of the Pelikan: The Brand 175th anniversary historical collectors book available for Pelikan lovers. This sumptuously illustrated coffee table book is full of beautiful artwork, including, of course, the poster that inspired the Glauco Cambon pen, along with historical letters from Günther Wagner, the originator of the brand.
And, by the way, you don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy Pelikan! The Pelikan Twist is only about $25, is a great writer, and comes in a rainbow of different color combinations. Leila assures me that the best color is the Shine Mystic (she owns one and loves it!), and who am I to argue with that? It's definitely a glamorous pen!
Oh, and in case you missed it, the recent M200 Pastel Blue Special Edition is a winner as well. The swirling translucent pearly blue is mesmerizing, and it even has an ink window. If you want to break into the world of Pelikan with a lower-priced but beautiful piston-filler, you can't go wrong with a 200 series pen. What I love most about the M200 series is that it comes in so many cool barrel designs that aren't available on the more expensive pens. The M400 and M200 models are sized like vintage pens and may seem small at first if you are used to larger modern pens, but they can be very comfortable for both men and women and are also the most portable and lightest. I own two in this size--an M205 (steel nibbed) and an M400 (gold nibbed). They are both amazing writers and I love how easy they are to fill and clean. If you haven't already read it, check out my article on why I love Pelikans. It's one of my all-time favorites.
Okay, it's hard to stop thinking about Pelikans, but it's after midnight and I need to go to sleep. I'll be in the store tomorrow, looking forward to seeing some of my favorite customers from the Hub and meeting new favorites, too. If you stop by, ask me to show you a Pelikan!
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(Pictured: Pelikan K600 Vibrant Orange Special Edition ballpoint, because I just love the color combination with Pelikan's 2023 Rose Quartz notepad from the Hub. What a beautiful pen!)