03 July 2008

Chicago Pen Store

I just returned from a trip that ended in Chicago. Before leaving, I looked up pen stores in the area.

I left with two goals: 1. Find and buy a Pelikan m200 2. Buy a green ink

Well, I stopped at two pen stores in Chicago, and here are my thoughts:

Gilbertson Clyborn, inc.: This was the first pen store I visited in Chicago. It is very close to Michigan Avenue. The shop is kind of small and undecorated, and just didn't seem to have the right atmosphere. It seemed almost isolated, even though it was a block from the magnificent mile. The shop manager, Daniel P. Collins, was kind. He carried a reasonable variety of pens, including Mont Blanc pens. Unfortunately, he did not have the model of Pelikan pen that I wanted. He did, however, stock Private Reserve inks, so I purchased a bottle of PR Avocado ink. Overall, the store had pens, but it didn't have the character I would hope for from a pen store. If you have limited time in Chicago and will be by the Magnificent Mile, it may be worth stopping by.

Century Pens: This store is located in the center of the Bank of America Center by the Sears Tower. Three of the walls of the shop are glass, making for an open atmosphere. Upon walking in, you are greeted by a compassionate owner, Ed Hamilton. He carries a wide variety of pens, ". . . from $3 to $8000." Of note, he does not carry Mont Blanc pens, even though he says that the official salesman has tried to get him to stock the pens many times. He and I exchanged jokes about "precious resin." The store had a great atmosphere- it did have pens, but it also had collectibles and items that the shopkeeper obviously prided himself on that made a home-like atmosphere. He carried only basic inks- specifically Waterman inks- because he said he couldn't handle the breadth of inks provided by a brand like Noodler's. The shop seemed to do business with a wide variety of people, including lawyers and doctors. I was very surprised when the owner handed me a custom-printed advertising blotter with his store's info printed on one side. He said that he is trying to revive the tradition of handing out advertising blotters. 
In terms of my goals, number two had been accomplished at Gilbertson Clyborn. Century Pens also carried Pelikans, but was sold out of the m200. I must have seemed a little disappointed that he didn't have the pen I yearned, for the owner brought me over to a different display and showed me the Pilot Vanishing-Point pens. I had read about these pens and their cult-like following, but had never touched one before. In short, I was enamored with the pen and, even though it was twice what I had intended to spend, I bought one with a big smile on my face. 

Overall, I left Chicago satisfied with my new pen and ink. In fact, I could not even wait to get back to the hotel to ink the pen. I filled it with the green ink at my favorite pizza place, Gino's, while waiting for my deep-dish pizza to bake, and started writing in my Moleskine reporter notebook that I keep in my pocket. On future trips to Chicago, I plan on returning to Century Pens. Thanks Ed for your altruism and great advice!

Century Pen's website:

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