Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Retailer Spotlight – Anderson Pens

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This week on our Retailer Spotlight we have the lovely duo from Anderson Pens, Lisa and Brian Anderson! For our readers who do not know about Anderson Pens here’s a bit of background from their website and e-store www.andersonpens.net:

“Established in 2010, AndersonPens.net was developed to combine the efforts of Brian Anderson’s Esterbrook.net, and Lisa Anderson’s ProperPads to bring pens and paper together all in one place.”

They have become big enough to successfully open a brand new retail location in Appleton, WI which if you’re in the area you definitely need to check out!

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Rhodia Drive: Thank you for taking the time out for us today I know you’re busy getting ready for the Atlanta Pen Show. First thing’s first tell me and the readers a little bit about yourselves and how Anderson Pens got started.

Anderson Pens logo

Anderson Pens: Brian and I actually met through the pen collecting hobby over 15 years ago when we both got started.  We both collected Esterbrook pens (among other brands) and found ourselves bidding against each other on ebay.  We eventually called a truce and met at the Chicago Pen Show in May of 2003. We lost touch and reconnected through Facebook in 2008.  We eventually got married at the Chicago Pen Show in 2010, and decided to advance our years of experience and passion into an online business as well as attending the US Pen shows.  We started with primarily our own branded paper and vintage pens, then added the J. Herbin inks and other modern pens and paper soon followed.  We have grown slowly and steadily over the past four years and will continue to do so.

Brian and Lisa at the Long Island Pen Show
Brian and Lisa at the Long Island Pen Show

RD: What was the most difficult thing that you did not expect when you first got started?

AP: Probably how to decide what to carry – we wanted it all!! But since we self-funded our business – no grants, no loans, no help from family, we had to be cautious with our choices.  We are in this for the long haul, and slow and steady growth is how we will achieve that.

RD: I think Anderson Pens has become more and more known for pens, especially fountain pens, with fans but you are more than just pens. When did you decide that having notebooks and notepads like Rhodia and Quo Vadis was something important to have?

AP: From Day 1, we knew that we needed the “Fountain Pen Triad” of pens, inks, and good paper. The Exaclair family of products was our 1st offering, actually. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your pen may be, if you are writing on terrible paper.

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Rhodia and Clairefontaine galore!

RD: You took the bold step of opening a brick and mortar retail location in downtown Appleton, WI last year. I think many stores that start online are hesitant to take that step so what made you decide that you were going to open a store and also that the time was right to open a store?

AP:  We kept outgrowing our house!! We had pens in the closet, in the dining room, in the guest room, etc. We renovated our basement, and  we outgrew that in less than 6 months. We knew that we would need to rent a bigger space, and wanted to have the option for walk-in traffic. Our downtown community is wonderful, and very full and active, which helped us to decide to move there. It’s also about a half mile from our house, so we can ride our bikes or walk for much of the year.

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Need a pen?

RD: What’s been the most exciting part of having opened a retail store?

AP: The best part of opening a retail store has been finding other pen, paper, and ink enthusiasts in the community.  We have a good time every day at work because we are sharing our passion with our friends and neighbors (literally).  It also gives us a space for special activities like pen club meetings, calligraphy classes and other ideas we hope to schedule this summer.  We have also been surprised at the number of people who have brought in Grandpa’s pen for repair and it is wonderful to be able to restore the pen to its former glory for them.

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Inks including J. Herbin!

RD: The store is great for the local community but that’s not the only way people can find you. www.andersonpens.net is your website and your e-store. How have you balanced the online sales and the store?

AP: Right after we opened the store we switched web platforms to one that also offered a point of sale component which allows us to keep inventory integrated and updated in real time.  If there is a lull during the day at the store, we’re packing and shipping orders and getting new product up on the website.

Andersonpens.net home page
Andersonpens.net home page

RD: I met both of you at the Long Island Pen Show earlier this year and it was great. Both of you are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what you’re providing to people I even picked up a Parker 45 which I love thank you again. You go to every pen show in a calendar year correct? I think many people are wondering how that is even possible?!

AP:  We’re really glad you’re enjoying the pen!  Last year we hit all 14 US Pen shows, including four over the course of six weeks.  We’ve scaled back a little bit this year to 11 or 12.  Brian still works full time and uses his vacation time and we just plan that around the show calendar.  We drive to every show and last year put at least 35,000 miles on the car.  Don’t get us wrong, it’s exhausting as we drive straight through the night taking turns at the wheel, but we love it.

Anderson Pen's list of pen shows
Anderson Pen’s list of pen shows

RD: Along with the store, the online store, and going to all the pen shows, you keep up regularly with a blog with podcasts and Facebook, Twitter and all the other platforms. Engaging with your customers is obviously very important to you but I think I’m in the majority when I ask when do find time to sleep?

AP:  Sleep?  That’s a foreign word to us.  Since opening the store we have tried to find a balance between pens and family life.  Sometimes it is nice to leave work at the store, and having Sunday’s off (even though we are often found at the store most Sunday’s) is a nice relief.  However we feel engaging with our customers is something that doesn’t follow a time a schedule, it happens all day every day of the week.  And since these people are our friends we are never really closed for business.

RD: Fountain pens and paper products have the reputation of a fading relic of the past with the digital age. However we can see that notebooks are actually coming back around and becoming more popular and fountain pens have been around for centuries. Where do you see the future for these products going and in particular where do you see notebooks and journals headed?

AP: Without good paper people are not going to have a positive writing experience.  Many people spend their pen budget on the pen and the ink and then later discover their pen feathers on the poor quality office paper and notebooks they are using.  This is why we carry the better Rhodia and Clairfontane pads and notebooks.  Currently there is a cultural shift to slow down, be more mindful, and leave a legacy.  Many people have begun or have renewed an interest in journaling and a nicer journal like a Quo Vadis Habana helps to reinforce this.

Rhodia and Clairefontaine displays
Rhodia and Clairefontaine displays

RD: What’s next for Anderson Pens?

AP:  We are bringing on our first full time employee soon to help with the day to day operations, which will enable us to plan for future growth and opportunities.  We plan to increase our offerings within our current brands as well as a few new brands in the very near future.  We are only just beginning and quickly outgrowing our new retail space.  Without giving anything away, let’s just say we expect 2014-2015 to be a very exciting time. What won’t change is our commitment to the pen collecting community, to our friends and customers, and to our personal passion for writing instruments, ink and stationery.

RD: Thank you again for your time this has been great. It’s always enjoyable to talk with you and I hope to see you again this year maybe at the D.C. Pen Show!

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For more information on Anderson Pens check their website www.andersonpens.net and their blog http://blog.andersonpens.net/.

You can find their retail location on:

Anderson Pens
10 E. College Ave. #112A
Appleton, WI 54911

Anderson Pens carries Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Quo Vadis, J. Herbin and G. Lalo


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