Sunday, March 20, 2016

The New Santa Fe Pens and Pen Show

Strange how these Missives go; I had two subjects all planned out and then I could not get the material so I am writing about my third activity this weekend which I actually wrote about two years ago ... The Santa Fe Pen Show.

This year the Pen Show moved.  One of the shopping malls within walking distance of the center of town has been bought by a charter school, Santa Fe School for the Arts so all the shops there had to move or go out of business.  Happily Santa Fe Pens, owned and run by Neal Frank, decided to move.  Not as convenient, being a hike from the center is a much larger mall called de Vargas, named after Don Diego de Vargas (1643 – 1704), a Spanish Governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México,  the mall however, has become a bustling place thanks to a number of additional shops and activities.  To put on a show Neal must expand beyond his new intimate shop into the aisles of the mall.  In this case I can describe the location as unlike any place in in New York City.  It is opposite the gun shop!
Neal Frank far right

Fountain pens are anachronistic today but as said in my last Missive on this subject they have taken the place of my pipe, which was a warm “feel-y” in my life.  A friend, learning of my newest addiction, commented. “but don’t you get ink on your hands?”  Yes, you do and in fact I am typing with a purple middle finger right now (all the better to express myself with!) but it does eventually wash off.  The sensation of writing with a fountain pen is quite different from a ballpoint or roller gel.   It is like the difference between an automatic and manual transmission in your car. 

Santa Fe Pens sells all models, ballpoints, rollerballs, and fountain pens.  One can get  different nibs for the fountain pens in fine, medium and broad and sometimes with additional permutations like a nib for calligraphy: it’s fun to try different ones.  A broad nib is more for signatures and a finer nib more appropriate for taking notes.

At the Pen Show the tables are decked out with pens from many different makers.  Neal Frank, only invites distributors who work with him and many, such as, Parker, Waterman, Pelikan and Cross, don’t have representatives any more and work through on line companies.  Buying a pen that you have not held and cannot try first makes no sense to me.  Is it too thin? too thick? does it write smoothly?  All questions I want answered before I spend more that a few dollars on.

I had recently bought a rather expensive pen so I went having decided that I was just going to look.  It is fun and educational to speak with the distributors to find out about their pens and compare various models.  But then I spotted an all-wood pen, a material I loved in my pipes as well and I could not resist.  I bought a Delta, a brand that I am not sure I had heard of before and was sure it must be made in the American mid-west but no, it is made in Naples, Italy.

I find it interesting that in Santa Fe, with a population of some 70,000 (which can reach 2 million if we include tourists in peak season) Santa Fe Pens still exists after 20 years, while in New York, with a population of some 9 million (not including tourists) the number of pen shops where you can buy fountain pens has been reduced to one.   All the chain “stationery” stores such as Office Max, Office Depot and Staples say on line that they carry fountain pens but that is on line, not in the stores.   By the way I have also found that the pens I buy at Santa Fe Pens are usually similar or cheaper in price than on line and the experience is much more satisfying.

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