Friday, April 22, 2016

Atlanta Pen Show Wrap-Up

For the second straight year we were able to attend the Atlanta Pen Show and while we’re pretty much pen show newbs, we pretty much slayed the entire show. Okay that might be a bit of hyperbole, but we had a blast and hopefully our fans and customers had a great time as well. What follows is a brief retelling of our time in HOTLANTA!


I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of flying the commercial skies. I’m not afraid of flying, I’ve been in really tight spots on numerous aircraft both military and civilian, and I don’t get anxious being on planes. What bothers me is all the crazy people stacked like sardines in a tin hurtling at high velocity through the air. Those people are the ones you have to watch out for. So it was only fate that landed Dan and I in the back of the plane across the aisle from two women that were HIIIIIIIIIIGH one something that then proceeded to order as much alcohol as possible, and generally make fools of themselves by yelling at crying babies and their parents and trying to curl up and sleep on the floor in front of their seats. Yup that was the flight to Atlanta. If I’d have known Atlanta was this much fun, I’d have stayed away longer…But wait, it gets better…

We didn’t feel like spending any more time than we had to at the airport, so in search of a taxi we went. They aren’t hard to find and soon enough we were speeding along the highway en route to our destination. And about halfway there, it was time for us to have a near death experience courtesy of some crazy driver that got pissed at our cabbie. Our cabbie decided to merge with the HOV lane while relatively close to the vehicle in the HOV lane. That driver decided he didn’t want us in the HOV lane and sped up and began pushing us back into the lane we were already in. Only that lane now was FULL of cars. Basically a wall of cars outside my window and we were inches away from them weaving back and forth as the other driver sought to push us into the wall of metal. Our cabbie didn’t bat an eye, he sped up, weaved about six times and then pulled ahead of the vehicle, and in a completely calm, mild voice said, “I’m sorry about that.” After which I was left speechless and Dan made a few remarks about us being alive and that was the only thing that mattered. The rest of the drive went off without a hitch and soon enough we were at the hotel.

It’s just after 5pm at this point and we hit the lobby of the hotel and check in. Somehow are rooms aren’t ready, but with some quick talking and being okay with staying on separate floors gets us into our rooms faster. We drop our bags, freshen up, and then back downstairs for the official meeting between us and some of our pen peeps. We spend time chatting and shaking hands with a few local customers as well as people that travelled to attend the show, and decide it’s time for some food. A group of us meander down about half a mile to a local “Mexican” restaurant, Rio Bravo, and spend a couple hours eating, chatting, and generally enjoying ourselves before heading back to the “unofficial” PenAddict podcast meet up where the fun continues LATE into the night. Needless to say by the time I head to bed it’s REALLY late and I get about 3 hours of sleep.


So we woke up…late…got to the table…late…got set up…late. But it didn’t really affect us much as we had a line of people at our table waiting on us to put our wares out. And right away we started selling our pens. I should put a shout out to Chuck (you know who you are). Thanks for taking me to Starbucks for coffee, it was a lifesaver. We debuted our teal pens at this show and they were an instant hit. We sold through most of the teal INKs that first day and about half the teal EDKs. Along with our usual pens. Our grey is still a show best seller so we sold out of all of our grey pens as well.
Dan and Bob from Sky Lab Letterpress

We had friends stop by, Tania and Dan were the first two customers, showing us some love from the get go. Followed by Amanda and Isaac, then a whole bunch of people and if I forget to mention you I am terribly sorry, I’m only human. Stacy and Baron showed up and we chatted all things pens for quite some time. Lisa Vanness flitted back and forth from her table to ours quite a bit that first day, but that’s something we are used to and one of Lisa’s most endearing personality traits. We spent time with Brad and Jeffrey from Nock Co. Sat next to Jonathan and Megan from Carolina Pen Company, the Newtons were across from us and Mark Bacas had a table at the end of our row. All in all we were surrounded by friends that we actually view as family more than just friends. And the show kicked off with a great start. Somewhere around 3 pm, Dan got to head upstairs and get interviewed by the Don himself, Brian Goulet. We’re stoked to see the results of that video, as we’ve heard it’s quite amusing. Hopefully they link to a B Roll of all the outtakes!
Dan chatting with Amanda and Aubrey

That evening was the live PenAddict podcast. And I was tired so I wandered up to my room to attempt a nap, but that didn’t happen as the floor I was on had a whole high school basketball team on it. So back downstairs to enjoy some grilled hamburgers and pen conversation. I had a great chat with Mark Bacas, Stacy and Baron, and Amanda. Then wandered around for the rest of my evening “working” the rooms. I got to meet and chat with Brian and Rachel Goulet myself. We spent some time talking about Karas products, and I expressed my pleasure at being able to work with them. But they were just as busy as I was so we went off in search of more people to spend time with. I sat down with Shawn and Elizabeth Newton along with Jonathon and Megan Brooks got a lot of my time as we talked about creativity and the artist’s mind, the importance of arts in education, and reminiscing about our misspent youth. The night stretched on and into the wee hours of Saturday morning before I made my way up to my room and got another short night’s rest.

A bevy of Fountain Pen Nerds at the complimentary ink testing table.

Supposedly Saturday is the busiest day…so we were late once again. That’s what happens when you are on Arizona time in Georgia. It’s 8 am local, but your body thinks it’s 5 am. And no amount of coffee was going to get me moving any earlier than 8 am. So we made it to the table, opened it all up, and we were greeted by the masses. Okay, not the masses, but it was busier than Friday. A constant stream of folks stopped by our table. And we loved spending time with all of them. Some bought pens, some stopped to show us their current Karas carry, others just wanted to chat about pens and test them out. It didn’t matter what the story was, the pen community is a place where people show up and share stories, experiences, and pens. It’s about the love of fine writing, or not-so-fine writing, pens new and old, and the act of sharing those things with others in the hobby. So while we manned the table we spent some quality time with a lot of great people, young and old, that just wanted to enjoy pens and paper.
Bob from Sky Lab Letterpress is back chatting with Dan

Saturday evening was much the same as Friday evening. I was beat, attempted to get some sleep, Dan did too. I am not sure if he succeeded, I didn’t. I wandered back downstairs just in time to see all the complimentary pizza being finished up, so off in search of food I went. And found some stellar grub at a local Atlanta BBQ place just 9 minutes before they locked their doors. The meal was wonderful even if I did have to eat it under a highway overpass since I didn’t want the food to get cold. But it was one of the highlights of the trip for sure.

Back at the hotel, the official Nock Co/PenAddict Podcast after party was in full swing in the hospitality suite. Or it was until there was a noise complaint, then back to the bar everyone went. I spent time at the bar moving between groups of people trying to talk to as many different folks as possible. I talked about the military with some Air Force kiddos (that’s the term I’m using since they literally told me they were in elementary school when I was sent to Iraq the first time), chatted about pets with Crista for quite some time, looked at pens and custom stamps and paper with another Dan (seems to be WAY too many Dans in the pen community), Lori and I looked at one of her vintage pens and I hopefully gave her some good advise on how to get it fixed, and wrapped up my night reminiscing about the military with Jason before heading back upstairs, once again late or early depending on how you look at it.

My celebrity moment, with Brian Goulet

What else on should we do on the last day in Atlanta? Yep, you guessed it, sleep in again. However, I got up in time to get a quick breakfast at Waffle House before heading in to “work”. The traffic on Sunday is slow and lazy getting into the pen show, and we had a 4 pm flight out of Atlanta. So we started packing up around 1230 pm. Dan wandered around for a bit shaking hands with people and saying our good byes. I got to spend a bit more time with Shawn Newton chatting about pens looking over his lovely works of art. Hopefully one day there will be a pen or two of his in my pen case. Then I met and got to hang out with Jenni, the Goulet’s video and sound guru. It was an awesome conversation and a perfect way to wrap up the pen show. Dan and I said our final good byes to Brad and Jeffrey, Ana and Bob, and a smattering of other awesome pen folks before we jumped in an Uber and headed back to the airport. Our Uber ride was not nearly as harrowing as the cab ride and actually turned out to be an awesome experience connecting with our Uber driver chatting about life and work and what makes different cities wonderful places to live.

Then it was through security, waiting at the gate, then on a plane headed back to the desert. Leaving the lovely weather, awesome people, and amazing experiences behind.

I’m a pen show newb. My first show was the LA International Pen Show in February. And while the show was fun and the people great, it held a lot of drama and was very “business-like”. There wasn’t the same feeling of community as there was in Atlanta. From the first moment we met up with some pen people in the lobby of the hotel Thursday night, until we left on Sunday, our days were filled from start to finish with amazing experiences shared with great people. It’s not all about pens. The conversation at this show covered more topics than you’d ever imagine. We talked about life, love, war, pets, friends, family, feelings, loss, art, education, and everything in between. It wasn’t a networking event (sure that did happen) but it was an event where people got to hang out and have fun. At the end of the day we went to bed exhausted not from work, but from the time spent with good people talking about what motivates us to move forward in life. In all it was an amazing time with very little drama but great memories. I hope the rest of the pen shows we attend end up being this awesome, the bar has been set REALLY high.

DC Fountain Pen Sueprshow 4-7 August 2016
San Francisco International Pen Show 26-28 August 2016
Colorado Pen Show 7-9 October 2016

We hope to see some of you (all of you really) at one of these shows. If you can make it please stop by and say hi, we love talking to you folks. And if you’re in Arizona, stop by the shop. You are all officially invited to stop by and say hello. We are in the shop Monday-Friday from 10 am to 5 pm. If you time your visit right on Friday you will probably get some lunch courtesy of Karas Kustoms.