Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Three Cheers for the Stationery Store

Write with this.
Whatever happened to the stationery store? There used to be a great small stationery store in my neighbourhood. I can’t remember for sure, but I think it was called Eastside Graphics. I loved this place for several years. I used to go there to buy all of my pens, paper, and office supplies. I especially loved to buy a new journal to write in from that store. They were gorgeous journals. But the store is gone now.
Unlike the bookstore, the music store, and the video store, the stationery store thrives. Places like Staples and Office Depot continue to do brisk business selling paper and related products in large quantities. But I regret the loss of the smaller stationery store for a couple of reasons. 

Of course we’ve had the fax machine, email, instant messaging, Skype, blogging, and the like for many years. But to me, the demise of the small stationery store is just one more sad thing signalling the demise of the personal letter. Like the book, the CD, and the DVD, the letter is an object. It is an object that that buoys the relationship between the sender and the receiver. It takes effort to buy the paper, the envelope, the pen. It takes time to write the letter and address the envelope. There is effort in mailing the letter and it takes even more effort for someone to deliver it. 

All of this effort in creating the letter and getting it to the receiver does much to honour the sender, regardless of the letter’s content. And because the letter, like the book, is an object, the receiver benefits from being able to touch it, to hold it. The letter takes on the form of a gift. On the other hand, instant messaging and email, for example, don’t honour the receiver as much as the letter does. They’re too fast, too easy: there’s no object, no gift.  

The demise of the stationery store and the art of letter writing have also led to the demise of something else: handwriting. Umberto Eco laments the decline of this art. He, like all good primary school teachers, understands the important brain/body connection that comes from the practice of handwriting. For many years I used to print in my journals at home: it was fast and easy. But about ten years ago, I returned to handwriting. It’s slower and more difficult, but it’s a lovely experience. I think people who write should try handwriting.

Generally, in recent years, I’ve been getting my journals and other office supplies from a local drug store; and specifically, I’ve been stealing all of my pens from other people at work. This obviously can’t go on. I still miss my old stationery store. I liked being there. It won’t be the same, but from now on, I am resolved to try to re-create the excellent experience I enjoyed at my old favourite stationery store. I’m going purchase my journals from Artrageous Pictures and Framing. And if I can stop my pen thieving, I’ll head downtown to the Vancouver Pen Shop.


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  2. I remember Eastside Graphics! Sad to see it go.

  3. If you’re into pens, check out Richard Binder Fountain Pens at


    Each month they have a tray of restored vintage fountain pens for sale. The pens are beautiful, and they write well. I’m very happy with the one I purchased.