Pen Stalking: Chicago

Last Monday night, we took the train from Utica to Chicago for a few days of vacation. I was excited. The train! Vacation! Chicago! We traveled overnight and though sleeping was a little tricky, I loved the ride and the fact that we were practically delivered door to door.


Stupidly did not figure out the REAL footrests until 8:30 am. Oh, well!

This was vacation with a very short agenda, which is just how I like it. We knew that we were going to a White Sox-Yankees game, and that we had reserved tickets for the Field Museum, but other than that, it was all free form. Perfect.

That’s a little bit of a lie…I knew I wanted to visit Century Pens, a pen store that I had tracked down online. So Day One, off we went and found the store after a short walk.


Century Pens. We found it!

The guys in the store were great and let us poke around to our hearts’ content. I fogged up a display case or two while we were there. I held a Pilot Prera (wow…very light fountain pen!) and oogled the Krones, a line of pens that was entirely new to me. We saw the Winston Churchill pen up close and personal, thanks to the genuinely enthusiastic salesmen. Despite their enthusiasm, THAT $5900 pen stayed put, while I browsed around for something more affordable, preferably without lions. There was not a single Retro 51 in the house, because, they said, no rep ever calls on them. Darn! I was anxious to see the Invader model in person. If they had had a Monteverde Color Fusion Invincia Stealth fountain pen in stock, I would’ve swooped down on that, but it was not to be. Instead, I picked up a slightly used Stypen…a small retractable fountain pen…that caught my eye.
One store, one pen. This vacation was off to a great start.


Capped Stypen


Deployed Stypen

By then, I was so hungry that I could’ve eaten a skyscraper, so we took a break.

Yes, I was THAT hungry.

Next up…Dick Blick! I’ve seen their website, but never an actual store. I explored the place from top to bottom but in the end made just a few small purchases, but I’m very happy with them.
1) Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad. WOW. I didn’t really get to try it out until I was home, but this paper is THE BEST for fountain pens. And i love the dots. They provide just enough structure without getting in the way. Great stuff.
2) Pilot G2 0.38 mm (black). I tested a few Stabilos and LePens, but couldn’t quite get into them, and instead opted for the super crisp line of the 0.38 mm G2. Though G2s are easy to come by locally, that tip size isn’t. Super cheap, but very nice.
3) Pilot G2 0.38 mm (red). See #2, just in red.
Nothing exotic purchased there, but these were solid finds, nonetheless.


Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad…yum!


Not fancy, but oh so crisp.

On Thursday, our last day, we trekked WAY up N. Michigan Ave. in search of the Montblanc Boutique. Once there, I hesitated at the threshold. It’s a fancy place and there I was in my shorts and Life Is Good t-shirt. Awkward! But the salesman, Brian Morrow, couldn’t have been nicer. I asked if they had a Limited Edition Alfred Hitchcock fountain pen, which they did. He sat us down, donned a glove, and got out the $3000 beauty. I was hesitant to touch it because I’d forgotten to pack my pen-handling glove (silly me), but no worries…he handed it to me to examine. VERY cool. Heavy in details…twisting design on barrel, dagger clip, etc. But a tad pricey. Just a tad. (I’d also forgotten to pack my bag o’ money.)

After we finished with the Hitchcock, and it was returned to its vault, Brian brought out the Limited Edition Jonathan Swift fountain pen that had JUST arrived at the store. I’d heard about the Swift pen on an FPGeeks podcast where the design was much debated, but to be honest, I liked this one better than the Hitchcock. The “trifoil” cap, the ladder-like clip, and the inlaid rope design make for a very good-looking pen (in my opinion). I may have drooled just a little bit. This one runs $900+ so while it was fun to hold, we resisted Brian’s charms, and walked out with just one bottle of Montblanc Mystery Black ink. Ah, the restraint.

And with that, our Chicago vacation came to a close. I loved the city’s architecture, museums, and parks. I loved the super friendly people. And, of course, I loved the pens. (If only I’d packed that bag of money!)

Oh, Chicago, you made me smile.

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2 thoughts on “Pen Stalking: Chicago

  1. I live in Chicago-I do business with Atlas Stationers, 227 W. Lake St.
    The last old-schoold stationer in the city [or the area?]http://www.atlasstationers.com/index.html

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