Heart & Soul: A Visit to Write Notepads & Co.

Write Notepads & Co.

One of our last stops at the DC Pen Show was at the table of Chris and Mark Rothe, founders of Write Notepads & Co. I was familiar with their notebooks having purchased a selection after meeting them at last year’s pen show, where they were JUST ABOUT ready to launch their made-in-Baltimore products into the world. We chatted a little last year, and I remembered them being super-friendly and fun to talk to.

Same goes for this year. But they had an added attraction…NICO!

Nico at the Pen Show

Now I love notebooks so I’d be drawn to their table anyway, but a table of notebooks with an adorable dog? I’m a goner.

Nico napped and let me pet her (best dog ever!) while Fred yakked about baseball with Chris and Mark. Fred mentioned that we were heading into Baltimore on Monday to see a game, and that lead to a very cool invitation from the guys to stop at the business for a look around.

So we did. What a blast!

The Rothe family business is a binding company and when we got there Monday morning, the binding machines and employees were in full swing, pallets of work were being moved around the floor, and Mark was solving some binding related problems. Monday, Monday. Nico trotted around making sure that everything was going smoothly.

Tucked into a few back rooms of the binding business is where the Write Notepads are born. Chris generously took time out of his busy morning to show us around.


I can’t pretend to understand how they do what they do, but it was great to see where and how the notebooks are made. Chris taught himself how to use the presses which appears to be on the tricky side. Big understatement there. To me, they look baffling. You could stick me in that room for 100 years and I’d never be able to turn out one single notebook cover. To Chris, no big deal.

Print Is not Dead.
It sure isn’t.

Their workspace is on the small side, but is full of life and all kinds of notebook goodness. You can feel their passion for quality goods, their belief in outreach, and their love of laughter. It’s a happy place.

Notebook covers
Notebook covers. Very sturdy. Finely letterpressed.

"Willie" the Heidelberg
“Willie” the Heidelberg

The walls are painted entirely with chalkboard paint so why not plan a barbecue on the door? “Oink, yo.” HAH!

Chalkboard paint walls

So the visit was awesome— truly a highlight of our vacation. You can’t meet nicer guys or a friendlier dog. And their products? Love them.

And their mission. As stated on the Write Notepad & Co. website, “So with each note pad purchased, another will go to a Baltimore City student.” Yup, every time you buy a notebook, a student in Baltimore receives their own student notebook. Chris spoke about going into a school with notebooks and pencils, figuring that kids in this digital age would be blasé about receiving the analog tools. But they were THRILLED, and he was thrilled because they were. And I’m thrilled because I think this is the best thing ever.

As I said, I have a collection of some of their products, and will always be a customer because of the quality AND because of their outreach model. Here’s a quick look at some of the Write Notepad & Co. goods:

There are notebooks in two sizes— the large measures 5.5″ x 8.5″ while the small measures 3.5″ x 5.5″. All feature thick, letterpressed covers, and 120 pages of premium paper. The pages are available blank or lined. There’s even a left-handed version with the spiral on the other side. They’ve thought of just about everything!

Large Notebooks
Large notebooks: Regular and DC edition

Two sizes
Large and small notebooks

Plain and lined pages
Plain and lined pages

Thick covers
Thick covers

Rugged spiral binding
Rugged spiral binding

Durable closure band
Durable closure band

There’s even a notebook with a chalkboard cover, reminiscent of their pressroom, so that YOU can write “PRINT ISN’T DEAD” on your own notebook with the provided chalk pencil!

Chalkboard notebook

The paper is very good, maybe not the best for ALL nibs sizes and inks, but for gel, ballpoint, liquid ink, and most fine to medium fountain pens, the writing experience is a good one. I use one at work for meeting notes and bounce around from a Kaweco medium nib to a Retro 51 rollerball with good results.

Ink tests

But maybe one of the coolest, most important features is right inside the front cover. It’s there that you’ll find a unique code. When you enter that code on the Write Notepads & Co. website, you can see exactly where the notebook you helped to donate is making a student happy.

Unique code

As I said, the notebooks are great, but the Rothe brothers dedication to the schools in Baltimore is even greater. How cool that we can help them with their outreach by buying their quality-crafted products.

Did I mention that they sell pencils, too?

Write Notepad & Co. pencils
100% American Cedar, #2, Made in the USA

Should you make a mistake

Ready for sharpening
Ready for sharpening

Our unplanned field trip to the Write Notepad & Co. home base was a very cool experience. I’m so thankful that they took time out of a busy Monday morning to show us around, and to share their love of quality paper products and mission. I walked away very grateful and very impressed, with a deep understanding that behind all of the Write Notepad & Co. products are two brothers who truly care.

Write Notepad & Co. products

And one exceptional dog. (Hi, Nico!!) BEST. DOG. EVER. (Nico is Mark’s dog, and she was a rescue. They make an absolutely perfect pair.)


What a fun day.


Leave a comment on this post telling me about something you’ve done lately to make a difference. It can be a tiny thing or a big thing. When you do so, I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a small Write Notepads & Co. notebook as well as a 5-pack of their pencils. Enter by Sunday October 12th 11:59 PM EST. I’ll pull the winning name out of a hat (yes, a real hat) on Monday October 13th.

Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. The post reflects my personal experiences and opinions, and involves no compensation.


EDITED TO ADD: Check out this cool video showing how the notebooks are made!

Photo-op: Bags Of Love Personal Notebook

The ethics stuff: Bags Of Love provided one of the personalized notebooks for review. I solemnly swear to review the notebook impartially and fairly. But you DO know that I’m a sucker for notebooks!

I was not aware of Bags Of Love, until Claire Grannell contacted me about reviewing one of their Personal Notebooks. Once I saw that I could combine two interests obsessions…notebooks and photography…I knew I had to take one for a test drive. So I went to their website, uploaded a couple of photos (after changing my mind a half dozen times), and submitted my order. The upload process was quite intuitive and went without a hitch. Though Bags Of Love is in the UK, and I’m in the US, the order arrived quickly. (I should have kept track of the number of days, but I didn’t. I do know that it was quite fast.)

A6 Personal Notebook

I personalized the A6 size notebook (6″ x 4.5″/15 x 11.5 cm) with a couple of photos from an Adirondack vacation (one for the front cover, and one for the back), and am very pleased with results. The cover is glossy and heavyweight (350 gsm*) but still flexible, and with the thickness of the spine at about 0.4″/1 cm, it looks very much like a nicely constructed paperback book. This particular size is very easy to carry around, or tuck into a purse or bag. The photos look exactly like the images that I uploaded, with true colors and crisp images. Nothing was lost in translation.

Front cover
Front cover: Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY

Back cover
Back cover: Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

Inside the notebook are 76 pages of plain cream/ivory 100 gsm* paper, which I THINK is about 68 lb paper. It’s a nice weight…substantial but not too thick. I decided that I want to use this notebook as a gratitude journal (the photos make me feel instantly grateful for vacations and relaxation and summer and nature), so I wrote a gratitude quote on the first page using my TWSBI Mini fountain pen (EF nib) and Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue ink. How would the paper handle this combination of pen and ink, I wondered. Turns out…like a pro. There was no feathering bleeding or show-through. Happy dance.

Gratitude quote
To kick off the gratitude journal. (Page color is a touch yellower than it appears in actuality.)

Because these notebook are personalized with YOUR photos, they make great gifts for moms, dads, kids, grandparents OR yourself. Create covers that feature your kids, pets, gardens, vacations, or interests. You can also add personalized text to the cover, if you wish. Use the notebook as a journal, a place to keep to-do lists, a book or movie log…whatever. The compact size, sturdiness, and glossy covers make these notebooks stand out from the usual notebook crowd. With a custom cover, your notebook is TRULY your one-of-a-kind creation.

A6 Notebook

The perfectionist in me has to point out a few niggly things. Because the notebook is bound much like a paperback book, in order to easily write in it, you’ll eventually need to crease the cover. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind. My perfectionist mind is also happier with grid, dot, or lined paper than with plain because I can keep my entries uniform and straight. But those who like to sketch and draw (or who are less OCD) will have no issue with the plain pages. I’ll happily use this notebook, but I’d love the option for other page styles. I’d also like the option of choosing white paper over the cream, but again, not really a big deal.

Bound like a paperback

The A6 notebook runs £14.98 (around $23.00), but right now Bags of Love is running a “Buy Two, Get One Free” deal, which makes this a great time to buy a few gifts or a trio for yourself. I’m impressed with the whole process…from the photo upload to the finished product…and I look forward to using mine at the end of each day to jot down what I’m thankful for.

Notebooks not your thing? (GASP!!!) Well, check out their website for a wide range of other items that can be personalized…everything from mugs, tablecloths, calendars, coasters, place mats, aprons and so much more.

Let’s face it, we walk around with hundreds of digital photos in our phones and cameras, but rarely do much more than download them (if that). Bags Of Love gives us the opportunity to use those photos to create gifts and keepsakes, a way to give those photos a life outside of the camera.

Bags Of Love

Go ahead, upload. It’s easy.


*gsm = grams per square meter. It’s the UK, remember?