It is an exciting day when you get to launch a new web site. All of the hours (and days and weeks and months) that you put into it finally come to fruition and you get to introduce yourself to the world. My name, by the way, is Mike Luchsinger and I am the founder and owner of The Pen Outpost.
I have always been a big fan of fine writing utensils, especially since my art and architecture days in college. Nothing beats the feel of a good mechanical drafting pencil or a fineliner on a pad of graph paper. And even though I tend to be a relatively early adopter of new technologies I have never let go of my analog habits, keeping my pens and pencils in my bag ready for use. Someone once accused me of being a “collector” but I shrugged that off because my pens and pencils get used. They have a purpose, and it’s not to sit in a box on a shelf. I have other collections of things that sit on shelves, so I am glad that I can use my pens and pencils at will and not worry about their resale value.
I have been in retail most of my adult life, owning my own stores and working for larger companies at times, mostly in the computer and technology industry. When I decided to “retire” from the industry at the age of 41 my wife and I decided to open a home furniture, decor and gift store. Now, if you’ve ever been in a store like ours then you probably know that its not the type of store that most men enjoy. In fact, they often stay in the car. I, on the other hand, actually like shopping for furniture. I suppose it comes from my art and architectural education background, but I enjoy looking over a piece and its design, trying to figure out how its built (and how long it will last). I like to sketch furniture designs and, on occasion, build them myself. Some would say that my woodworking tools are a “collection”, because I don’t use them nearly as often as I would like.
After nearly 5 years of operating the store I decided to punch a little bit of my own interests and hobbies into our product mix. It’s not that I don’t like our product selection, I mean we sell a lot of candles, jewelry, gift items, women’s apparel, home decor, art, and other small items made by local and not-so-local artisans. I just wanted something that was a bit… unexpected by our customer base and that may draw a few new people into our store that may not have shopped here before and give our existing customers something new to shop.
The idea came upon me to introduce a lifestyle section, anchored by the products that fuel my analog habits. We started by bringing in Blackwing pencils, Field Notes memo books and a few other “gender neutral” items as an introduction to our new “department”. It was enough of a success that fountain pens seemed like the natural next step, especially when the nearest store that sells them (aside from the feeble selection offered by Office Depot) is 30+ miles away. We were able to bring in Noodler’s and Platinum and this was our humble beginning. I decided to name it based on its original idea of being a small oasis in the fountain pen desert of our area, and The Pen Outpost was born.
Being the avid eBay shopper that I am, I decided to explore the opportunity of listing some of our products in an effort to fund the expansion of the new section. There were, of course, some “bigger players” in this arena but I thought that I could offer a different shopping experience for those who may be new to fountain pens, as well as some who were searching for a different avenue to feed their “addiction”. Slowly but surely we found a customer base and built a small business that was able to stand on its own. I spent some time creating YouTube videos of writing samples but quickly realized that I could not keep up with the daily task of chronicling my ink swabs. It is something I will get back to in the not-too-distant future, but the last several months have been spent planning, researching, designing, learning and building this web site. I also occasionally post to our Instagram account @thepenoutpost and just started a Facebook page as well. Being the early adopter that I am, I’m not the best at social media posts, but I aspire to hone that skill in the coming months.
It has been (and will continue to be) a true labor of love. As you may have surmised, if you have read this far, this is largely a one man operation. My assistant, Frankie, has been a great help in many of the daily duties associated with the back-of-house operation, as you may have received an order with her name signed on the packing slip. She has been re-swabbing all of our inks to make them more “web-friendly” and helps with the ENORMOUS job of photographing every product we have, many for a second (and sometimes third) time. She also samples every ink that we sell, so if you get a 4ml sample Frankie is the one to thank.
I started this web site project last November thinking that it would take a month (or maybe two since it was the holiday season) to complete and here we are 7+ months later and it is just being released. Obviously, I bit off more than I could chew, but I can honestly say that this site was built with you, the customer, at the forefront of its design. I wanted it to be easy to navigate and have tools to help you find exactly what you might (or might not) be looking for. It is [still] unfinished, but is functional enough to release into beta testing. I welcome any and all feedback and suggestions, but keep in mind that not quite all functionality is installed yet, and there are loads of pictures that have yet to be edited and uploaded. I will be working on its shortcomings in the month or two to come and hope to have a polished site soon.
Thank you for your patience, and for your business. And thank you for reading my story.
-Mike @ The Pen Outpost