C. W. Pencil Enterprise, a shop that sells pencils and pencil accessories, opened in Manhattan’s Lower East Side recently, and The New York Times is in love. Despite the fact that they cannot even figure out “who uses a pencil anymore,” they think opening a pencil shop in 2015 is a wonderful idea. “Intoxicating” even. Not because owner Caroline Weaver’s pencils are made with some kind of hallucinogenic form of graphite, but because she is is an “obsessive hobbyist.” And obsessive hobbyists are just fun to be around.
The monomaniac at the helm of C. W. Pencil Enterprise is Caroline Weaver, a 24-year-old Natalie Wood look-alike with a pencil tattooed on her forearm.
I can tell you with certainty that Ms. Weaver is not the first New York City resident with a pencil tattooed on her forearm, but she’s likely the first person with a pencil tattooed on her forearm to open a pencil shop.
Her store is the size of a juice box, with a checkered floor and jars of yellow button chrysanthemums sprinkled around. With its spanking newness and luminous blocks of color, the place looks like an Edward Hopper canvas. (Or, as the website Racked put it: “This Fancy Pencil Store Is Begging to Be Instagrammed.”)
That’s the reason to visit any place, isn’t it? To photograph it! To show people you were there!
If you make a purchase (and it’s hard not to, given that you can pay with pocket change), your goods will be wrapped in a box and tied up with string.
Is it hard not to make a purchase? Earlier today I went over to C.W. Pencil Enterprise to find out.
After walking in I noticed the building was much larger than a “juice box,” and began looking at all the pencil-themed decor. Old pencils were displayed behind lock and key—the key still in the lock. A framed pencil advertisement from the early 20th century proclaimed “The world’s tallest building started with a pencil. A woman was sitting at the ‘Testing Station’ trying out four or five pencils in search of her favorite. “I love this one,” she told the shopkeeper while writing out “a b c d e f g” in graphite. “It’s so soft.” Later I overheard her mention she was a teacher, and that the money she spent in the store was “the best $42 [she’d] ever spent.”
Before leaving, the teacher asked if the Times piece had given her a spike in business, and shopkeeper said it had. “I’ve been hearing the online orders dinging since this morning.” As people from around the world ordered pencils, I took notes in pen - a Pilot G2 I took for free out of the office supply closet.
“You were in The New York Times?” another customer asked once the teacher left. “I just randomly discovered you walking down the street.” I don’t know if I believed him, but 30 minutes earlier I didn’t believe I would enjoy roaming around a tiny room filled with pencils I had no reason to buy.
By the time I noticed the $2 Palomino Blackwing pencils in a tall glass on the main shelf, there were six customers in the store, each of them staring at a difference pencil or pencil-adjacent item. I asked why they looked familiar to me, and the shopkeeper said it was likely because they’re famous for being the favorite writing devices of Stephen Sondheim and John Steinbeck. I must have read that somewhere, she told me. Hmm. Sure. Sounds right. There were three types on sale, each of varying graphite density. She handed me one of each and I sat down at the testing station.
I liked the classic Blackwing and its slightly softer brother, but thought the softest among them was too soft. Or something. I don’t know. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe it was because I felt like spending $4 on two pencils but not $6 on three. Whatever the case, I left the store completely charmed and holding two $2 pencils that had been wrapped up in a cute envelope and tied with string, just as the Times assured me they would be.
So it looks like they were right - it was hard not to buy something at C.W. Pencil Enterprise. The only thing harder, I’ve discovered, is deciding what to write with them.
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