The Pips Café, the only exclusive fountain pen store in Bangkok and M, the man behind the Hurrah!
It is not easy being a fountain pen fanatic in Thailand. The younger generation is mobile driven to a fault, and those who still write, physically that is, prefer the use-and-throw convenience of ball point pens. Thus, when the fountain pen bug afflicted M, he was in a quandary. He could still stock up on the information about the pens that he began to love more and more in the net, but buying them were a real pain, as except for a few standard brands, the major departmental stores in Bangkok did not (and still does not) stock fountain pens! Exclusive stationery shops, are naturally conspicuous by their absence.
There is no community of Fountain Pen lovers to speak of and M worked hard to convert some of his close friends so that at the least, he could share his passion. Pen Meets in a Coffee Shop elicited sporadic response, where, at times foreigners travelling through would drop in to share their experiences. However, the response, in all fairness, could only be called tepid.
Undaunted, M started his own web-based business in Fountain Pens, in the hope that it would somehow bring in more aficionados into the fold apart from helping him keep his passion for the pen alive. The business has been growing with fits and jerks for the last four years but as M puts is, a combination of an abject lack of knowledge about fountain pens, coupled with the natural aversion to transact in the net, has really not helped it achieve the kind of traction it should have. M did not stop at that either – he went ahead and opened a physical store, the Pips Café, an island of sanity in an otherwise digitally chaotic world outside.
“Its not about money” beams M talking about his business, “call it my tribute to the fountain pen if you may, even my urge to serve others like me who suffer the pangs of a desire to put pen and ink on paper, but don’t know where to look for help. I try to share the little that I know with the fountain pen lovers who frequent my shop – showing them the right way to grip a pen, the ways of cleaning them, spell out the characteristics of the different inks that we stock … in short helping them stoke the fire that is within”. Not an exaggeration, as one saw how M dissuaded a customer from buying an expensive fountain pen, goading him to go for a more robust, but cheaper version, to first get in terms with the art of writing, before investing serious money that is.
The Pips Café is the first Fountain Pen Store in Bangkok, Thailand. Lamy, TWSBI, Visconti, Opus 88, Noodler’s, Platinum, FPR – the spread that M has painstakingly compiled for the connoisseur and the first timer alike is impressive to say the least. The prices too are extremely competitive – cheap enough to make one wonder as to how M manages to recover the overheads. Ask M, and one is greeted with a smile that is enigmatic, enough for only us, fountain pen lovers to comprehend. Like many of us, M too, is subsidising his passion, with earnings from other ventures so that more people can follow their hearts!
The Pips Café (and its online store) is also one of the few places where the much talked about Leonardo Officiana Italiana range of fountain pens are available. The pens are a treat to the eye and writing with one is like falling in love for the first time. Enamoured as I am with them, I must slip in a word of caution here – it will be extremely difficult to stop after possessing only one Leonardo. M offered to let me “play” with some, that too with different ink samples and trust me, I have not dreamt of anything else ever since!
But it is wrong to slot the Pips Café as an establishment that deals only in fountain pens, for it has a collection of some of the best inks that I have seen in a long time. Diamine, Noodler’s, Taccia, Lamy, Aurora, Visconti, De Artamentis, J Herbin, Platinum, Robert Oster: it is all there, almost five hundred varieties of them! As a matter of fact, he even pulled out a bottle of Krishna Inks for me to ogle at and use!
The Pips Café also stocks an impressive array of note books – the Tamoe River ones with their extremely ink friendly surfaces obviously taking the pride of place. Other items of stationery – each carefully selected by M himself, and some highly user-friendly carry bags make up the rest of the shop.
But why is there hardly anything that is made in Thailand? Especially considering the legendary status of Thai craftsmanship? M smiles. “Give me some time, I will certainly introduce the fountain pen community to the exacting standards of Thai workmanship. As of now, I have my barrel fully inked”. Also on the drawing board are more interactive sessions for Fountain Pen and Calligraphy lovers apart from workshops that will be dedicated to tracing the history and development of the Thai script.
M has already created a ripple on the surface. His Facebook and Instagram pages are a rage. The website is doing brisk business and the footfalls to the physical shop is on a steady increase as more people are being smitten by the retro charm of the fountain pens, if not by the charm of the man behind the counter.
Join me as I raise mine in toast to M and the Pips Café, Bangkok. Keep up the great work, my friend. May the Ink of Prosperity never dry out in your pens!
NOTE: The The Pips Café – the name is an acronym for Pens, Inks, Paper and Stationery!
For More information visit: https://thepipscafe.com/