Total Fine Writing
What is the History of Total Fine Writing? How did it all begin? James Dolive (known to many folks as Jimmy) became an avid pen collector, and started collecting and stocking a wide array of limited edition pens in the store. When the internet started to be a new tool for selling, TOPS started its first web site Go-Pens.com, which morphed into its present site TotalFineWriting.com.
In 2003 Jim brought in Mort Epstein, who was a pen collector with many years in retail management experience to manage the fine writing department of Total Office Products Service. Since 2003 the pen department has gone through a major renovation and has transformed the entire front end of the store into a dedicated pen retail space. The name Total Fine Writing was also formed with the transformation to get a better identity in the pen business as well as TOPS web presence. Total Fine Writing continues to grow and has great success in being known for a very large selection of Limited Edition’s along with a wide selection of other fine writing instruments and corporate gifts.
Total Fine Writing is recognized for being proactive in the Fountain Pen Collection Community. Mort Epstein, the show organizer, takes pride in planning the popular annual Atlanta Pen Show every spring with true southern hospitality. Total Fine Writing also hosts an annual Pen Fair in-store event in October featuring representatives from many of the finest pen manufacturers in the business. This is a great opportunity for customers to see and test-write a large selection of writing instruments from around the world, as well as having the opportunity to view prototypes of future editions.
Besides these well publicized and attended events, Total Fine Writing hosts the monthly meetings of the Southeastern Pen Collectors Club on the first Sunday of every month. The Southeastern Pen Club is one of the largest pen club organizations in America and is a proud sponsor for the annual Atlanta Pen Show.
Are the staff at Total Fine Writing passionate pen collectors? We have a several folks here who enjoy pens. Most of our staff have at least one or two pens they favour, but not like Jimmy, Jimmy Jr or myself. With a good portion of our pen business being Limited Edition’s, the three of us tend to be the predominate pen collectors, mainly because of our knowledge and interest. I also think that shows when we deal with our clients, you have to like pens to sell pens. I enjoy helping a client find exactly what they are looking for by listening to them.
What is the buying experience Total Fine Writing offers to its consumers through the store and website? For many years we did not have a shopping cart on our web site due to the fact we wanted to give personal service to shoppers in the same way we would with a walk in client. That really helped create relationships with much of our loyal clientele. Whether a person comes into our store, or calls in, I try to treat them as if they are the only customer we have. This is not just for pens, but with refills and other items we sell. We are in this to build relationships and you can not be successful if all you are out to do is just sell a pen. Many of my best customers are people who were new to pen collecting and knew they wanted to buy a pen, but were not sure where to start. Some were told what to buy or had to own to have a great collection by other pen collectors. I always try to let the client know, yes these are great choices, but how does this pen work for you? I think pens are personal and I want anyone who buys from us to be happy with their purchase. The only way to do that is help them make the match that is best for them. We always try to remember what it is like on the other side of the sales counter. As our internet sales have grown, we still want customers to feel they can call us and feel like they are standing in front of us. We now have a lot of customers who choose to just click the button and know the item is on its way. Other customers still call, especially when they are buying a limited edition pen. Since our vast collection is always changing, we like to be able to spend the time with the client so all their questions are answered to help them make an informed buying decision.
How has the internet changed the way Total Fine Writing deals with customers? The internet is a powerful tool that has changed the way a lot of customers buy from us. The newer technology has also helped us get to the customers. It allows us to stay in touch with emails with new product information, as well as information on our annual pen fair and the Atlanta Pen Show. Like most businesses that are on the web, we are able to now have a lot of customer’s world wide. One of the greatest things about our international customers is having them come to the store in person. With the Atlanta Airport being a major hub for international travelers, we get some of these folks coming in to see us, especially if they have long layovers or are here on business.
Which pen do you like and why?
Mort - I have a couple that are my favourites. The first being the MetalWrite RR1. When I first saw the pen, I thought it was beautiful. I love the guilloche engraved sterling silver, and think the craftsmanship that went into this pen is second to none. The Damascus steel stoppers, really sets the RR1 off. The most important thing about the RR1 is I love the way the pen writes. The Conway Stewart nib on this pen is very smooth and consistent. I also love the fact it comes with a Roller Ball conversion. There are times I may not want to write with a fountain pen, and the Roller Ball makes it quite handy. Basically you get two pens for the price of one. There is one other thing I really love about the RR1. That is the fact it is a true limited edition. With only 18 made, the RR1 owner has a unique writing instrument that will give them a lifetime of writing excellence. I can’t wait until the RR2 comes out. I know it will be another great edition to MetalWrite and its partner Conway Stewart. My second favourite is my trusty Conway Stewart Wellington in Classic Brown. When the Wellington came out, I had to have this pen. I love pens that have a vintage look and also I collect Brown and Tortoise colour pens. My Wellington is always in my regular rotation and has been one of the pens I never get bored with and put away.
Jimmy - My favourite would have to be our exclusive pen, the Conway Stewart Total Blue Elegance. In the past we have done other blue exclusive pens, as blue has always been the colour of our logo for Total Office Products Service. When we were coming up with an ad and new logo for Total Fine Writing, we wanted a pen shown in blue. Through the help of Mary of Conway Stewart, she presented us with the prototype and we knew it was our pen. We had Conway Stewart make us 19 of the Total Blue Elegance. I love everything about this pen. The Sterling guilloche fox head design and beautiful blue lacquer along with all the Conway Stewart nib choices have made this pen a classic that will be hard for us to top.
Jimmy Jr. - I have always loved the Churchill’s. Conway Stewart has made this pen into a classic that is a must have for many collectors. The greatest thing about the Churchill is all the choices you have in colours, nibs and filling mechanisms. Conway Stewart is always coming up with new colours that appeal to a broad spectrum of taste. Conway Stewart has also offered some great past Churchill limited editions made from materials like Casein and Ebonite, as well as using the Churchill as the canvas for the Maki-e and painted pens. The Churchill will always be the iconic English Pen.
Total Fine Writing