One of the many great things about New York City is, no matter how obscure an item of interest to you may be, there’s a store for that.
Case in point: C.W. Pencil Enterprises on Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side is a pencil store. That’s right, they sell pencils. Not just 20-packs of Dixon yellow #2 pencils or Bic mechanical pencils. The store carries all kinds of pencils.
Vintage pencils. Scented pencils. Pencils with no erasers. Triangular pencils. Highlighter pencils. Custom pencils.
It’s basically a crackhouse for graphite lovers, and it is AMAZING. I only wish I would have visited during our last family trip to NYC this past summer, because my girls would have LOVED it.
I mean, Talia’s too young to trust with a pencil. In her hands, a Ticonderoga #2 is a deadly weapon. But Alexia is a different matter. She’s working hard on her handwriting — she just started 1st grade — so I think she would totally dig a store full of writing instruments.
Plus, pink highlighter pencils.
The owner of the store is Caroline Weaver, who is a 20-something mad genius. Her love of pencils turned into at first an online-only venture, followed by the 200 square-foot store, which has become an outright media darling. It’s not hard to see why, given its uniquely specific focus and its old-world charm.
Weaver seems to have struck a nerve with people perhaps looking for a breather from our technology-choked world. And few things feel as grounded as grabbing a freshly-sharpened Badger #2 and writing a ‘thank you’ note to the parents of the five year-old who threw the birthday party two weekends ago with the Publix cake and the platters full of soggy croquetas.
Next time you’re in NYC and you’re looking to do something with the kids that doesn’t involve the typical tourist pit stops like Central Park, Times Square and Rockefeller Center, hop on the D train and take it down to Grand St. and visit the store. You’ll have a great time, and you can pat yourself on the back that you’re teaching your kids the cool and fun factor behind that old standby, the #2 pencil. Also, you’re probably doing your children a favor by getting them excited to practice their handwriting or artwork.
I asked Caroline a few questions about her endeavor and her love of lead. Here are her answers:
1. Why pencils?Pencils are such a perfectly simple analog tool, but one that took a long time to perfect, which means that there are so many interesting stories to go along with it. I’ve always been obsessed with how tactile it is and how it isn’t just a writing instrument but a sensory experience. They smell like something, they require work to use, and they physically disappear with use as well. They’re totally ephemeral, and I love that about them.2. What is a good pencil for younger kids learning to write, like my 5 year old?For kids, we always recommend a jumbo pencil. The larger diameter is much easier for tiny hands to hold than a regular sized one. My favorite is the J.R Moon Big Dipper.
It has a really nostalgic design and was the one I used in kindergarten.3. In your expert opinion, what is the Mona Lisa of pencils?The Mona Lisa of pencils is probably a John Thoreau and Co. pencil. They’re the hardest to find, the most desirable and are so subtly beautiful. They were made by Henry David Thoreau/his father, John in the 1800s and sell at auction, when they do occasionally turn up, for upwards of $1,000 each. Or maybe a Thomas Edison pencil. He had them custom made for him–they were short and fat and I’ve never actually even seen one.4. Can you help me find a nice set of vintage NFL pencils from the 80s?Those are always on eBay! It’ll cost you a pretty penny but they are around.
She’s right. There’s a few set of those awesome NFL pencils on eBay right now … selling for around $65! Decisions, decisions…
CW Pencil Enterprise is located at 100a Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.