The inaugural Pelikan Hubs event occurred in 2014. Like any new venture, this one was surrounded by uncertainty, largely because no one knew quite what to expect, not even Pelikan themselves. What those few original attendees got was an evening with likeminded people enjoying each other’s company and sharing pens, inks, and paper. Despite their inauspicious beginnings, the Hubs would continue to grow year after year, reaching their peak in 2019. The event’s trajectory predicted noting but continued growth, its future appearing ever bright. Sometimes, life has a way of coming at you when you least expect it. We were all blindsided by the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and the Hubs would ultimately be derailed by the unexpected arrival of a global pandemic. Public health considerations would force Pelikan to cancel both the 2020 and 2021 Hubs events to the disappointment of thousands of aficionados. Millions have died, irreplaceable souls who should not be forgotten, and we should not lose sight of the emotional and economic toll this pandemic has extracted upon us all. Still, life must go on and so it was to the elation of thousands that Pelikan announced the return of the Hubs event for 2022. Despite a shorter window for registration, when all was said and done, there were at least 220 Hubs spread across 47 countries counting 6,107 registered participants, numbers that actually exceeded those of the 2019 gathering, a telling reflection of the pent up demand and certainly not a bad tally for an event on hiatus for two years. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has played host to a Hub since the event’s inception. It was my honor to once again helm the festivities as the local Hub Master. This year’s Hub was held in the Pabbit room at Philadelphia hot spot Pub & Kitchen located near Rittenhouse Square. Our hosts were gracious, the food delicious, and the drinks very satisfying but all paled in comparison to the company and the jovial atmosphere. Read on for a recap of the evening’s festivities.
|1||June 13, 2014||7:30 PM||Sabrina’s Cafe – Art Museum||Dr. Muhammad Tahseen|
|2||September 25, 2015||6:30 PM||Goat Hollow||Dr. Joshua Danley|
|3||September 16, 2016||6:30 PM||Cooperage Wine & Whiskey Bar||Dr. Joshua Danley|
|4||September 22, 2017||6:30 PM||Cooperage Wine & Whiskey Bar||Dr. Joshua Danley|
|5||September 21, 2018||6:30 PM||The Victoria Freehouse||Frank Limper|
|6||September 20, 2019||6:30 PM||The Victoria Freehouse||Frank Limper|
|7||November 18, 2022||6:30 PM||Pub & Kitchen||Dr. Joshua Danley|
The first ever Hub was held in June and, since that time, each subsequent Hub had been held during the month of September. This year’s event came much later than usual, being held on November 18th. The typical Friday slot at 6:30 PM remained unchanged. You could feel the tremendous amount of bottled up excitement for this one building on social media leading up to the big day. Parking in Philadelphia is no fun most days and a Friday night is especially challenging which meant a brisk walk in the crisp evening air. I arrived at the venue a little after 6pm in order to set up. Attendees started arriving soon thereafter and it was honestly as if we never missed a beat. Strangers came together like old friends, and you could see that the room was heavy with conversation and merriment. Unfortunately, there were the inevitable cancellations and no shows, so this was a smaller event than 2019 but that in no way dampened the mood. A lot of veteran attendees were present along with several newcomers. Frank Limper and his brother Mark of Federalist Pens and Paper were on hand with Edelstein ink for sale as well as the just out M205 Apatite. A wide variety of pens, inks, and papers were being freely shared which was great to see. My flock has grown too large to travel en masse so I selected my M8xx and M1xxx collections to come along with a few other special editions thrown in for good measure. The atmosphere was very congenial, and I think that is what makes the Hubs event so great. No matter your station in life, your religion, your politics, we can put it all aside and come together, united in a common passion for fine writing instruments. That ability to overcome our differences is something the world needs more of right now. It is a shame that there are so few opportunities for fountain pen enthusiast to gather like this so, once again, I think that Pelikan should be commended for their efforts to foster such meetings.
The second floor Pabbit room at Pub & Kitchen served as a wonderful venue for the night’s festivities
Pelikan only sets the stage for the event mind you, predominantly by handling the registration and the coordination of information. It is the local Hub Masters who do much of the heavy lifting and I applaud each and every one for their efforts. With that said, Pelikan has always been very generous in providing swag for those who attend. In 2014, Hub attendees were given a unique little notebook and every Hub since has included a bottle of Edelstein ink along with some other themed items that have varied over the years. That is why the lack of ink as part of this year’s gift was so conspicuous. In its place, Pelikan provided the most recent edition of “Passion,” their magazine for handwriting culture along with a themed notebook. The company previously cited a shortage of glass for making the bottles as one of the reasons that ink was not a part of this year’s gift. I do have to give the company kudos for getting the swag to the Hub Masters in a timely fashion this year, something that was noticeably lacking in year’s past. In addition to the swag, each Hub was provided a large flag to be used as a banner for the event, something they’ve done since 2017. To supplement Pelikan’s gifts, I donated three bottles of Edelstein Ink (Smoky Quartz, Olivine, and Aquamarine) along with a small tin sign which were given out as door prizes to four lucky individuals. It is truly amazing at how quickly the time flew by and before we knew it, the evening was coming to a close. With tabs settled, everyone went on their way around 9:30 PM, making it some of the fastest three hours that I’ve ever experienced.
It is invariably the case that I always end up having too many great conversations and too much fun to ever remember to take photographs. Is that an issue for anyone else?
I think the major take away here was that the Hubs continue to experience tremendous growth. For those who have had the fortune to attend one, that news should come as no surprise. The Hubs are back on track to being one of the premier pen events of the year, unparalleled in scale when compared with anything any other manufacturer is doing. That said, there are some major pitfalls that I see that threaten the future of the event. First, registration this year was a bit convoluted and not entirely clear, at least to me. There was clearly some confusion with the process which I think could be streamlined and made simpler and more efficient. That is easy enough to do and certainly not a deal breaker. A longer registration period and better advertisement of the event ahead of time would also be beneficial to the process. That is something I commended them for in 2019 so we just have to get back to basics which is easy enough to do.
The second and decidedly more challenging aspect of this is that the Hubs event has always been at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. I don’t mean to be a doomsayer, but I do have some serious misgiving about the event’s sustainability into the future. I can only speak from personal experience and the sheer heterogeneity of the Hubs locations renders this criticism moot for many. Pre-pandemic, finding a suitable venue on a Friday night in a major metropolitan area with no budget was challenging but very doable. In a post pandemic world experiencing a global economic downturn the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades, finding a suitable venue on the cheap became a Herculean task. I’m sure this wasn’t an issue across the board, especially in locales still lucky enough to have brick and mortar pens shops operating, but I’m also sure that I wasn’t the only one facing this difficulty. Speaking from my own experience, there was an incredible paucity of suitable options for a large group that didn’t have a four figure price tag attached to it. This is not a Pelikan problem per se but one that the company will have to figure out how to contend with as individual Hubs locations continue to experience exponential growth. It also does not help when there are a large number of 11th hour cancellations/no shows which can skew a previously provided head count. While I see this as a major problem for some locales, I admittedly have little to offer in the way of solutions. One work-around might be to have the event in the summer months again when the weather is warmer, and the days are longer which might allow outside venues to be explored which could ease the burden for some. It could also reduce the risk of illness due to the reduced number of viruses circulating at that time of year. I do fear that the status quo will only make being Hub Master an increasingly onerous task for certain venues, akin to a white elephant.
The swag that Pelikan made available for the 2022 Hubs event
Difficulties aside, I have had a wonderful time at each and every hub that I’ve attended, including during my four stints as local Hub Master. That said, I will once again be putting the mantle down, leaving it ready and waiting for someone else to pick up next year and I look forward to seeing how they put their own spin on the affair. Personally, I can’t wait to gather again as the Philadelphia Hub has always been enjoyable and lively, the perfect end to a taxing work week. It is also nice to know that I’m likely to run into many of the same faces at the Philadelphia Pen Show set to kick off January 13-15, 2023. There were several people who could not attend our local Hub this year due to illness or loss and I would like to take a moment to send out my sincere hopes for a speedy recovery back to health and to offer my sincerest sympathies. For anyone that did miss out on any of the festivities, you can seek out photos from Hubs around the world on Instagram and Facebook via the hashtags #PelikanHubs2022 and #PelikanHubs. Until next year…