Look at your desk. Specifically, the coffee mug or cup or tray where you keep your writing instruments. You’ve probably got a collection of BIC ballpoints, or Pilot G2s, or Uni-ball Rollers, or maybe even some branded retractable pen you picked up from a trade show. They’re all kind of the same, and they’re all kind of disposable, which is depressing in its own little way. Don’t you deserve something that’s, well, a little less boring?
Chris and Kylie Henline have a solution for you. The Henlines are the husband-and-wife team behind Truphae, a fountain pen and ink vendor that has made a name for itself by applying the subscription box model to the venerable practice of penmanship. And now, they’re opening a retail store on Main Street in Greenville.
Of course, the Henlines didn’t set out to become fountain pen and ink specialists. Chris studied finance and marketing at North Greenville University and was headed toward a career on Wall Street. While he was a student, he discovered fountain pens through his friends. Soon, he was buying and reselling—just as a way to make a few extra bucks. “I bought a couple pens off of eBay and flipped them to my friends,” he says. “I did that on the side while I was in New York pursuing a job in investment banking. That didn’t pan out, but we were making enough off of pens that I thought maybe we could make a living off of this.”
The Henlines quickly scaled. “Once we started selling to the same people and built a clientele, we learned there’s a big collector and enthusiast community that just enjoys nice pens or calligraphy,” says Chris. Within the span of a year or so, the Henlines went from reselling pens to collectors on eBay, to building a website and offering their Inkcredible Box subscriptions.
Of course, it’s not just the business opportunity. There’s a real satisfaction that comes from participating in the analog—just look to the resurgence of vinyl records and instant cameras. “I feel like people are just trying to get away from the digital age, even if it’s just for signing a check,” says Chris.
“I think penmanship will always be interesting to people,” adds Kylie. “A lot of people also really love not letting cursive die, and it’s more fun and a little easier to do cursive with a fountain pen.”
It’s also a remarkable way to exhibit personality in the everyday: the pens themselves have differing aesthetics, while swapping in different nibs (the pointy end of the pen), and different inks can change the way your handwriting appears on paper. And with their new store, the Henlines hope to give more people the opportunity to play and explore the simple pleasure of handwriting.
“I’ve discovered if you try a fountain pen, you’re pretty much instantly hooked,” says Chris. “You never write with a ballpoint the same way again.”
For more on Truphae, visit their website, or check out their store at 550 S. Main St, Greenville.