Besides family and food, stationery store visits are one of the “must-do” while I am in Taipei. The revival of writing and paper culture worldwide has also reflected in the rise of specialty stationery stores in the City.
It is not a stationery store by the strictest definition since the store is a combination of Tower Records (does anyone remember that?) and general commodity store; nonetheless, it has one floor entirely dedicated to stationery. Multiple islands of gel and ballpoint pens entered the first glance, organized by brands and type, as seen in the picture below. Because the location I have gone to is nearby cram schools, the store was swarmed by high school students with their oversized backpacks, patiently testing pens one by one.
Part of the allure of Guangnan is that most items were sold at wholesale price. Take Uni Style Fit for example, each refill is 22 NTD (New Taiwanese Dollar), which is equivalent to 69 cents USD. Guangnan mostly sells Japanese and domestic stationery. Even though you will not find Rhodia or other well-known European stationery, it is a stationery superstore where you can find varieties at affordable prices. It is entirely possible to spend an afternoon there, even though the store is always teeming with people regardless of when I visit.
Incidentally, two Guangnan locations I have been to are surrounded by decent street food. Another good reason for visiting!
Addresses: 台北市許昌街40號 (No. 40 Xuchang Street, Taipei); 台北市羅斯福路四段116號 (No. 116 Section 4 Roosevelt Road, Taipei)
I have frequented Eslite ever since I was young, not for its stationery, but for books. It is common to see people sitting in the aisles reading and perusing magazines. In fact, it is one of the first 24-hour bookstores in Taiwan, where you can read until you drop, literally. As time passes, Eslite has branched out to galleries, restaurants, and hosting cultural fora. Most Eslite locations are multistory so it may feel that you are walking into a mall with various retail stores.
Eslite carries a wide variety of stationery. You will find familiar European brands like J. Herbin, Staedtler, and Faber-Castell, but you will also find locally designed/produced items. Recently, Eslite has collaborated with other industries in producing concept-driven goods, as evident in Eslite x Pegacasa.
The selection is quite extensive at Eslite, but you should also expect to pay full MSRP. At every counter, a testing station is set up for you to test the pen and ink prior to purchase. Every year (around November/December), Eslite also hosts a planner/Christmas cards fair that showcase different types of planners and holiday greeting cards from different countries. Too bad that I did not have a chance to go, but from what I have heard from my sister, the fair has reduced in size over the years. You can get a taste of the planner fare on Eslite’s web storefront as well. I have been checking for an English version, alas, the site is entirely in Chinese.
This was also the first time that I see Staedtler fountain pens in person. It just happened that a fountain pen commemorating Richard Wager’s 200th birthday was on display. The body was covered in leather printed with Wagner’s portrait and the nib is in 18-karat gold. The most intriguing part is the intarsia on the cap, which has ebony and mammoth tusk inlays. For more information see here.
One Over One Studio (一分之一工作室)
I have heard a lot of raving about this store online before I visited and it just so happened that I went on the Fountain Pen Day. It is definitely not a typical stationery store in terms of location; it is in an apartment building on a quiet street. At first, I was hesitant to press the bell given the unusual location, but the bear store mascot (you will see it in the picture below) affixed onto the button dispelled my suspicion.
The store is not spacious but very well organized with thematic corners/tables. Since the owner is also responsible for selecting, merchandising, as well as testing the products, everything in the store is carefully curated. In fact, there is no extra decor at One over One; the merchandise is the best decoration there is. It is more of a stationery boutique than a store.
The selection at One over One is quite eclectic, a good balance of European and Asian goodies. Since the owner is also an avid fountain pen user, he is very conscious on whether the paper products in the store are fountain pen ink friendly. Speaking of fountain pen ink, besides J. Herbin, Sailor, and Waterman, One over One also carries ink manufactured locally by SKB as well as a ink series called Taiwan Bird inks, a collaboration between the Taiwan Fountain Pen Alliance (台灣鋼筆聯盟) and NIN (an illustrator who mostly use watercolor and fountain pen as main media). The ink by SKB reminded me a bit of Iroshizuku in its naming convention. The Taiwan Bird inks, even though none of the bird chosen is endemic to Taiwan, has a good range of color selection. On some of the ink testing images I have found, most ink in this series have a nice sheen.
One thing that really piques my interest is One Over One’s own line of notebooks, either made of Tomoe or bank paper. All fountain pen friendly, of course, and you can see that the owner has put a lot of thoughts in the production, from the overall concept and choice of covers. While I was in the store, I see a set of three notebooks with fall-theme colors. Expectedly, the winter series was released shortly after I came back to the States.
Another notable feature of the store: you can test almost everything in the store. The test station is set at an inner corner of the store, where you can sit down and leisurely trying out pens that catch your eyes on any notebooks that are sold at the store. If you are willing to test out your artistic skill for a small discount as the store, draw a bear , upload it to either FaceBook or Instagram and be sure to check in at One over One Studio. Show the entry at check out. Voila!
By the way, the only interaction you will have with the shop owner is either at check out or asking questions. For a customer, there is plenty of freedom to peruse, to touch, to test anything you like in the store without interference from the staff. If you glance over to the check out counter, you will see the staff testing the products and doodling. In fact, for each purchase, you will receive reprint of hand-drawn thank you card like the following:
For some purchases, the staff will even throw in a little something, like a notepad, for you to try. A gesture as such definitely entices you return, again and again. Business hours for One over One Studio is a bit different from other stationery stores. It opens Friday through Monday, mostly in the afternoon and evenings, considering this boutique is the owner/staff’s second job. For the most updated hours, be sure to check its Facebook page before visiting.
Address: 台北市愛國東路77號2樓 (Second floor, No. 77 Aiguo East Road, Taipei)
Here is another post on stationery stores in Taipei that I did not cover, just in case you are planning a stationery trip eastward! 🙂
Note that most stores, besides major department/chain stores, have cash only policy. It is safer to have local currency on you instead of relying on plastic.