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Talking points

rev-conf.org regularly covers the financial troubles of WA shopping strips and the economy.This Christmas, we will profile up to 10 independent metropolitan retailers to inspire you.If 1000 readers spend their $500 locally it’s a $500,000 injection into small businesses.If even 10 per cent of the population did this, it would keep $100 million in WA.

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A pen can do a lot of talking as well as a lot of writing, says Perth CBD businesswoman Linda Somers.

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Customers fill T. Sharp & Co in Perth”s CBD. Credit:Emma Young

Asked what a fancy instrument does that a $2 biro can’t, the owner of T. Sharp & Co fires up.

“A pen isn’t just a pen,” she says.

“That’s like asking what’s the difference between a Cartier belt, and a belt you bought at some junk shop. If someone sees that Cartier symbol on the belt it says someone is a success; someone of means.”

But it’s not just about status, she says. It’s about pleasure. A ball pen makes everything the same thickness. No character, just an occasional blob or smear. A fountain pen is immediately different.

“You are in control,” she says.

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Sharpe”s Corner has been known as such since 1907.Credit:Emma Young

“The fountain pen grabs the page and you move the pen the way you want to move it. A fountain pen has a flexibility to it, you can lighten for thin or press for thick, put character into your writing … have different nibs.

“A big fat nib can give you a powerful signature.”

Ms Somers says many whose professions require years of study – doctors, lawyers, accountants – have learned to love the fountain pen, which brings its own further education of refilling and maintenance.

In 1907, Theodore Sharp established T. Sharp & Co as a pen shop and tobacconist on the corner of Hay and Barrack streets, and its story travelled cross-country to reach Ms Somers in Sydney in 2006, where she worked with sister Barbara Nichol.

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Barbara Nichol.Credit:Emma Young

Ink ran in their veins; their grandfather was head of stores in the docks in England, his immaculate copperplate filling endless record books.

After the family emigrated the girls watched their grandmother write to relatives in England on striped airmail stationery.

Their mother also had beautiful handwriting, a country journalist who amassed copy for the local weekly newspaper using a pen and notebook.

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Ms Nichols grew to berev-conf.orge a Churchill fellow in handwriting history, and is now one of Australia’s best known calligraphers and an expert legal witness in matters of documentation.

She began Brisbane’s Pen Shoppe in 1980 and the sisters together took over Sydney’s Pen-Ultimate in the 2000s.

But when numerous customers mentioned a run-down old tobacconist and pen shop in Perth, Ms Somers heeded the call west.

The owners were keen to sell and so Ms Somers and her daughter took over, gutted and refitted it, striving to maintain the original feel.

“Couples still walk in and say, it’s just as I remember it … so maybe we have been successful,” she says.

It’s now an Aladdin’s cave gleaming with the world’s best known pens: Lamy, Mont Blanc, Pelican, Caran d’Ache, Parker, Visconti, Pineider and Sailor.

It has journals and notebooks, paperweights and inkwells, and is also stocked with items Ms Somers has spotted on world travels: cushions from Germany, candles from France, umbrellas from Italy, desk accessories from Spain, antique bronzes, Swiss Army Knives, cufflinks and briefcases.

“People rev-conf.orge from all over the world to this shop, as we are within walking distance from six high-class hotels, and they say they have never seen anything like it,” Ms Somers says.

“We ship things all over … we shipped a $900 vintage aeroplane to Japan the other day with a wingspan of more than a metre.”

But she stresses that the shop is budget-friendly too.

“Often people rev-conf.orgment they have never rev-conf.orge in before because they thought they couldn’t afford anything,” she says.

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“But there are so many things. Notebooks from $4.95. Pens from $19.95. The original Parker jotter – a lot of people have memories of the Parker jotter, it’s been around since the 1950s, and you can buy them for $24.95.

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“For a beginner you can get into a fountain pen for $49.95, one that you will love. It’ll change your life.”

Linda Somers’ top picks for Christmas

Planes

“These model aeroplanes are made from timber with pressed metal over them, the way planes were originally made.”

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Some of the vintage aeroplanes. Credit:Emma Young

Canes

“These are Italian canes often seen on the red carpet – Johnny Depp’s been pictured with one of these.”

“This is a ball pen, a pencil, a data entry point for a phone or iPad, a Phillips head or normal screwdriver and a spirit level in one.”

The Tool PenCredit:Emma Young

Polishing your Penmanship by Barbara Nichol

“This is my sister’s book, which has been translated into French and German. This is for people who want to learn script or tips for improving their writing; it’s very good for beginners.”

Secrids Wallets

“These are made in sheltered workshops in the Netherlands, that provide employment for people with disabilities. They are great for men who need a very slimline wallet to keep the shape of their clothes, or women who want very particular colour, the colours are phenomenal. Every piece is numbered and we cannot keep up with the demand, we always need more.”

The little slide button at the bottom causes the card section to pop out. Credit:Emma Young

Leuchtterm1917 ‘Some lines a day’: The 5 Year Memory Book

“The diary is a lovely idea – you just have to write a line a day, and every time you see it, you see what you were doing on that day a year ago, or two, or five.”

Ms Somers” five-year diary showed her in 2018 what she was doing on that day on each of the preceding five years. Credit:Emma Young

Emma Young is a rev-conf.org reporter focusing on environmental issues, urban planning, social justice and the arts. She has won eight WA Media Awards, including the Matt Price Award for Best Columnist.

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