– Words by Sean McIntyre Photography by Don Denton
Come travel in search of sunshine and sand, while others set out for grand adventures. When Cory and Laura Landels embark on a trip, however, they are on the lookout for stationery stores, and their journeys have taken them to more than 25 countries on four continents.
So, when it came to settling down in Nanaimo a few years back, Cory and Laura immediately jumped at an opportunity that had their names written all over it. In June of 2020, their stationery store Common Foundry opened its doors on Wallace Street, a stone’s throw from downtown Nanaimo.
“We wanted to make sure we were creating something that filled a niche in our community, and we thought bringing some of these items to Nanaimo would hopefully be as inspiring to others as it is to us,” Cory says.
Unsure if others on Vancouver Island shared their passion for fine pens and inks, Cory and Laura only had two models of fountain pens for sale when they started out. Those sold out within a week as people emerged from the local community of pen enthusiasts.
“We have been growing and learning with them ever since,” Cory says.
The shop has grown to become central Vancouver Island’s lone purveyor of fountain pens, featuring exquisite models made by premium pen-makers from around the world and a selection of ink in every imaginable shade. The store’s in-house nibmeister can even provide a custom-ground pen nib.
“Part of the reason why it’s important to try out a fountain pen is because there are so many different features to consider, such as the materials, the weight or balance of the pen in your hand, and the size, shape or feel of the nib against the paper,” Laura says. “Finding the perfect combination is very exciting for a pen enthusiast, and we take it one step further by also offering these unique customizations.”
Alongside fountain pens, inks and customized nibs, the couple has used their interest in stationery products to curate a one-of-a-kind collection of tactile delights. Some of these products feature rich histories, cultural influence or design impacts that the couple is keen to share with others.
“Some stuff we like because it’s cute, weird or just fun to use,” Cory says. “We have a range of items to make sure our shop is accessible to someone shopping at any price point, whether it’s a child coming in to spend their allowance or someone looking for a meaningful, high-end gift.”
The shop itself grew out of Cory’s graphic design practice, which occupies the rear portion of the Wallace Street character building. One role of the stationery shop is to create a storefront space enabling more interaction between the studio workspace and people in the community.
When it comes to the retail space, the couple took a distinctive less-is-more approach to product design and layout. Products are kept to a minimum and displayed in a manner that promotes a real appreciation for their quality and craftsmanship. Most packaging has been removed so as to not detract from the product itself, allowing customers to interact with and get a feel for different items.
“Packaging is often designed to sell the product, but it can be very loud and detract from the design of the object. We wanted the shop to be both an aesthetic and interactive experience. As it’s a small shop, we’re able to speak to the history or features of the item, which is usually much more engaging,” Cory says. “Rather than overcrowding the space with products, we prefer to curate a space that highlights different items in a way that piques your curiosity and makes you want to know about them.”
Based on its great reception among locals and visitors, Common Foundry has proven itself a welcome new addition to a neighbourhood and city which continue to find new ways of luring people off the highway and into the heart of downtown to devote some well-deserved attention to the sights, shops and flavours that are to be found in the Harbour City.
“Nanaimo is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, and it’s emerging as a hub for creative professionals and entrepreneurs,” Laura says. “The movement of young families and professionals from larger cities is definitely having a positive impact, and we’re excited to see how it continues growing.
“It’s always fun for us to talk about Nanaimo, especially the area around us in the Old City Quarter and downtown, whether it’s with a regular who is in every week or a newcomer who is visiting the island for the first time.”
Common Foundry is located at 295 Wallace Street in Nanaimo. For a look at the shop’s products and more information, visit:commonfoundry.com.