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A LABOR OF LOVE
A LABOR OF LOVE

phidon ens

BY NICKY PESSAROFF

P hidon Pens is a labor of love for the husband-and-wife team of Valdeep and Mano Duggal. Like

many great pen shops, the owners respect the technical and artistic fea- tures of a fine writing instrument, and their store has garnered a reputation for its quality line of pens and writing paper, the professionalism of the staff, and the personal touch that only a physical pen shop can provide. But the Duggals take their love for the written word a step further: not only do they

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run a great store, the store also pro- vides penmanship lessons. The name “Phidon” originates from a combination of the Greek letter phi, meaning balance, and the mytho- logical Greek king Phaedon, known for the balance he brought his king- dom and his attention to weights and measures. Located in Cambridge, Ontario, a Toronto suburb of 125,000 people, Phidon Pens is a beautiful and airy store catering to true pen lovers since 2008.

Eschewing online sales, the Duggals insist the only proper way to sell a pen is through personal use. “My customers are looking for more than just a product—it’s the feel of a brick- and-mortar store, the visual beauty of the store, the customer service, the dialog that you have. We might have a smaller share of the pie, but the clien- tele I’ve built up over the last five years certainly enjoy the tactile feel of writ- ing with a fine instrument,” Mano Duggal says.

Longtime customer Bridget Vaillancourt agrees. Further, she insists that the true difference lies in the cou- ple behind the store. “The atmosphere at Phidon Pens is just so special. You’re made to feel like a good friend right from the start,” Vaillancourt says. “Mano and Valdeep Duggal are such delightful, welcoming people. They’ve gotten to know my husband and me very well. Now they will anticipate what we’ll like when new items come into the store and really make us feel like part of their family.” Phidon Pens carries a large assort- ment of the finest names in pens as well as a compelling line of technical

writing instruments. Quality paper products, journals, desk accessories and luggage complete the Phidon line. It’s not essentially different from what one would expect from any serious pen store except that Phidon goes one step further: In the face of this techno- cratic world, the Duggals offer pen- manship classes. “In 2012, we decided to branch out, and we started offering handwriting classes here at the store,” Mano Duggal explains. Classes are offered by renowned calligrapher Heather Held, an expert in Spencerian script and English roundhand. She also happens to be a loyal Phidon Pens customer. Duggal continues, “Heather and I were talking about it and it was perfect: I had some space in the back of the store, I

had the teacher and I had the vision.” Phidon Pens offers two penman- ship classes, Introduction to Penmanship and Spencerian Script. Introduction to Penmanship teaches students the basics of cursive hand- writing as well as more advanced classes that cover the flourishes that calligraphy offers. Spencerian is con- sidered Held’s strongest script, and she teaches students the intricacies of this lovely ornamental writing style. Held’s interest in calligraphy dates back to her childhood and her obses- sion with the perfect handwriting of her teachers. (See a profile of Held by Deborah Basel in PW, August 2013.) In 2003, her interest became profes- sional, and by 2010, she was teaching handwriting throughout North America. Asked why calligraphy is beneficial, Held can give you a host of reasons—from the touch it adds to

Interior of Phidon Pens, Cambridge, Ontario. Opposite—Phidon Pens exterior; owner Mano Duggal and daughter Simran at
Interior of Phidon Pens, Cambridge,
Ontario.
Opposite—Phidon Pens exterior; owner
Mano Duggal and daughter Simran at
Phidon’s five-year anniversary celebration

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60 Danielle Wild practices her handwriting at the shop; Heather Held holds a demonstration. personal communication,

Danielle Wild practices her handwriting at the shop; Heather Held holds a demonstration.

60 Danielle Wild practices her handwriting at the shop; Heather Held holds a demonstration. personal communication,

personal communication, to handwriting’s efficacy in fos- tering creativity, to the sense of peace it can provide, to the development of motor skills in children. “Writing on paper allows razor-sharp focus, and the thoughts flow far more freely for me than when I’m typing at the keyboard,” Held says. “I have all the devices—iPad, iMac, iPhone—and they’re wonderful tools, but I get a lot of sensory overload from them. I prefer the quiet process of handwriting.” Apparently, a lot of other people do, too, because demand for the classes is stronger than ever. Bridget Vaillancourt has attended classes since they began and has no plans to stop. She also loves the sense of personal expression calligraphy allows her. Moreover, she loves the learning environment; surrounded by pen and paper, Phidon Pen’s environment fosters a singular experience for learning the art of handwriting. Further, the small-town feel that Cambridge evokes means that students leave the class as friends. Still, a class is only as good as its teacher, and both Duggal and Vaillancourt insist that Heather Held herself is the decisive factor. Vaillancourt explains, “I just can’t say enough good things about Heather and her teaching style. Even when the material is at its most challenging, she makes you feel

like you’re doing the best work ever, which in turn causes you to do better in your own estimation. She makes the classes enjoyable and builds your self confidence in the process. I just think the world of Heather.” Duggal is more succinct but just as admiring: “We have the best calligraphy teacher, I think, in the whole world.” Clearly, two elements make Phidon Pens special. It’s not the pen and paper they sell, and it’s not even the classes they offer. What matters is the passion of the people who sell the pens and the person who teaches the classes.

NICKY PESSAROFF is a former PW staffer and freelance writer based in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Photos by JUNE KASPERSKI WILD.

PHIDON PENS 63 Dickson Cambridge, ON N1R 7A5 Canada 519.624.8787 phidonpens.com
PHIDON PENS
63 Dickson
Cambridge, ON N1R 7A5 Canada
519.624.8787
phidonpens.com