- May 26, 2015
By Gigi Morgan
To comprehend the incredible level of loss a fire creates, without already having that personal experience, requires a Gandhi-like level of empathy. On April 15, 2014, the Columbus creative community suffered an astounding loss due to a single spark. Combined with old electrical wiring, that’s all it took to destroy the Robert Mason Company pop-up shop and its two neighbors on Gay Street. Unlike those neighbors however, which sold sweets and cellphones, Robert Mason was a creatives’ dream packed in 200 square feet. At the very least, I can tell you it was my creative dream space.
I remember the day I first learned about Robert Mason. I heard about the store from a fellow writer and “suppliophile”—what RM has coined to aptly describe those of us who enjoy office supplies like coffee lovers enjoy trying a new type of coffee bean. At first, I stayed away because I sensed the danger of potential ecstasy held within those four walls. It was thanks to the rarity of the Evernote + Moleskine notebook that broke my resolve. How? Robert Mason was the only store in Central Ohio to have them in stock. Barnes and Noble nor any of the art stores were going to fill my demand.
As I parked my car, I tingled with anticipation. There is something visceral, its own brand of je ne se quoi, when you enter a haven for art and creativity. Printers and writers have the scent of ink and paper, those who draw have the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, and painters their paints and fresh cut canvas. Robert Mason was an amalgamation of these with an added dash of real leather and Vintage #01.
Before I had touched a single pen or notebook and before I saw The Robert at his counter, my muse whispered, “I’m home.”
What the Robert Mason Company pop-up shop was able to achieve in its corner of the Sugardaddy's store was staggering and bursting with inspiration at every turn. Every square inch contributed to the spaces’ cohesive aesthetic and aided the unspoken yet prevalent invitation to touch and play. This feeling extended beyond the pen bar full of dozens upon dozens of colorful pens, from Pilot and Sharpie to LePen and Sakura Pigma Micron, all the way to the beautiful RM bags made of leather, canvas, and heavy merino wool. The moment you picked up any of the Robert Mason brand items, the quality and detail grab you and that pretty item turns into the sartorial equivalent of that cute person at the bar who you find out is stylish and smart to boot. Yes, you think, I need to take you home tonight.
If the space and its stock had not lured you into the magic of what this incredible place was—as hard as that truly is for me to imagine—then say hello to Robert and you will understand why Robert Mason’s tag line is “Get Inspired.” The trifecta of Robert, the items he carries, and environment that he curates are nourishment and inspiration to the creatives’ soul. Robert Mason Grimmett is an inspiration and that is his brand. He and his store were a spark of inspiration to the community of creators, from web design, architects, and art students, to little writers like me.
The day an electrical spark took that creative haven away, I lost a home too. It took part of Robert’s dream and vision with it but for me it that fire took away an escape, a safe place to go. It was my own miniature version of Cheers or Central Perk from Friends. I could run away from suburbia for a while, enjoy the feel of different pens under my fingers, lust after a new journal, and have Robert talk to me about what new creations were coming from RM and my other favorite brands.
More than a year has now passed since my muse lost her playground. I continue to show off all of my Robert Mason pieces and talk about the brand should anyone dare say how much they love my pen or comment on the Blackwing pencils I use at work (how can anyone use anything else after holding one!). When I do, I always have a few moments where I dream about what the new store will be like.
I’ve read the buzz about Robert looking at the Short North for the store’s new home. I see in my mind the amazing community that it would feed. The artist picking up materials before sketching in Goodale Park, the writer picking up a fresh notebook and the treat of a new pen before walking to One Line or Tasi for coffee and an afternoon of writing—the Hemingway types will be at the Pearl enjoy their own spin on death in the afternoon—or the office worker buying their first fountain pen to shake things up after having killed one too many blue rollerballs.
I know this will be one day. I know this because I have come to know Robert and have seen enough of his vision and drive to have no doubt. A fire may have destroyed his store but it never dampened his passion. I also believe in Columbus. The diversity of commerce and the support to be found from the top of the Huntington Building to the food truck on the corner is something other cities simply do not have. I trust you won’t let me down on that one, Columbus! When we keep Robert here and help him build a new haven, know you’ll find me there with a smile and my muse on my shoulder.