Minnesotan To Meet: Pen Enthusiast Barry Rubin

May 19, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – He started his career as a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, but ended up helping ailing businesses turn around.

That led to wanting to start his own business – a beverage company.

And in the end, he re-wrote his history.

Barry Rubin just had to go back to his first love – pens.

What he’s drafting for the future makes Rubin this week’s Minnesotan to Meet.

Inside the Rand Tower in Minneapolis you’ll find Rubin on the 17th floor.

“When I was a young kid, I loved pens,” Rubin said.

He discovered his fascination with the fountain pen while working at a drugstore in St. Paul during high school.

“Everything got better. My writing got better, my homework [got better], I got better grades, so I had such a positive experience from fountain pens,” Rubin said.

He opened INK in the IDS Center back in 2006.

Two years later the recession hit.

“I had a fantastic corporate business and that went away completely,” Rubin said.

So, in 2011, Rubin downsized to 500 square feet and took a lot of his business online to EBay.

“You’re not the most organized guy I’ve ever seen,” Jamie Yuccas said.

“I know where everything is,” he said.

We tested him asking to pull a western inspired pen. Then we wanted something with sparkle.

He came through on each request. Showing us sports pens, retro pens and even childhood favorites.

Pens range from less than $30 to this one that’s $6,000!

“It’s wrapped in linen, it’s Asian and there are only 10 in the world,” Rubin said. “It’s hand painted porcelain.”

While this is for a collector, Rubin focuses most of his business on those working 9 to 5.

“If you’re an investment banker and you’re signing up a client to invest a million dollars, you don’t want to hand them a Bic pen,” Rubin said.

Now, he’s sketching out a new business venture, a limited edition Ink Artists Series.

One called the creator is made by former Mattel executive Mike Willmott.

“It’s almost a piece of art that comes with a pen,” he said. “My byline is ‘Art 5 inches tall.’”

That’s right, he’s targeting Millennials interested in art but only able to spend a couple hundred dollars.

Whether it comes in a box or from your heart, Rubin is counting on the emotional connection to the written word in order for customers to sign off.


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