September 2, 2014
Alpine Bank's pens are ubiquitous and instantly recognizable. You likely have one in a drawer at home, in your glove box, or on your desk at work. More than 2 million of them have been produced in the past decade, and stories of their reliability border on legendary.
"In the beginning, it just seemed to be an ordinary generic pen. A few years ago I was amazed to see the pens cropping up everywhere, and it appeared like they had an unusually long life," recalled Alpine Bank chairman and founder Bob Young.
"Our customers love them! And so do I" wrote Lynne Bowers, Alpine Bank supplies coordinator. The pens were already in production when Bowers took the job in 1995, albeit with slightly different shades of blue and green. Dave Scruby gets credit for placing the original order.
The current generation of the pens are made from recycled materials, but retain the characteristics that make them so prized.
"You can virtually never destroy one, and they never run out of ink," said Debbie Lundin, who works in administration. "You can even run over them in the parking lot and they will still write…. I can testify!"
Bank staff around the state say they have trouble keeping them in stock despite the tremendous production rate.
"Our restaurant customers come in and take handfuls of the pens for their servers," said Andrea Glass in Vail. "It's always a favorite of local wait staff."
The pens are also well travelled. Alpine Bank encourages customers to submit photos of the pens in far-flung places and is running a #WheresthePenBeen promotion on Facebook. Photos of the pens have been taken to the top of mountains and across oceans.
Even without aid, they make the rounds. Three years ago, Young himself was handed an Alpine Bank pen to sign a rental car contract in Coral Gables, Florida.
Their proliferation and durability have made the pens something of an icon on the Western Slope. The Durango branch hosts a pen swap, while folks in Telluride took it an extra step and donned pen costumes for a parade. The Telluride Daily Planet once parodied a recent plastic bag ban with a front page story on an Alpine Bank pen ban in the April Fool edition.
As recognizable as the musical intro to their radio spots, the Alpine Bank pen is a brilliant piece of marketing that gets far more use than a key chain or refrigerator magnet.
"It is certainly one of the best investments we have made in our 41 years of existence," Young said.