Spotlight: Fountain Pen Hospital

Because this site focuses on news, businesses that have been around awhile—and that make this neighborhood special—don’t get the coverage they should. The photographs are by Claudine Williams, who specializes in head shots for actors, business professionals, or anyone looking to be photographed. She also dabbles in street photography for fun. Originally from Philadelphia, she has made NYC her home for the past seven years with her husband and son.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, there were 13 pen stores in New York City,” says Terry Wiederlight (above), who runs Fountain Pen Hospital with his brother, Steve (right). “Now we’re the only one.” A visit to the store at 10 Warren is a trip back in time—not just to when everyone wrote longhand, but to when the city was full of independent niche stores.

How did you get started in this business?
It’s a family business. My father and grandfather started it together in 1946.

When did this store open? Why here?
The first store was on Fulton, then it moved to Vesey. We opened here on Warren in 1986.

Any reason it’s always been in Lower Manhattan?
It’s just always been here.

Fountain Pen Hospital4 by Claudine WilliamsHow has your business changed over the years?
In the 1970s, fountain pens were dying out, so we got into office supplies. Our business was 90% office supplies, 10% pens. But when I saw the first Staples, I said, “Whoa.” And we went back to our roots.

And the Hospital part of the name?
We do very little repair work. Ninety percent is selling pens. But we kept the name.

What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
When people come in from all over the world. They walk in with their suitcases—they don’t even check in at the hotel first! Today, we had people from New Zealand, China….

Fountain Pen Hospital2 by Claudine WilliamsMost popular item?
The most popular brand? Montblanc.

The most expensive item?
Probably $10,000. We once sold a pen for $60,000. That was 20 years ago.

The least expensive item?
The least expensive pen is a $5 Parker.

Your very favorite item right now?
I can’t answer that.

Fountain Pen Hospital6 by Claudine WilliamsWhere do you source stuff?
I do all the ordering of new pens. Something has to be different. We carry over 50 brands.

Are the changes each year stylistic or innovation-based?
Mainly style.

Fountain Pen Hospital7 by Claudine WilliamsTribeca has obviously changed a lot. Any changes that have surprised you?
Well, it took long enough!

What percentage of your business is local?
In the store? 15% to 20%. But 75% of our business is online and catalog. We sell worldwide.

Fountain Pen Hospital1 by Claudine WilliamsTell me a crazy customer story.
Neil Tyson lives around the block. He always comes in. He’s a sweetheart. We’ve had so many celebrities over the years! Schwarzenegger, Streep, Hanks. When Meryl Streep came in, she had a hat down low over her face and no one knew who she was.

Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
I eat downstairs in the conference room.

Fountain Pen Hospital3 by Claudine WilliamsWhat does the future hold for Fountain Pen Hospital?
I hope a lot. Gotta keep up with technology, keep changing. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff. We have 15 employees.

What didn’t I ask?
We do a pen show every year, the first week of December. The store is packed. And we also do a spring show.

Fountain Pen Hospital5 by Claudine WilliamsPreviously in this series:
••• Abhaya
••• Chambers Pottery
••• Square Diner
••• Langdon Florist
••• Tribeca Upholstery & Draperies
••• Double Knot
••• Philip Williams Posters

7 Comments

  1. I’ve been regularly following FPH and gets their annual magazine on Pens.

    I simply admire them and wish their business flourish further …Good Luck..

    # MUTHUMANI SHANMUGANATHAN, Bangalore, INDIA. Oct.06, 2015.

  2. While living in Canada and way back before I even knew what Tribeca was, I sent a Waterman Pen to the Hospital for repair. It was the only place that could do the work then, and it probably still is. Knowing there was only one, I was delighted to see the business once we moved here.

  3. A longtime fountain pen user, I’ve been a local patron since moving to Tribeca in 2006.

    Terry & Steve have been instrumental in responding to my crazy questions and letting me peruse the inventory, and in return I’ve exposed countless friends and family to the joy of fountain pens. The December show is worth a walkthrough.

    I even “discovered” a few 50s-era pens in my mother’s effects…untouched for decades…that they were able to fully restore. So while the hospital part of the name may not be as significant as it once was, it’s still alive and well when needed!

  4. I learned the joy of doing business with FPH quite a while ago. I had no idea of their size, but enjoy looking through their catalog and website. My most recent purchase was last week. I’m happy that their prices are fair, reasonable , and items are well represented.
    There is no reason why I’d stop coming back.

  5. I have been purchasing from FPH for 25 years and have always
    Been satisfied. Their like family to me. I love pens.

  6. My whole life is centered on pen and ink. Since I was very young, my folks would present me with wonderful pens and sets of coloured inks to inspire me further.
    Your Catalog was a joy to receive and I wish it was still arriving in the mail, so I am leaving you my new address !!
    Many fond greetings,
    ~~ John A. Cullen
    4-94 Donald St. Ottawa ON Canada K1K1N2

  7. Nice article recently online at nytimes.com:

    “Where Fountain Pens Are Saved and Sold”

    The Fountain Pen Hospital represents a bygone idea in an age of instant communication, but the store in Lower Manhattan attracts people from across New York City.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/nyregion/fountain-pen-hospital-manhattan.html

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