“Ten or fifteen years ago, there were 13 pen stores in New York City,” says Terry Wiederlight, who runs Fountain Pen Hospital with his brother, Steve. “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.
How 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.
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….
Most 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.
Are the changes each year stylistic or innovation-based?
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.
Tell 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.
What 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.