In the age of iPads, Leena Shrestha loves pens, and paper, and ink, and writing. She is the proud owner of the Pen Boutique, founded in 2004 with locations at Sterrett Place in downtown Columbia and in the Montgomery Mall.
Winner of the 2008 Howard County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Success Award, the Pen Boutique provides “handware” — pens, inks, journals — to clients both domestically and abroad through an international online distribution network run out of its Columbia warehouse.
“We have clients all over the United States and the world,” said Shrestha. “Internationally, our sales have jumped over the past three years as more international clients find it better to buy from us for our quality, our honesty, and for better exchange rates. Australia and Canada are two top international destinations.”
People choose the Pen Boutique to shop for their pens and journals due to the customer service Shrestha’s team provides. According to Shrestha, “Our customers are repeat customers who hear of us via word-of-mouth.”
Of iPads and Pens
iPads and tablets are strong competition for pens today, but they also have opened up an array of new markets in which Shrestha and her team combine the benefits of both; the Pen Boutique, for example, sells portfolios such as the Moleskine iPad Folio that house both tablets and pens. “Writing with a pen is a joy, and to write down your notes after online iPad browsing and research is a process that is very connected to the modern world,” she said.
“A great pen is a pen that ideally suits a person’s preference and comfort,” Shrestha explained. “It should be ideal to his or her hand and that person must love the joy of writing a line on smooth paper. It can be a $2 pen or $1,000 pen.” A great pen, she said, also goes with a great journal, “where you feel like you can express yourself as a friend.”
“It may be an organizer or just a plain journal — it should allow you to relax to express yourself.”
No Wires Here
One of Shrestha’s favorite pens is the Montblanc Meisterstück Fountain pen, a pen that is light, comfortable and has been in design since 1925. The design, she said, is a masterpiece (Meisterstück, in fact, means masterpiece in German).
Shrestha’s all-time favorite pen is the Lamy from Germany. It fits right in her hand and is a reasonably priced, long-lasting, quality product that comes in a variety of colors to suit one’s mood on a given day.
The Pen Boutique carries pens that range in price from $3.25 to $10,000. It also carries a wide mix of good-quality journals including Filofax, Rhodia, Moleskines and Oberon Design. Shrestha feels blogging and the use of Facebook have actually propelled the journal trend: “People like to express themselves; some like to see it in ink.”
While large competitors such as Staples and Office Depot offer discounts on bargain pens, Shrestha stands by the belief that a fine pen makes a thoughtful gift. “They make a perfect gift for many occasions, and unlike several other gifts they are remembered when the pen is being used.”
This is especially true for the Pen Boutique’s biggest customers — pen enthusiasts and members of the general public that love reading and writing.
The Pen Boutique also has sold pens to dignitaries and celebrities. The Montblanc 149 Pen Oblique Broad (“The Diplomat”) is a great signing pen that Shrestha has sold to many authors. She has also sold many Krone T-Rex and David Oscarson Jacques De Molay pens to celebrities.
The Pen Boutique is a member of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, and Shrestha asserts that her membership in the chamber has greatly benefited her operations.
“The Howard County Chamber of Commerce has been inspirational to us on many fronts,” she said. “They have provided great networking with fellow business partners. Our advertisements through them have brought in new customers. Their staff is very friendly and alerts members of new opportunities to grow business. And they have been an inspiration to us in awarding us their 2008 Emerging Success Award. This award propelled us towards achieving the next level of customer service.”
“I love fine pens and fine paper,” Shrestha said. “They make a great combination and can lighten up one’s day. Pen customers are some of the best customers out there; they are in great positions and have wonderful success stories to tell.”