Serious pen collectors can now plunk down six figures in the plushest setting imaginable, complete with staggering views of the Arc de Triomphe over flower boxes blooming with perfect roses.
A corner VIP suite is just one of the striking amenities at Montblanc’s new hotel-like flagship boutique at 152 Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
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The 2,400-square-foot corner unit, home to a Montblanc boutique for the past 20 years, just reopened after an extensive renovation and expansion to accommodate a new concept that merges retail with hospitality.
“We really wanted to deepen our retail experience by taking inspiration from the way in which luxury boutique hotels today offer such a multifaceted, immersive universe,” Montblanc chief executive officer Nicolas Baretzki explained in an interview, describing a place “where guests can escape from the everyday, disconnect, unwind.
“When you have a great stay at your favorite boutique hotel, you don’t ever want to leave,” he added, bringing to mind the lyrics of a famous Eagles ditty. “We hope our customers will feel just the same about their visit.”
Visitors to Montblanc Suite 4810, the number representing the elevation in meters of Europe’s famous snow-capped mountain, alight upon a mosaic threshold like those found in palace hotels or Paris’ famous covered passages, and are invited to “check in” at a retro, wooden reception counter.
There, sales staff can orient visitors toward what they might be seeking, or invite them to discover the 116-year-old German luxury brand, starting with its emblematic resin writing instruments, through to timepieces, leather goods and other personal accessories.
Products are sparsely merchandised throughout the airy ground floor, but there is much to discover, from the “ink bar,” where visitors can test a range of nibs and quirky colors with cigar-sized fountain pens, to a wall niche displaying the latest Montblanc collectible: a hand-carved ebony pen in the shape of a wandering stick from its Writers Edition dedicated to the Brothers Grimm, priced at 40,300 euros.
High-rollers might be escorted directly upstairs to the VIP salons via an elevator done up in gleaming black, a wink to its emblematic Meisterstück pen, and lit up with calligraphy animations. Or they can stroll across the pale hardwood floors, the same as the ones found in Montblanc’s historic Hamburg ateliers, and discover everything from sporty crossbody bags and business cases to sunglasses, belts and wallets.
Baretzki said the boutique, which has an Art Deco feel, is a one-off that winks to other units.
“While there are style elements reminiscent of our boutiques, this concept really was our opportunity to present Montblanc as it is today with a reimagined aesthetic incorporating our archives and heritage,” he said, noting that some of the fixtures are repurposed originals, like the check-in desk that once sat in a Montblanc boutique in the 1950s. “This was never going to be a conventional retail experience, but a place of surprise and discovery.”
Smartwatches, headphones and other personal tech items — Montblanc’s latest brand extension — are displayed in a pop-up location next door.
The main flagship showcases the impact of creative director Marco Tomasetta, a seasoned leather goods designer brought in last year to speed its transformation into a “luxury business-lifestyle maison” and to conceive overarching brand themes for products, versus what had previously been a more silo-ed, category approach.
Montblanc’s famous pen nibs can be found embedded in the iron safety grill, displayed over the ink bar, and recurring as zipper pulls in the leather goods department.
“Since I started, my goal was to create overarching cross-category themes to connect products in a more intentional and purposeful way,” Tomasetta said. “We have continued to evolve our offering, and now the way in which (clients) experience the brand in a new retail environment.”
The decor resembles the lobby of a boutique hotel with its cushy armchairs, piped-in music and staff at the ready to offer refreshments.
A salon dedicated to writing instruments and timepieces is done up in the style of a cocktail bar, serving up watches instead of martinis, while the penultimate room showcases large leather goods on shelves and small ones in marble drawers. There’s enough room here to test-drive roller suitcases.
A small concierge desk, located near the entry, is where customers can have accessories personalized, or receive advice on writing techniques.
The VIP suite includes an expansive living room with a bookcase, a vast straw marquetry-topped coffee table, and comfortable seating. A second room, the walls lined with safety-deposit boxes, features consultation tables perfect for inspecting rare pens, some of which are sourced from the Montblanc Haus in Hamburg, an immersive brand emporium that blends elements of a museum, art gallery, hall of fame and school offering calligraphy classes.
“There is definitely connectivity between Montblanc Haus, the ultimate homage to our history and trajectory, and the new boutique because so much of what we do is inspired by the archive housed at Montblanc Haus,” Baretzki said, noting that special events and calligraphy lessons will also be an element of the Champs-Élysées flagship. “Beyond products, our customers really value these experiences.”
According to Tomasetta, since the boutique is located on a famous street thrumming with tourists from around the world, “we want to give anyone who enters our space an experience that matches their interests and their degree of familiarity with the brand in a warm and welcoming boutique-hotel environment.
“Our existing customers know exactly what they want out of the experience and have specific requirements we can tailor to them so they can keep learning and discovering. For anyone who is new to Montblanc, or rediscovering it through fresh eyes, we want it to be inviting and exciting, so they leave feeling inspired,” he explained.
As a globe-trotting creative, Tomasetta said he appreciates “staying in places that offer more than just basic necessities and feeling at home. I love places that give you a feeling of a home away from home.”
Incidentally, among his favorite hotels are the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, the Aman in Venice, Il Pellicano in Italy’s Tuscany region, Le Bristol in Paris and the Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg.
Montblanc also operates freestanding boutiques in Paris on the Rue de Rennes and Boulevard des Capucines, plus shops-in-shop at Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Le Bon Marché.