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October 1999


Pampering the Mind

Mont Blanc's cultural space may mark the next trend in retail

Far from the madding crowd of New York City's Madison Avenue, where tourists goggle at the boutiques and brownstones of the city's cultural elite, there's a haven for people who wish to give their brain a treat. It's plusher than a coffeehouse, more cerebral than your typical Border's, yet more accessible than the city's nearby museums.

Modern Relaxation
It's Mont Blanc's deacceleration studio, the roomy upstairs of the luxury pen and accessories retailer's new boutique at 69th and Madison, which opened in June. While Mont Blanc's smaller boutique, just down the street at 57th and Madison, captures the walk– in and tourist business, the new boutique caters more to New York City residents and culturally interested tourists who may not stay in Midtown, the city's tourist center. To engage these customers, Mont Blanc created a room with compelling modern sculpture and multimedia installations, first – edition books, displays of antique pens and inkwells, headsets for listening to music, cushy leather chairs and writing desks equipped with handmade paper and – you guessed it – Mont Blanc pens. For trendwatchers: it's the retail café of the new millennium.

"We've included everything a Mont Blanc aficionado stands for," says Eric Werner, Mont Blanc's director of marketing. "We needed a place to convey our philosophy. In this high– tech world, people long for something to hold onto, to think about what really matters. The studio is the first of its kind, and we're doing it in a great city."

Cultural Stimulation
A "cultural concierge" will be in the studio to answer questions about artistic and literary goings– on in the city. Mont Blanc also will hold regular events – poetry readings, meetings of the Proust Society and chamber music performances – and frequently change art exhibits. "Not all the events will be high– brow," says Werner. "We're trying to reach different audiences."

To find the space, customers must walk to the back of the boutique and around a corner to locate an unassuming staircase. Realizing many customers are too intimidated to investigate the second floor of a retail store without prompting, the store hung sculptures from the ceiling above the stairs and installed a video screen at the first landing for intriguing videos. The "acceleration staircase" is meant to arouse customers' curiosity and invite them up the stairs. At the top, the entrance to the studio is framed by a re– creation of the original doorway to Mont Blanc's first store in Hamburg, Germany, but there's no actual door that might prevent visitors from wandering inside.

Mont Blanc works with local hotels to promote the deacceleration studio and continues to run a weekly ad in The New York Times for its boutiques. It plans more public relations and events than advertising for the studio, though, hoping to capture the hearts of cultural critics by appealing to their heads.

by Stacey King

Art exhibits and showcases of antique books, pens and inkwells line the walls of Mont Blanc's deacceleration studio. The bronze sculpture by Anne and Patrick Poirier at left is "Anima Mundi."
"Burn Baby Burn," an installation by artist Tom Sachs, and a video screen draw visitors up the acceleration staircase to the studio on the second floor.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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