Detlef Bittner had been in business only four years when I interviewed him for the first time for PW in 1995. The name of the business then was Bittner Fine Stationery and it was located in a vine-covered gazebo in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
More than a decade before educators had even begun to develop Common Core standards—the standards now adopted by 45 states that virtually ignore handwriting instruction—Bittner was already acutely aware of a problem. “In Europe, where I was born, and in Asia, calligraphers are honored,” he said in that 1995 interview. “Penmanship is taught in the schools. I would like penmanship to be reintroduced in schools here.”
And that’s why Bittner’s business has never been “just” about pens. Over the years, as it has evolved, it has remained a store for writers, pen aficionados and collectors —a place where customers are invited to try pens, where one can find not only pens but fine writing papers, journals, calligraphy supplies, and desk accessories. Its trademarked name, Bittner the Pleasure of Writing, underscores that emphasis.
Bittner, born in Ulm, Germany, got his first “good” pen when he was 14—a Montblanc fountain pen from his father. When he was 19, he began an apprenticeship with a steel die engraving printer and learned intaglio printing, which requires etching a design into a plate of steel or brass. During this time he met many famous typographers, calligraphers and artist that influenced his passion. He spent two years in the Navy, and, self-taught in calligraphy, created hand-lettered menus and place tags for the captain’s dinners.
He came to the United States in 1986, and with a friend, began a business in design and steel die engraving. They created many emblems, corporate logos, and seals among them the iconic official County Seal of the County of Santa Clara (Silicon Valley) and the Commonwealth Club. This enterprise was the seed for what would become Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing: creating custom emblems, crests, and monograms, and engraving stationery and invitations have always been among the services they offer. Now, with Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing on the eve of its 25th anniversary, Bittner’s mission to encourage writing by hand with fine tools hasn’t changed—but the store itself has. Having outgrown the Gazebo, Bittner set out in 1998 to build his dream space, a paean to writing, and indeed to excellence in the arts, science, and philosophy. It was build using the Asian Art of Feng Shui to optimize flow and space. The store was conceptualized by International Architect Paul Ma and build by the well known California Architect John Thodos. The store was built as an ode and shrine to writing. The Bittner Ocean Avenue boutique has become one of the quintessential store’s in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and a must see for every pen connoisseur from around the world on their travels to California.
In fact, the signatures of 18 “store patrons”— Among them William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Ludwig von Beethoven, Mahatma Gandhi, Grace Kelly, Edgar Allan Poe, Leonardo da Vinci, Geronimo, Vincent van Gogh, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain—were replicated in bronze and imbedded in the concrete backs of the main showcases when the concrete was poured. Thus, the store has the ambience of a place where permanence is deeply felt and celebrated. Two prominent features especially stand out. The counter was built in the shape of a harp to celebrate the muse of music, but it’s the central showcase that Bittner calls the heart of the store. The showcase is flanked by two pillars that represent writing as the pillars of mankind. Above it is mounted an exact replica of a frieze found in a European castle, made by creating rubber molds of the original. It weighs as much as a small car, and the ceiling had to be reinforced to support its weight. Directly below the frieze is a smooth piece of concrete with the Bittner name imbedded in bronze. The Bittner Ocean Avenue boutique has become one of the quintessential store’s in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and a must see for every pen connoisseur From around the world on their travels to California.
Although Carmel-by-the-Sea is a well-heeled community, complete with resident movie stars, fewer than 4,000 people call it home. The beauty of Carmel-by-the-Sea guarantees lots of visitors from around the world. World-renowned Carmel-by-the-Sea has inspired artists, sparked romances, and attracted celebrities for decades. Rated a top-10 destination in the U.S. year after year, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an amazing, European-style village nestled above a picturesque white-sand beach where everything is within walking distance. With millions of visitors per year passing by their doors Bittner has evolved to serve their clientele around the world.
Bittner was one the earliest pen retailers to set up their business on the Internet, and keep their website updated and regularly redesign it: a new iteration—their eighth—has just been rolled out. Bittner, The Pleasure of Writing is renowned for its great design and graphics in its emails and promotional material and exclusive web design. Their emails are coveted by customers around the world for its contents and graphics. Bittner, is serving a distinguished national and international clientele including leaders of industry, the arts, academia. Detlef Bittner himself has a passion for the ancient art of Maki-e and the showroom on Ocean avenue features one of the largest selection of Namiki Maki-e pens in the world. The museum quality store features some of the rarest and collectible writing instruments from around the world and is a must visit for every pen connoisseur when on the west coast.
For the past 20 years, they’ve maintained a strong presence at the world-famous Concours d’Elegance in nearby Pebble Beach, which brings over 50,000 visitors to the area every year. Each year Bittner holds special events in their Ocean Avenue Showroom: “We always have car pens. We literally roll out a red carpet.” The connection with Concours d’Elegance is so significant that “Car Pens” has its own tab on the Bittner website.
In the 25 years since Bittner first opened in the Gazebo, a lot has changed. Nowadays, a business owner has to become his own production studio, says Bittner, thinking of the website, which is handled in-house, and all the photography and videography that it entails. The focus of the business has been to find the best artisans, pen companies and accessories around the world and celebrate the unique qualities within each manufacturer -It is almost as if you are walking into a museum of years of articulate research to bring you a showcase dedicated to importance and gift of the written word. Bittner has recently found a way to give back. They created a new program that’s very close to their hearts and to what has been the company’s mission from the beginning: the Children’s Handwriting Initiative. Begun with seed money donated by Bittner’s very first customer in the Gazebo, the program places fountain pens and writing materials in the hands of elementary school children. A portion of sales from all purchases, in-store and online, provide ongoing support for the initiative.
Passion for Writing since 25 years and 25 more to come
The Bittner Story
Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing is a luxury goods retailer and e-tailer for writing and lifestyle accessories. Located on prestigious Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. Carmel is rated the third most romantic City in the World after Paris and Venice by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing was founded in 1991 by Detlef and Cynthia Bittner and celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2016. Bittner has been a pioneer in the industry, immediately recognizing the potential power of the web and acquiring its original website 1995. Branding was a prime consideration as the business was started and the URL of Bittner.com became one of the earliest registered websites! Next, the telephone number was secured as 888.BITTNER. And in 1995 Bittner had the vision to register and trademark the business name as “Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing” The business began humbly in a Gazebo in Carmel, CA. Then in 1998, the owners custom designed and built the current location in the heart of Carmel. The unique space with its entry plaza is a landmark in Carmel, attracting thousands of tourists and writing aficionados. Every customer is regularly contacted and educated with new and informative materials containing the latest in writing instruments. Bittner is renowned for one of the finest selection of writing instruments and accessories from around the world and is an authorized dealer for many luxury goods manufacturers.
Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing is celebrating 28 years in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a world class destination attracting over 4 million visitors a year and including some of the wealthiest people looking for quality and uniqueness. Bittner is a boutique luxury goods retailer and e-tailer. Over the past 28 years it has evolved into a store celebrated by writers, pen aficionados, collectors and visitors alike. This is a place where customers are invited to try pens found nowhere else; where one can find not only pens but fine writing papers, calligraphy supplies, journals, desk lifestyle accessories. Its trademarked name, “Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing” underscores the emphasis on quality and luxury. European quality watches and desk accessories are now carried to round out the customer experience. Bittner is more than a retail and etail business. It is a destination in and of itself, especially for those who appreciate fine writing instruments and collectables. Bittner has been named the “quintessential” Carmel store. Located in one of the most beautiful communities in the world. Bittner, on Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is a world class boutique in a world class town, with a world class clientele. The custom designed and built store is a treasure located in the “Golden Mile” of Ocean Avenue, a two block stretch of renowned retail. Tiffany’s, Coach, Bottega Venetta and Cole Haan are within a one block radius. Bittner has been positioned to take advantage of a growing world market. Bittner is set to build a brand in the luxury goods industry. Bittner participates in the Concours d’Elegance and AT&T Pro-Am at neighboring Pebble Beach, which attract 80,000-140,000 visitors, where they provide Auto and Specialty pens to their clients, many of whom are celebrities. The store location continues its yearly growth, with added growth through Internet sales. With its Web address dating from 1995, the newly launches site Bittner 8.0 maintains its coveted identity continuity while presenting the latest in ecommerce retailing face. Built on the most advanced platform to date with flawless mobile responsiveness, there is nearly infinite flexibility for adding product lines and multiple variants not possible on more basic websites. Visit the website at www.bittner.com and see the quality and selection of their inventory.
Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing is a store noted for its emphasis on fine writing instruments, including collector pens, Auto Pens, calligraphy instruments and closely related accessories and other luxury items such as fine European Watches with the potential for limited fine jewelry. All lines can be found on their website www.bittner.com. A partial list is Namiki, Platinum, Sailor, Montegrappa, Cuervo Y Sobrinos, Visconti, Pelikan, S.T. Dupont, Dunhill Staedtler Mars, Graf Faber-Castell, Fisher, Parker, Waterman, Conklin, Pilot Ogami Monteverde Other product lines include stationary, journals, art and calligraphy instruments, supplies and accessories, fine watches and desk accessories. Pen repair accounts for a small but significant portion of revenues and serves as a respected customer service aspect of the business.
Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing is a world renowned retailer of writing instruments and complementary accessories. Though located in a community of only 4000 permanent residents, Carmel attracts 4 million visitors a year, making Bittner an international retailer. Customers range from the wealthy collector of pens to the young artist looking for calligraphy tools to the visitor looking for beautiful stationery or a well-made pen. For 20 years, Bittner has maintained a presence at the world famous Concours d’Elegance, held at nearby Pebble Beach, which brings 80,000 visitors a year to the area. The early automobile age auto show brings potential and real clientele who appreciate the finer things of life. Bittner has professional relationships with many of the auto industry accessory brands manufacturers and provides highly desirable, custom designed and limited edition pens for Bugatti, Porsche, Bentley and others known as Car Pens. The pens themselves are produced by world leading pen companies such as Montegrappa, Monteverde, Omas and more. Branded merchandise attracts hundreds of potential customers to the door. In addition, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament, Food and Wine events and the Monterey Jazz Festival venues can be a goldmine for existing and new products. Hollywood celebrities, such as Jay Leno have been presented with banded Car Pens. Artists, writers, executives and collectors from around the world are in attendance, many of whom are Bittner clientele.
The store is located on Ocean Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea. The store location is unlike any other retail space in the area, consistently attracting public attention and walk in traffic. Its boutique location has beautiful, custom built-out cabinetry made of stunning curly maple wood. This wood is typically used in the crafting of fine musical instruments such as violins, guitars and cellos. One must go to the store to admire and enjoy the frieze, an exact replica of a frieze found in a European castle. It weighs as much as a small car and the ceiling had to be reinforced to support its weight. There are only 4,000 people that call this beautiful area home. Carmel has over 4 million visitors a year. They do not call them tourist but respectively visitors. The status of Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the top destinations in the United States which guaranteed a steady stream of visitors from around the world.
Business History Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing is a luxury goods retailer and e-tailer for writing and lifestyle accessories. Located on prestigious Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. Carmel is rated the third most romantic City in the World after Paris and Venice by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing was founded in 1991 by the current owners and is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. Bittner has been a pioneer in the industry, immediately recognizing the potential power of the web and acquiring its original website 1995. Branding was a prime consideration as the business was started and the URL of Bittner.com became one of the earliest registered websites! Next, the telephone number was secured as 888.BITTNER. And in 1995, the owner had the vision to register and trademark the business name as “Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing” The business began humbly in a Gazebo in Carmel, CA. Then in 1998, the owners custom designed and built the current location in the heart of Carmel. The unique space with its entry plaza is a landmark in Carmel, attracting thousands of tourists and writing aficionados. Bittner is renowned for one of the finest selection of writing instruments and accessories from around the world and is an authorized dealer for many brands from around the world.
Meet the Bittner's
Detlef “Deti” Bittner is president and the Face of Bittner, For the Pleasure of Writing. Detlef was born in Ulm, Germany in early 1960. Detlef has a natural love for writing, that was instilled in him early by his father Hans. Detlef loves writing and he is the quintessential entrepreneur and marketeer. His passion for writing is infectious and he has been a proponent of the reintroduction of pen man ship in schools for many years. His vision has seen Bittner develop into one of the leading pen and paper empires on the West Coast. He continuously comes up with great ideas for new innovative products, marketing campaigns and promotions. He is a natural-born entrepreneur and leader.
Detlef has provided the vision for Bittner for the past 30 years. His passion for design, writing and detail is inspiring associates and team members daily to same attention to detail. Detlef is the proverbial immigrant turned entrepreneur success story. Detlef immigrated to the United States at Age 22. He arrived in San Francisco in March of 1986 and started a design company and intaglio printing studio there. His many designs include the County Seal of the County Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, the Commonwealth Club, the Huntington Hotel and he collaborated with “the Five Michaels” on many design projects. Next to a BA in Industrial Business, he is an apprenticed steel die engraving printer and got to meet some of the famous Typographers and Calligraphers of the 20th Century, like Hermann Zapf and Joachim Roman, who at the age of 80 hand lettered the Bittner logo and crest in 1989 as we see it now. It has been the “Good Luck” symbol and logo of Bittner, For the Pleasure of Writing ™. The by-line “For the Pleasure of Writing” was trademarked in 1995 and is to be meant to make writing all inclusive and inviting for everyone.
Detlef joined the Navy in 1983 where he got his Wanderlust. He grew up in Frankfurt where his father, a live long retailer and buyer of Germany's largest department store chain taught him sales and marketing secrets throughout his life. To achieve his dream “of creating” a place for the finest in writing, Detlef did many jobs such as moonlighting as a painter, working on commercials for Levy’s and Budweiser, running a BNB out of their house and any job to finance the beginnings of the store. The Bittner boutique in Carmel is now a landmark and a must see for visitors.
Cynthia is co-president and the support system behind Detlef and Bittner. She has a passion and the perfect eye for merchandising and general operational strategy. She oversees the service department here at Bittner and creates the wonderful displays that Bittner has become known for. Cynthia has a love for natural organic foods and healing and is a documentary buff. Cynthia is a cowgirl at heart and was born in San Antonio, Texas. Since the age of three . Cynthia grow up in the kitchen of her parents restaurants, where customer service and her entrepreneurial spirit was instilled in her from an early age. Cynthia worked as a hairdresser and as a makeup artist in movie and television production in the humble beginnings to help Bittner grow to where it is now. Cynthia loves fine Italic nibs and enjoys colorful inks.
She loves keeping her “Dream Journal” and is a passionate traveler and accomplished diver. Cynthia and Detlef have one daughter, Dominique. There favorite past time is travelling with their daughter Dominique and adventuring. They were married in 1990 and are living happily ever after.
Born in the early 1990’s Dominique grew up with the entrepreneurial spirit and was raised in the Bittner store in Carmel. She has caught the Wanderlust bug from her parents and has traveled the world extensively already at a young age. You can find Dominique working special events working for Bittner like the Concourse d’Elegance in Pebble Beach and contributing to many of the innovative marketing and promotional campaigns of Bittner.
Dominique is bilingual in English and German, with a love for learning other languages. Her passion for organic food and health has let her on the path to an education as a Nutritionist and Natural Health Practitioner. Dominique is a yoga teacher. She presently goes to University in Southern California. Dominique loves writing, music and poetry and never leaves home without her trusted pens and journals.