Peel Pen Shop, Yvette & Charlie Culmer, son Robert, & Yvette’s brother Jacques, November 1993,
by Derek Lepper.
“Kevin Bushell posted a message on FPN, reporting that Maison du Stylo, “an old and respected pen store in Montreal”, had just gone out of business. Actually, the full name of the Montreal shop was La Maison du Stylo Peel, French for Peel Pen Shop. But the story isn’t that simple. Fernan posted the link to the Lovell’s Directories of the city of Montreal in this FPN thread, “Canadian Waterman History”, and I used the directory to look up all the locations of the Peel Pen Shop. Here’s what I found.
“Peel Pen Shop, a fountain pen repair and retail store, was opened by Charles E. (Charlie) and Yvette Culmer on 2000 Peel St. in Montreal, Quebec in 1954, and although it got its name from the street, it was at that location for only two years. It moved to 2014 Metcalfe, Apt. 1, in 1956, and to 2018 Metcalfe in 1961. It was at 1243 Bleury between 1962 and 1973, and S. Culmer was listed as the proprietor from 1970-73. It finally moved to 1212 Union Ave. in 1974, and stayed there until 2008. Between 1974-78, Charlie Culmer was president, John Culmer was v-pres., and Robert Culmer, sec-tres. Around the end of the 1970s, a provincial language law required that all shop signs be in French only, so they started to use the company name La Maison du Stylo Peel along with Peel Pen Shop. In 1987 John and Dolores Culmer retained the English name, the repair business, and all the repair parts, and moved the shop to 140 Fullarton St., London, Ontario. Charlie passed away in 1994, and Yvette retained the business along with her son Robert, who eventually took over the operation in Montreal until it went out of business at the end of 2008. The London store is still listed as “in business” on Google Earth, but it went out of business about 2006. John still has an active website, though, “Peel Pen Shop”, and he still sells and repairs pens there.
“One thing that’s often left out of the business directories is the wives and their involvement in the businesses of their husbands, but I found this info in their “About Us” page, and have gone back to insert the wives here and correct this post.
“Around 1979, I visited the Montreal shop a few times and bought a non-spill inkwell, and had great fun looking at all the stuff. I also ate a lot of Montreal smoked meat on St. Laurent, fresh and hot every day. Here’s a copy of the Peel Pen business card with both company names.”
Derek Lepper wrote, “As you may know, before the Second World War Charles Culmer worked at the Waterman’s factory in St. Lambert, Quebec. After the war he went to Los Angeles and started the Western Pen Company with his brother-in-law Harry Martin, who had also been a Waterman’s employee. In 1954 they returned to Montreal and opened the first Peel Pen Shop.”
And I wrote, “No, I didn’t know. Thanks for all that information, Derek. Do you have specific dates for when all this happened? And do you know more about the Western Pen Company? Did they make fountain pens, or was it a pen repair shop? And was Harry Martin involved with the first Peel Pen Shop?
“Antonios found an article about Peel Pen on Watch Time, although you’ll need to log in, and posted the link in a similar thread on FPN. The author of the article got the address of the shop and the year of the Waterman’s Ripple pen wrong, but there is some extra info about the Western Pen Co. Apparently it started out as a pen repair shop, but they later made a try at making their own pen. The costly production run, however, was doomed by a manufacturing flaw, and Charlie came back to Montreal with his wife.”
Derek wrote, “I knew Charlie & Yvette quite well and met them frequently during the 1980’s. I also photographed them and their shop. There did not seem to be any remaining Western Pen Co. items. Charlie was in the pen business way before pen collecting became popular. When I told him that I collected old pens he was amused and surprised. He initially viewed collecting as a quirky hobby. He would often laugh when I told him about current values of old pens. As the collecting fraternity grew, he certainly had an interest in what was happening.
“Charlie had a collection of some favourites he kept, mostly Waterman’s I’d say but I never heard of a pen from his Los Angeles manufacturing venture. The Western Pen Company was located in west LA, out towards Santa Monica. Coincidentally, in the early 1970’s I bought a small box of old junk from a pen/stationery shop/factory in West Los Angeles. There was a complete red Duofold flat-top senior in the box, but the rest was unexciting and mostly parts. The man I bought it from said that they had evolved out of the fountain pen business, and in the back, they were assembling ballpoints.”
And I wrote, “Thanks for all that new information, Derek, but do you really think I am going to let you get away that easily? How about showing us some of the photographs of Charlie & Yvette and their shop in the 1980’s? It’s understandable why they did not retain any artifacts and reminders of the Western Pen Company. It was probably a bitter memory. And what was the name of the pen shop and factory in West Los Angeles where you bought that box of old junk pens? Everyone who sticks to collecting pens long enough eventually gets to be a someguy, once in a while.”
Derek wrote, “Here’s a photograph of the Culmers in their shop in Montreal, November 1993. And a second picture. I honestly cannot remember the name of the place in LA. It was one of those single story narrow buildings with a small service-retail door and window front. Not on a shopping street strip, but it must have had a sign, or name advertising stationery and pens.”
And I wrote, “Wow! thanks for the photos, Derek. That was a great little shop. What a shame that it’s all gone. I was only there a few times, but it’s all coming back to me. I seem to recall that there is even more of the same on the wall behind you, the photographer. I also remember being almost overwhelmed by all the things to look at in there, the first time I walked in. Thanks for preserving it all on film.”