In 1964, Pentel founder Yukio Horie traveled to the U.S. with a backpack full of pens and a mission: to personally introduce his products through massive sampling. The following year, then U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed his State of the Union Address with a Pentel Sign Pen, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That watershed moment in 1965 came as Pentel opened its first overseas subsidiary outside Japan in Chicago. Pentel of America still holds an office in the Windy City more than 50 years later, but its headquarters has been in Torrance, California since 1968.
“We relied so much on imports from Japan at that time. That’s why we made the move. California is closer to Japan. Communication is easier. Logistics are easier,” explained Pentel of America President Chotaro Koumi.
Accounting for around 30 percent of total global sales last year, Pentel of America topped the sales of the entire company, including that of its headquarters in Japan.
Koumi is also proud of how much the company has been able to localize.
“Most of the customers I talk to don’t know that we are Japanese. They think we are an American company, which is good,” he said.
While its pencil leads and erasers dominate market share in the country, Pentel of America continues to be innovative in the pen category, with its revolutionary flagship EnerGel line becoming a bestseller. In recent years, Pentel of America has seen its EnerGel pens become one of the leaders in its category, an achievement that brings pride to the company.
“We are not the biggest player in the field because there are giants that own so many brands. But we are really well known as the quality products supplier, from writing materials to art materials and everything else in between,” Koumi said.