Category Archives: Pipe Shop Visits

A Surprise Discovered on a recent trip to Palm Springs – Palm Desert Tobacco


Blog by Steve Laug

Our four daughters gifted my wife Irene and I a trip to Palm Springs, California, US for our fortieth wedding anniversary mid-July. Little did we know that Palm Springs in July is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit – dry and hot. We flew into Palm Springs and stayed in Indio. We managed to arrange our days to do most of our shopping and hunting in the mornings to avoid the heat of the day. It was a great trip and an amazing time of celebration together. One of the days we drove to Palm Desert, a community between Palm Springs and Indio. We went through thrift shops, antique stores and department stores looking for pipes and tobacciana as well as gifts for our kids. As we drove through the main part of town I saw a sign on the left corner that said Palm Desert Tobacco. It was located at 73580 El Paseo in Palm Desert. I noted it and planned to go back a few days later.

When I got back to the condo we were staying at I looked up their website on my iPad. The link is: http://www.palmdeserttobacco.com/our-story.html. I read their history and have summarized it below. I have clipped portions of it here.

 

The Bruning family have been full service tobacconists selling the finest tobacco products and accessories in Southern California since 1969. Brothers Bert and Jack have operated Palm Desert Tobacco… in the Greater Palm Springs Area since 1983. Bert is a past president of the Tobacconist Association of America as well as a former board member of the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America…Originally, (the) locally owned and operated company was in San Diego, and…moved to Palm Desert in 1983…”Business has blossomed as we continue to seek out the finest in tobacco products and to offer great service to our customers.”

After spending time on their website I was more convince than ever to make sure I visited the shop before returning to Canada.

We did all of our other shopping and looking about and the day came for my visit to the shop. I was excited to see what it was like. We drove down El Paseo and found a parking place down the street from the shop. It was a hot day in Palm Desert – over 120ºF. I stopped outside the shop and took some photos of the exterior. The heat in the air was almost palpable and it was hard to get a focused photo from across the street. I love the looks of tobacco shops and over the years during my travels I have collected photos of the shops. I apologize for the blurriness of the first photo.PD1I crossed the street and took a closer picture of the front and the cigar store Indian standing on the corner. The lettering on the store sign appears to be out of focus but it is not – what you are seeing is the shadow of the letters on the wall behind the sign.PD2Passing through the doors into the air-conditioned interior was like stepping back into time in some ways. The aromas and sight of the old time tobacco shop were immediately present. In the back was a humidor with large variety of top cigar brands that the website says include Davidoff, Arturo Fuente, Opus X, Tatuaje, Illusione, La Flor Dominicana, Aging Room, Casa Magna Domus Magnus Montecristo, Royal Butera Vintage, Padron, Griffin, Ashton, and Diamond Crown. On the left was a relaxing smoking lounge that is available to members as well as those who purchase products that meet the minimum value. It was well set up with couches and chairs and was filled with smokers. On my right as I entered the door there was rack with their bulk pipe tobacco selections and an assortment of various tinned blends. Of course I stopped there to have a look.

Walking into the shop the floor held many display cases with pipes, racks, lighters as well as cigar cutters, lighters and humidors. I took a few photos to give you an idea of the layout and the look of the displays within the shop. Somehow I missed the display case with the estate and new pipes. I was enamored examining the selection so I neglected to take some photos of that part of the shop. There were Dunhills, Comoys, GBDs, Sasienis, Charatans, Barlings, Petersons, Savinellis, Rossis, Amorellis, Vipratis, Mastro de Pajas, Castellos, Ascortis, Radices, Rattrays, Ser Jacopos, Stokkebyes, Bjarnes, Nordings, WO Larsens, Stanwells, Bentleys, Neerups, Chacoms, Butz-Choquins, Tom Eltangs as well as some American made pipes like those by Icarus and Briarworks. You can see why I got lost looking at the huge variety of pipes spilling over the shelves of display cases and on the wall behind the case. I went through some of the estate pipes and looked at GBDs and Comoys shapes that I had not seen before. They were beautifully restored by Bert. Excellent workmanship.PD3I made my way finally to the cash register. I did not want to make Irene wait for me to sit and have a bowl so I settled my account. At the cash out counter there were lots of interesting things as well. There was a rack of pipe obviously belonging to the brothers, pipe cleaners, lighters for pipes and cigars, and pipe and cigar tools. I could have stood looking for hours at the photos of famous customers lining the walls. It was a great shop with the air of an old time tobacco shop. PD4I took a photo of my purchases – they were put in a Palm Desert Tobacco shopping bag and the clerk threw in some wooden matches and a business card. I picked up two issues of Pipes and Tobacco Magazine (I found out later that one of them had an article on the very shop that I was visiting). I bought two bags of pipe cleaners, a tin of Balkan Sobranie and a 100 gram pouch of Crown Achievement.PD5

Since coming home I have read the magazines, used the pipe cleaners and begun to enjoy the pouch of tobacco. I have to say, if you are ever in Palm Desert, the Palm Desert Tobacco Shop is well worth a visit.

A Lovely Little Pipe Shop in Sidney, British Columbia – J. Burke & Sons Tobacconist Ltd.


Blog by Steve Laug

A few years ago I literally stumbled upon a small unassuming little tobacco shop on Vancouver Island. I was on my way to some meetings in Victoria and stopped in Sidney, B.C. for breakfast and a bit of a walk. I parked on the street in front of this shop, turned off the engine on the car and got out. I looked up and saw this sign directly above my head on the shop in front of me. If that was not a serendipitous find I don’t know what is. My expectations were not very high in that most of the tobacco shops/smoke shops in B.C. are quasi head shops since the government has turned a blind eye to marijuana. The walls are almost all lined with bongs and water pipes and assorted blown glass and small wooden pot and hash pipes. So I was not expecting much more than I always found in the small villages and towns of B.C.Burke1Burke2

However, next to the window of the shop stood a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman holding a box of cigars in one gloved hand and a package of cigars in the other hand. On the base he stood on were the words “Finest Havanas” under the name of the shop. Hmm… maybe there was more to this shop than I had first expected. The Mountie stood to the left of a store window that held a display of pipes, racks and smoking items. As I looked through the window I thought that things were really looking up. I shook myself and pushed (or was it pulled) the front door open and checked out the inside of the shop from the doorway.

Inside the shop on my left as I went through the door was a display of corn cobs high on the wall above a framed print of a little boy dressed up like his dad and smoking a pipe. He held a smouldering match in his left hand and his right hand-held a long ceramic pipe in his mouth. To my right were a display case with pipes and a rack with some estate pipes. I could also see the backside of the window display. As I went deeper into the shop there was a long display case of the usual B.C. blown glass, ceramic and wooden carved pot pipes along with some bongs and hookahs but that was it. Past that my eye took in a multitude of pipe display cases, old wooden chairs with an ash tray and a wall of tobacco products. Toward the back against the walls were some well stocked humidors of cigars.
Burke3The display case next to the counter held Peterson pipes, including a set of Sherlock Holmes pipes. The shelves were crowded with pipe rests and racks and toward the bottom an assortment of lighters. There was even a unique cigar cutter that was surrounded by small guillotine cigar cutters.Burke4In the back of the shop was a display case of Zippo lighters underneath a large screen television with hockey playing. Next to that was a case with Brigham pipes, meerschaum pipes and a handmade display tray that held various brands of pipes. Next to that were a display of Colibri lighters and a rack of Cubita Cuban coffee. Sitting in front of an old humidor with cigars were two old chairs next to an ashtray. The first time I came into the shop there were several guys occupying those chairs enjoying a pipe and cigar. They were chatting with the owner Josh Burke. I was amazed to see folks enjoying a pipe and cigar while sitting in a shop and commented to Josh about it. He laughed and basically said “there is no one here smoking anything.” Burke5Directly across from the chairs was a display case of knives and behind it a cupboard of bulk bags of tobacco and shelves of cigarettes and cigarillos. The shop smelled like an old-time tobacco shop. The smells of smoked and unsmoked tobacco filled the room. There was the mixture of Virginias, Latakias and cigars that gave the shop that amazing odor that I have always associated with tobacco shops and by and large has been lost with all of the new regulations. I was hooked. Each time I am on the island I stop by for a visit and pick up some tobacco. Burke6 Burke7As you walk back toward the door, past the display case of Petersons and the sales counter you see a wall of tobacco products. There are tins of Dunhill, Peterson, MacBaren, Brigham, Solani and other tobaccos that Josh carries. Underneath them are many jars of bulk tobacco sorted by blend – English, Balkan, Virginia, Virginia Perique and a wide assortment of aromatics with flavours that sound like a candy or ice cream shop. There are flake and ribbon tobaccos and broken flake as well. Included on the lower shelves were containers of cigarette tobacco for the roll your own smoker. The wall is covered with options for the pipe smoker. The only detriment to purchasing a lot of tins or bulk is the crazy Canadian cost – $31 for 50 grams of bulk pipe tobacco and between $35 and $45 for tins. Though the prices are high to those of you who are reading who come from the US, the fact is that they are quite good for Canada. I picked up a tin of Capstan yesterday when I was there and it was $45. (Forgive the blurry picture. I debated on whether to include it but it still gives you an idea of the wall of options.) The second photo below shows the back of Josh the owner as he is finishing a sale with a customer.Burke8 Burke9It is always a pleasure to stop by the shop in Sidney and pass some time with Josh. He is a knowledgeable pipe smoker himself and is great to visit with. You should make sure you stop by for a visit the next time you visit the island. The shop is on the right side of the main street in Sidney. There is parking behind and on the street in front of the shop. You won’t be disappointed by you decision to stop by for a visit. The shop is located at 2423 Beacon Ave #105 and the phone number is (250) 655-1556.

Will it still be there next time: Memories of the Pipetorium in Budapest Hungary


Blog by Steve Laug

When I got opportunity to return to Budapest for work I was excited to revisit several of the pipe shops that I had “found” the last time I was there in October 2010. By far the one that I wanted to visit the most was the one where the owner and I had communicated through broken English and lots of gestures. I had come away with a Hungarian made pipe and some good tobaccos to sample. To me it was the epitome of the old European Tobacco Shop. It was small and packed with all kinds of pipes and pipe accessories. The back walls behind the counter were packed with tins and pouches of tobaccos and pipe cleaners and tampers and… the list could go on. Everything one needed for smoking – pipes, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, even books for teaching how to use your pipe lined the shelves. The owner was a hobbitlike fellow that obviously enjoyed his shop and had a keen eye for all things pipe. If you could not figure out what you needed he was a master at it. Along the walls and in the display window were pieces of pipe history from a far removed time period that gave you a glimpse of the way things once were. It was the oldest independent pipe shop in Hungary founded in 1933 and still in operation when I was there in 2010. It was located at József krt. 38, Budapest, Hungary 1085 and was open from 10am to 6pm during the week. My hope was that the shop would still be there.

I arrived in Budapest and worked hard all week until Friday afternoon. Finally I had time to go and check out the Pipetorium. One of my Hungarian colleagues, who is also a pipe smoker was working with me and I asked him if the shop still existed. He said of course – it was his favourite pipe shop. It turned out to be a short walk from where our meetings were held. I could not wait to get to the shop and this time I was armed with my own Hungarian interpreter so we would have a great visit. For me this shop will always be a sweet memory to me of my last visit to Budapest. As we walked along I kept pestering my friend with questions about the shop and the owner. I had already had the disappointment of visiting the Galwitz Pipe Shop and seeing that the memories I had of that shop dashed as it was a mere shell of its previous glory. I was hoping that the unique little shop with its hobbit like shop keeper had not changed. The following three photos are pictures of what the shop looked like the last time I visited Budapest.

The building was cut stone and the arched doorway had the words Dohanybolt over the door. There was an awning that had flowers and copper tiles. When I had been there the first time in October 2010 the awning looked as it is in the first photo below. Before I left Budapest I went back for a visit and it was more like the second photo but still had the garland of flowers. The door itself occupied the right side of the archway and had the words PIPA painted on the glass. The left side of the archway was a display window that I spoke of above. There were pipes and racks, old tins and pouches and pipes from days gone by that I had never seen the likes of. There were old meerschaum and briars and decorative tins and jars of tobacco that no longer was sold. To the left side of the door on there was a rich red sign with a pipe in an oval that had the words Pipetorium across the bottom.Pipetorium3

Pipetorium1

Pipetorium4 Above the Pipetorium sign on the wall was an elaborate sign that stood out from the wall on wrought iron braces. It was in Hungarian but left little doubt as to its meaning. The pipe in the middle made it clear that it was a pipe shop and the date at the bottom made clear the date it had been established. To me that sign became the singular memory that stuck in my mind of the outside of the shop. I was hoping it would still be there. My friend would not confirm that it was still there. All he said was that the owner had been going through a lot of struggles with is shop in light of the new laws regarding the sale of tobacco and the signage and frontage of tobacco shops. That made me wonder all the more as I had already visited several of the government sanitized shops and I was hoping that somehow this landmark spot for me still existed.Pipetorium2Pipetorium5 We turned the corner on József krt came to the location of the shop. I was surprised. If I had come by myself hunting for the shop I would easily have walked right by without knowing that I had missed it. All of the unique, classic pipe signage was gone. The circular pipe sign and the rich red Pipetorium sign had been removed and in their place was the circular government tobacco shop sign. The display window to the left of the door and the window on the door itself had been painted over. The front of the shop looked like the photo below.Pipetorium6I don’t know about you but the sanitized look was lacking all of the previous charm of the original shop. From the outside there was no reason to believe that the shop of my memories was still there. Everything I loved about the curb appeal of the place had been removed and in its place was this cold sanitized looking frontage. Even the awning had been removed and in its place above the door a motorized metal shutter had been installed so that when the shop was closed even the door disappeared and in its place was a steel door that made the place not only “safe” in the eyes of the government but also made it disappear. I just paused and shook my head trying to fathom the loss of another of my memories. All that I had been hoping for was shaken. I wondered what was behind the door. My friend just looked at me pushed open the door so we could enter.

Honestly, I was expecting the worst. Would the inside of the shop be but a memory of my last visit, like the Gallwitz shop? Would the sanitizing hand of governmental bureaucracy have even stripped away the inside of the shop too? I was not sure. The painted windows and door had darkened the inside but thankfully the rest of the shop remained much the same. I breathed a sigh of relief as my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior of what had once been a bright hobbit hole of a shop. I looked at the wall to the right of the counter – yes, it still had the display cases packed full of pipes. I looked at the one to the right and saw that the shelves of older pipes and museum like pieces were still present.

The hobbitlike owner who I had met previously still sat behind his counter. The difference this time is that I had a Hungarian with me so we could actually visit. The previous time we had managed with few words. This time we visited and talked about the state of his shop. He told me that he was saddened by the changes that had been forced upon him by the government regulations. He said that he was still surviving. I shared with him my memories of the way the shop had looked when I had been there previously and the special place it occupied in my mind from that first visit. I could tell that he too missed those days. Sitting in the darkened shop with none of the charm that drew people like me into it interior must have been very difficult. There was really nothing on the outside that said it was a pipe shop. He told me he had expanded onto the web and sold pipes and accessories there and that helped him keep the shop open. He was manufacturing pipe cleaners now so I purchased some pipe some of them to replenish my supply and I added some tobaccos to pass on to friends when I got home. before leaving the shop.Pipetorium1

Pipetorium2

As I made my way back to the door and out to city beyond I took another look around at the interior of the shop. I took in the displays of pipes and tobaccos and wondered if this would be the last time I came to this shop. If things continued as they had in the previous five years then who could truly say if the marvelous Pipetorium would be here the next time I came to Budapest. Time would tell.

Goodfellas Cigar Shop – Visiting a Victoria Pipe & Cigar Shop


goodfellascigar shop logo This past weekend my wife, eldest daughter and I visited Victoria, British Columbia. On such visits in the past I had always stopped by the Old Morris Tobacconist Shop to pay homage to this long standing icon to old time tobacco shops. The last few times I had been there though I was very disappointed at how the shop had become a mere shell of its past and had turned into a high end gift shop. It was quite sad. This time I had no intention of visiting the shop and feeding that disappointment some more. Something new had to be found to replace that stop.

I did a bit of research on the web and through friends and decided to visit Goodfellas Cigar Shop which was quite literally not far from the Old Morris Shop. I had heard good things about the shop and had been told that they carried pipe tobacco and a few pipes. I found out that they had two shops in Victoria and since I was downtown I decided to visit the downtown shop on Store Street. I had no idea what to expect when I got to the place in spite of spending some time on the website looking at photos. My past experience with cigar shops has always been that pipes were a mere after thought and not a big part of the store. The website did show that at least Goodfellas carried a wide range of tobacco blends – both tinned and house bulk blends.I was excited to see if they aslo had a similar range of pipes for sale. goodfellas cigar store panarama My wife and daughter went to do a bit of shopping and I headed to Goodfellas. When I opened the door the bell sounded to let the proprietor know I was there. I looked around the shop and got a quick look at what was available. There was a wall of tinned tobacco behind the counter that had blends by McClellands, and those bearing the Petersons, Solani, Dunhill, Erinmore, Reiner, Davidoff labels. The tinned blends were mainly Virgina, Virginia-Perique, Balkan and English. There were also several shelves of jarred tobacco that housed bulk blends by Lane and McClelland and had a wide range of aromatics and a few English and straight Virginias. There were humidors of cigars on several walls that had a wide selection. There were personal humidors and humidor supplies for the individual humidor. There were also several display cases of pipes including Petersons, Stanwells, Dunhill and Chacom. The selection appeared to be quite wide. GF interior2 There was one staff member, James, on site at that time and he was helping several people who were buying cigars and cigarettes. He seemed knowledgeable of the cigars that the shop carried and genuinely interested in serving the customers. I did a quick walk through the small corner shop taking in the sights. I asked some pipe questions when the opportunity arose. My questions were all designed to assess whether I was talking to a cigar man or a pipe man. To my delight he was a pipe man. Not only was he knowledgable about pipes and tobaccos but he smoked a pipe and an occasional cigar not the other way around.

To say that I was impressed is to put it mildly. This was truly a tobacconist and not a gift shop. They had all of the necessary pipe and cigar paraphernalia and a few glass pipes. I walked through looking at the pipes that were offered and found some nice ones. I asked about the Dunhill’s that they had advertized and was told that they had had problems with the display case being broken into and Dunhill items being stolen so they had put them away for the time being. The Petersons, Stanwells, Chacom pipes that they carried were in glass topped display cases that were well lit and nicely arranged. Pipe tampers, lighters, pipe cases etc. were all on display and accessible for the shopper. The same was true of the cigar cutters, punches and travel cases and humidors. There was a wide range of both pipe and cigar items available for purchase.

The next two photos show the Royal Oaks Store. They have a large walk in humidor and did have a smoking area at that location until health authorities ordered its closure. I have that one on the list to visit next time I am over in Victoria. GF Shop When I googled the shop on line, I enjoyed reading through the descriptions of the house blends of tobacco that they sold in bulk. I thought it would be good to put a list of their bulk blends in this article. GF Tobacs GF Tobacs2 I picked up some of the House Tobacco Sunday Morning – it was billed as a crossover blend between English and Aromatic tobaccos. It contains Cyprian Latakia balanced with a light aromatic tobacco. The blend smelled good and when I smoked it my wife commented on the room note. I also smoked a bowl on my front porch and a fellow commented as he walked by about how good it smelled. It is a bit too aromatic for my usual smoke but it is a good smoke to fire up with non-smoking company. The smell of the burning tobacco brings good comments from those passing by and seems to bring back memories of fathers, grandfathers and good friends who smoked pipes. IMG_2014 Here is the contact information and addresses for both of the Goodfellas Cigar Shop locations. If you are ever in Victoria, BC I would encourage you to stop by for a visit and enjoy the conversation and the atmosphere of a great shop. Thank you Goodfellas for keeping the tobacconist tradition alive. GF interior GF Addresses

A Visit Back in Time – The Fairhaven Smoke Shop, Bellingham, Washington


Fairhaven
I have lived in the Vancouver, British Columbia Region of Canada for over 25 years and early on I used to travel down to the Fairhaven Smoke Shop in Bellingham’s Fairhaven District. The old owner used to be a Viet Nam War Veteran who I enjoyed visiting with and jawing while we smoked a pipe. His shop was crammed to the roof with pipes and tobacco. It was the real deal in terms of old pipe shops. I still remember the first time I walked in the door. The shop is not very big as can be seen in the photos below but it is a pleasure to visit. In those days you could still smoke in shop so the owner would be sitting in a corner near the window at the front puffing away on a pipe with a fog of blue smoke around his head. The Fairhaven Smoke Shop has been open in Bellingham since 1985 so that is about 29 years now – contrary to the website that says it is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Fairhaven1
I don’t remember when the turn over happened but one day I went in and a new face was behind the counter. The old veteran had sold the shop with all its contents to a young man who wanted to make the business grow. Mike took over and over the years the shop has grown. In fact Mike since then Mike has opened a second shop called the Senate Smoke Shop in Bellingham. I wrote about my visit to the shop and did a brief review of it already on the blog. The Fairhaven Shop was the mother ship. https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/a-new-smoke-shop-in-bellingham-washington-the-senate-smoke-shop/

I think that the amazing thing to me is the amount of stock and tobaccos that the small shop packs into such a small space. On the back wall behind the counter and in the display case is a large selection of pipes – briars, meerschaums and corn cobs.
Fairhaven2

Fairhaven3
There is also a large selection of tobaccos that can be purchased – both bulk house blends and tins and pouches. Mike carries some bulk blends that are readily recognizable – McClellands and Stokkebyes as well as some blends that are house blends of both of his shops. I for one love the open jars that are readily accessible for taking a whiff before purchasing. The tins and pouches are not behind locked doors. The shop really has the feel of an old time pipe and tobacco shop. When you have chosen your blend of tobacco you take the jar to the counter and Mike or his staff weighs out the amount you need and bags and labels it.
Fairhaven4
The shop also carries a great selection of cigars. These are stored in humidors lining one side of the shop. Fairhaven is the Alaska cruise ship terminal so many of its customers buy cigars to take on the cruise or to celebrate their return. There are old style shop ladders on the sides to access some of the accessories on the shelves around the ceiling of the shop.
Fairhaven5

Fairhaven6
Over a series of reproduction Van Gogh’s there are shelves of cigarettes, both typical American brands and specialty and European brands as well. On the bottom shelf there is also a large selection of lighters and even Swan Vesta matches for those of us who love using these old English brand matches to light our pipes.
Fairhaven7
Their website states that the goal of the shop is to provide the largest selection of premium tobacco products to its customers. I think if you look through the photos in this article you will agree that they have achieved their goals. In speaking with Mike he stated that he is always on the lookout for new blends to bring into the shop and new pipe brands as well. One of the great things about the shop is that they have a fairly large selection of estate pipes in various degrees of repair. There is something for the hobbyist refurbisher of what ever skill level to choose from and restore. There are great options there for even the person considering trying their hand at cleaning up estate pipes. Just ask Mike or one of his sales staff about them. When I was there they climbed the ladder and brought down several boxes of estate pipes. Well worth asking.
Fairhaven9
It astounds me that in the anti-smoking atmosphere of Washington state that Mike has been able not only to maintain one tobacco shop but to open a second shop in Bellingham’s downtown. If you have never stopped by for a visit I would encourage you to do so. If you have been hankering for a walk down memory lane – memories of old style tobacco shops then visit the Fairhaven Smoke Shop. Say hi to Mike if you do and let him know you read about the shop on rebornpipes!

The hours of operation are Monday – Saturday: 10:00 – 8:00 and Sunday: 11:00 – 7:00. The website gives directions which I have included herein their own words. I love the closing lines of the directions.

“We’re located close to I-5’s Exit 250 (Old Fairhaven Parkway). Travel west on Old Fairhaven Parkway about one mile after the exit. Turn right onto 12th Street. We’re located about two blocks further north on the intersection of 12th & Harris Avenue, look for the large brick building on the southeast corner of the intersection. We’re on the ground floor.

We do not ship tobacco products. It’s illegal in Washington State.

We are a tobacco-only establishment. No herbs, incenses, bath salts, K2, or salvia.”

To contact the shop you can call (360) 647-2379 or email mike@fairhavensmokes.com or you can visit their website http://www.fairhavensmokes.com/index.html. The photos for this article are taken from the site.
fairhaven8

Experiencing a New Smoke Shop in Bellingham, Washington – The Senate Smoke Shop


Blog by Steve Laug

For many years now I have been making the trek from Vancouver, British Columbia into the US to Bellingham, Washington to visit a pipe shop in old Bellingham, a place called Fairhaven. The shop is called the Fairhaven Smoke Shop and is located at 1200 Harris Avenue Suite 100 Bellingham, Washington. When I first started visiting shop 15-18 years ago it was operated be an older gent who seemed like he could have cared less if he had customers, but he had a huge assortment of estate pipes and some great older tobaccos. I got to know him over the years and enjoyed his company. About 8 years ago a young fellow – mid 20’s bought the shop and took over. I had visions of it becoming yet another head shop! But you got to give him credit. He kept it as a pipe and tobacco shop (mind you he added the typical glass pipes and hookahs). He upgraded the shop layout and look, added new pipes and tobaccos and continued in the tradition of a pipe shop. He set up a web presence at http://fairhavensmokes.com/ I really expected the place to shrivel up and disappear in the anti-smoking environment of Washington State. But instead it seems to have done well.

On Saturday I made the trip to Bellingham once again. I really was hoping to get a side trip over to Fairhaven but we did not have time to visit the shop on this trip. My wife and I brought along two of our daughters for the day. Whenever we are in Bellingham my wife and I always visit a little coffee and donut shop on Holly St. called Rocket Donuts so we wanted to show it to the girls. As we made our way to the shop my youngest daughter pointed up the street to a sign that said The Senate Tobacconist and Smoke Shop. I have walked down that street for over 20 years and I had never seen that shop. You know how sometimes you wonder if you missed seeing something because you were focused on other things? That is what crossed my mind when she pointed out the shop. My wife and the girls went in for coffee and donuts but needless to say, I had to go check out the shop.

In a world in which more and more head shops with glass pipes, bongs and the like are replacing the old bona fide tobacconist shops I had really low expectations about this shop. I walked up the street toward it and paused to read the sandwich board on the street. As yet I had not looked in the window. I have to say the sign had elements of both hopefulness and resignation in its words – hopeful: tobacco at the top of the list, and cigars – resignation: herbs and glassware. Before getting to the shop I had already made up my mind as to what I could expect when I entered. Glassware! Herbs! Sheesh, it was almost like experiencing again what I had experienced when the Tinderbox Tobacco Shops became glorified gift shops that also sold tobacco and cigars. So was this going to be a head shop that also sold a few cigars and some tobacco? I tell you what, I almost turned and went back to the coffee and donuts. I really did not want yet another disappointment.

Senate23

But my curiosity got the better of me and I shrugged my shoulders and went over to the window and looked in. I fully expected a typical smoke shop/paraphernalia shop but what I saw was not that. I could not believe my eyes. The glassware was not that visible and what I saw through the window was a pipeman’s feast – lots of display cases with pipes and tins and jars of bulk tobacco front and center. Then in the back, away from the window were bookcase style humidors with many cigar choices. Off to the side in the corner was the collection of glassware. To be honest I never went over to that corner to have a look. It is truly amazing in this day and age to see a shop like this in my neck of the woods. This was a fully-fledged tobacconist!

Senate26

Senate29

Senate19

Senate15

I opened the door and went in. I laugh now, but I must have looked like a kid in a candy shop. I eyed the open topped display case of tins and pouches of tobacco for sale on my left. I looked at the brands of tobacco that were carried and available and was pleased to see many of my favourite blends. I proceeded down the display counters on the left and looked at pipes – Vauen, Peterson, Ascorti, Big Ben, Stanwell, Butz-Choquin and others beautifully laid out for the buyer to see. There were both briars and meerschaums of every shape and size and price range. The display cases were well lit and the pipes were well displayed. It was a briar feast for the eyes. I only wish I had had more time to look things over more carefully. I walked past the cash register and the Three Brass Monkeys on display in front of it, past the tobacco scales on the counter to have a look at the bulk tobacco selections. There was an unbelievable array of blends – Aromatics, Virginias, English and some straight blending tobaccos – Latakia and Perique. There were even some cigarette cut tobacco. I went through the well labeled Virginia, Virginia Perique and English blends and took each lid off to have a good sniff of the blend in the jars. I skipped over the aromatics – chocolate, raspberry, cherry, vanilla, mocha, caramel and other mixtures with edible names as it has been a long time since I smoked them. I could easily have spent more time going through the many blends that were carried by the shop. As I was only in Bellingham for one day I could only purchase a 100 gram pouch and hope to not get dinged with duty at the border. But I would be back!

Senate24

senate2

Senate18

I wandered through the cigar humidor sections – I loved the cherry wood cabinets that each housed cedar lined walls and shelves and a humidor unit so that each glass doored cabinet was a sealed unit. The only thing missing that I could see were the Cubans that we have in Canada. There were all kinds of cigars and all kinds of sizes. I am pretty cigar ignorant but the selection seemed to cover a wide range of country of origin, price, blend and style.

Senate14

Senate11

Senate12

Senate13

I went back to the bulk tobaccos and picked the blend I had chosen, a Dark English – Virginias, Stoved Virginias, Latakia, Orientals and Perique and carried the jar to the scale to have the proprietor weigh it out and bag it up for me. To my surprise the gent behind the counter was the same fellow who had purchased the old Fairhaven Shop, now eight years older. He recognized me and remembered our first meeting many years earlier when he had given me two tins of Erinmore Flake on a visit I made to the shop. I asked him how that shop was doing and he said it was doing well. I asked him when he had opened the Senate and why. He responded that he had always wanted a shop in this area and had opened the doors four months earlier. Business was doing well and he loved the new location. We had a great visit and I asked him about several tobaccos that he did not have. He said he would order them in. I paid for my tobacco and a couple of bundles of pipe cleaners before I headed out the door. I am looking forward to another longer visit soon.

Senate25

If you find yourself in the Bellingham area, I would heartily recommend that you stop by the shop and have a visit. The shop is called the Senate and is located at 215 West Holly Street, Suite H-20. The phone number is 360-756-7552. It has a great selection of pipes and cigars as well as house blends and tinned tobacco to purchase. The proprietor Mike Waters is a great guy – personable, knowledgeable and genuinely interested in serving the pipe and cigar smoking public. Stop by and say hi. In this anti-smoking state of Washington in the anti-smoking climate of our world it was great to see a new tobacco shop open its doors. It was encouraging to see this young fellow doing well enough in his first shop to open this second one. The store will have a web presence soon as the shop website, http://www.senatecigar.com is under development. Check it often as Mike says that the full site will be open soon. Who knows we may run into each other at the shop. Until then enjoy your pipe!

Senate

Steve Laug
06/17/13

A Great Visit to Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist Edmonton, Alberta


I just returned from a long work related trip to the province of Alberta. My trip began in Edmonton, Alberta, the provincial capitol city. While I was there I planned to make a trip over to the Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist shop. Whyte Avenue is in an older part of Edmonton and has a lot of very interesting old shops, pubs and restaurants. My plan was to spend some time visiting the shop and having a look at their wares and their tobacco blends. I had looked at their website http://www.tobacconist.ca/ and had found some intriguing sounding blends of tobacco that I wanted to see and smell. Their website has some great photos. The first picture below shows the interior of the shop from the front door.
BW1
One click on the menu bar shows the tobacco menu of the house blends that shop carries. I have included a picture of the menu below for your viewing. This is unique in my experience of online pipe websites in Canada. I have found that generally tobacconists are not allowed to list their tobaccos and give details for the tobacco blends, so I was pleasantly surprised with this extensive list. Burlington on Whyte still gives an extended list of the blends and the basic components in each one. I have to say that for a Canadian pipe shop this is quite an impressive menu.
menu_updated
It was these two things – the look of the shop and the list of tobaccos – that intrigued me enough to add a visit to the shop to my itinerary.

So on a sunny afternoon I found myself free. All of my work meetings and appointments were over for the day. So my daughter and I took a trip over to Whyte Avenue. According to the website the shop is located at 10468 – 82nd Avenue just off of Whyte Avenue. I input that data into my iPhone GPS and headed out to find the place. I found curbside parking about a block away from the shop. I knew it was ahead of me by the GPS coordinates and the addresses on the buildings but had yet to see it. The next photo shows the exterior of the shop – its curbside view that I saw as I walked up the street to it. The yellow/butterscotch stucco and the red awning give it a bit of a California appearance. It was not at all what I was expecting to see when I walked up. In my mind it was a very different place than what was in front of me. The window display included pipes, posters, photos and tobacco. A bonus was the smell of pipe smoke in the air around the shop. The gentleman in the photo was smoking a nice Virginia in what appeared to be a small Dunhill billiard. He was sipping coffee and smoking while have a conversation with a friend. They were so engaged in their talk that we slipped by them without any notice. The doorway to the shop is on the right side of the photo and enters the interior at an angle.
IMG_0299
Upon entering the shop a pipeman’s dream unfolded before my eyes. The next photo shows what I saw. Down the right side of the store there were a variety of displays of pipes of many shapes and brands. These were held in both display cases and on wall mounts. Each display was well lit and easily accessible for a shopper to view and fondle. There was also a small humidor just inside the door that housed a small selection of Cuban cigars. I also noticed in the back of the shop a larger walk in humidor. Not being a cigar aficionado I did not make it back to the humidor. I was immediately preoccupied with the pipe displays.

However, the website has a great photo of the inside of the humidor. I have included that picture for those of you who enjoy a good cigar. The humidor certainly is well stocked with a wide range of cigars.
noncuban
The website labels this photo as the non-Cuban cigars. While I am not certain of that I do see there that the shop carries a wide range of Cuban, Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran cigars. This range of cigar brands and labels will provide something for every cigar smoker. I think that the next time I am in Edmonton I will have spend some time in the humidor and see what is available. But this time around I was there for a pipe visit.

I continued to look over the display cases on the right side of the shop and part of the left side as well and saw a wide range of smoking accessories – humidors of all shapes and sizes, lighters of various makes and prices, pipe bags, cigar cases, cigar cutters and the like. The variety of choices offered is quite impressive. I was not in the market for any of the items but had I been they would have been able to deliver. Burlington on Whyte is the exclusive Dunhill retailer for Edmonton so they carry a broad range of Dunhill products. They had Dunhill pipe bags, tampers, ashtrays, cigar cases etc. I could have spent several hours looking over the accessories but that also was not for this trip.
chris
Chris Hansen (pictured to the left) is the proprietor of the shop and it was a pleasure to visit with him and talk about pipes and tobaccos. He is a knowledgeable pipeman who also blends some, if not all, of the tobaccos that the shop sells. I had an enjoyable visit with him, while my daughter patiently waited in the wings. I think I could have talked for a lot longer if I had been alone and not cognizant of her desire to see other shops on the Avenue. As it was I brought our conversation up a bit short and asked Chris if he had estates for sale. He answered with an affirmative and brought out some display cases with estate pipes for sale. He laid them on the counter on the left side of the shop. I went through these pipes carefully hoping to find one that caught my fancy. I find that the longer I am refurbishing pipes the pickier I have become so it is always harder to find a pipe that calls out to me. This was the case that day as well. There were several older GBD’s that came close to hooking me but nothing that demanded my cash outlay.
IMG_0296
The wall behind the left side counter was lined with shelves of tins and jars of tobacco. There were also the obligatory rolling papers and pipe cleaners present. But my eye was drawn to jars of shop blends that occupied the shelves. I rarely buy tins of tobacco in pipe shops here in Canada as the cost is prohibitive – a 50 gram tin often is in the $28 to $30 range and sometimes even more costly. Because of this I try to purchase the bulk or house blends to try. This is especially the case when I come across a shop that advertises that it blends its own tobaccos.

I explained to Chris what I kind of tobaccos I smoked and he immediately suggested several of their blends that might interest me. Since I am predominantly a Virginia Perique smoker with an occasional foray into the world of English and Oriental tobaccos there were several that might work for me. He brought down the jars of Virginia Perique blends along a few English and Orientals ones as well. I opened each jar, talked with him about the makeup of the blends and enjoyed the smells of each tobacco. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. The prices were similar to those here in Vancouver, minus some of the taxes that are added at the till. I paid $18.40 for the ounce (thanks for the correction Aaron), although it is going up approximately $2.50-$3 per ounce within the next few weeks. This was due to a federal excise tax increase. The blend I purchased was Montego Bay, a Virginia that seems to have a little Perique for spice. There are also several other notes that come through the bouquet of smells that greet you when you inhale the aromas from the jar and bag. The website says it has some herbal additions to add to the sweetness of the Virginias. From the look of the blend it appears that there is at least a little Deer Tongue in the mix. It is a cool and flavourful smoking blend and certainly one that I will purchase again.

cody1 About mid-conversation an employee entered the shop and Chris went to the office. From the website I had remembered seeing his photo. We talked a bit but I failed to get his name. For that I apologize. Upon returning home I looked up the site and found that his name was Cody (pictured to left).

Cody was kind enough to pose for the photo below with his pipe in his mouth. Sadly it was unlit as we are not allowed to smoke in the tobacco shops in Canada these days. But as I walked through the shop and took in the ambience of the place I could easily see how that would have been a part of the history of this shop. I can almost smell the pipes and hear the conversation as pipemen sat in the back of the shop chatting and puffing while enjoying the fellowship of the pipe. Too bad we have lost those days.
IMG_0297
From the website I learned that last year 2012 and again this year, 2013, the shop brought in predrilled briar blocks for a pipe carving contest. I looked through the webpage of the different pipes that had been carved by patrons of the shop. There were some well carved pipes in the photos. The blocks of briar looked to have been very nicely grained and clean. So while I was there I asked about the availability of the blocks and was shown a box of predrilled blocks with acrylic stem blanks. In speaking to Chris I found out that these came from Brigham. I am still curious as to who supplies them for Brigham. Chris only said that Brigham Canada sold them to him and could give me no more information.

With my daughter ready to move on and take in the sites of Whyte Avenue I gathered my purchases and made my way to the till. I paid my bill and took the bag of bounty that I paid for and headed to the street. When I got to the place we were staying later that evening I took the photo below to show my haul from the shop – a package of pipe cleaners (never have enough), an ounce of Montego Bay, a predrilled briar block and the business card.
IMG_0301
If you live in Edmonton and have not been to this shop or you find yourself in town on a visit or business I can only say that it is well worth visiting Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist. The shop blends the ambience of an old tobacconist with an edginess of a new generation of pipemen. The friendly staff, wide selection of tobaccos, pipes and cigars makes it a spot that I will visit each time I am in town. Thanks Chris and staff for providing this great place for pipe and cigar smokers to visit and enjoy.