Tag Archives: pipe shop visits

Stepping into the past in Milan Italy.

Blog by Steve Laug

This week I am in the region of Milan, Italy for my work with the SA Foundation. I arrived in Milan and stayed at a quaint hotel in the heart of the old city overnight before heading North. In the morning I went for a walk to see if I could find the Savinelli pipe shop. About two blocks from the hotel I stumbled on a shop that filled my time. To my surprise we as standing in front of a shop I have always wanted to visit.

The sign above door of the shop read Al Pascia Dal 1906. The shop had been open since 1906 so it was an old timer. I paused outside and took photo above. As I walked through the door these display cases were ahead of me. I stopped and looked through the pipes, racks, rests and humidors in the cases in the entry of the shop. They were beautifully laid out and all of them called my name.

I turned to my left and entered the shop proper. It was a narrow shop with built in, well lit display cases and cupboards down each side. In the centre of the room was a large table where the two ladies who ran the shop would lay out pipes for a customer to examine. At the back of the room there was an office where the principal conducted business. His desk had many pipes and other items on the top that he was currently examining. I assume it either new stock or returns.

UI worked my way down the right side of the room looking at the pipes on display. The well lit shelves held many different Italian brands such as Moretti, Castello, Ardor, Ascorti, Cavicchi and others. Each were displayed beautifully. On the walls on either side of these cases were some older sandblast Pascia pipes. On the table in the middle was a selection of Pascia’s Curvy reverse calabash pipes that a previous customer was looking at when I arrived.

On the left side were other pipes made by a wide variety of European and even Japanese pipe makers. Some of theses included Dunhill, Tsuge, Kurt Balleby, Charatan, Kovalev, Former and more. There were also some American pipes – Briarworks, Todd Johnson, Pete Prevost to name a few. Really there were so many beautiful pieces of the pipe makers art available that it was overwhelming.

There were also many pipe racks, pipe bags, pipe rests and tools available. Along with them was a selection of leather goods and fine pipe cabinets like the one below.

When I first walked into the shop I had given a rebornpipes business card to the young lady who greeted me. She gave it to one of the principals of the shop Cosimo Sportelli. She said he would want to meet me.

I went to the table in the centre of the room and examined the Al Pascia shop made Curvy pipes on there. I have wanted to see them close up and examine them so this was the perfect time. There was a variety of both coloured and natural finished pipes to look through. I am not a big fan of coloured pipes, though these were nicely done. I set them aside and focused on the naturally finished ones. Most of what I looked at were Rhodesians with and without rings at the base of the cap. I settled on one and the saleswoman took it to the front of the store to prepare it for me.

I continued to look around the shop. I enjoyed looking at a display of cigar and cigarillo holders with amber stems and meerschaum or ivory bodies. They were quite stunning. There were also some large briar pipes on the walls for sale and display that were lovely. They even had a stand nice umbrellas. I could have spent much more time there but alas, time was running short.

Cosimo had come out and introductions were made. I was surprised when he said he knew me. It turned out that he was a reader of rebornpipes and said that he enjoyed blog and the craftsmanship of those who contribute. I was thoroughly surprised and thanked him. It was a pleasure to meet and visit with him. I asked if he would mind if we took a photo for the blog as I planned on writing about the visit. He concurred and we both removed our masks and struck a pose. I have included the photo below.

We parted company with warm regards and I made my way to the front of the shop. I paid my bill and was surprised with the beautiful packaging and bag that was handed to me.

I took the bag with me and boarded a train for an hour and one half ride north. Later that evening when I had settled in, I opened the bag to have a look at the pipe. I took it out of the bag and this what I found. there was a well wrapped box with a brochure of the brand inside.

I removed the ribbon and the wrapping paper and found a well made box. Still one more layer before I would see my new pipe.

I opened the box to find yet another layer. Inside was a very nice pipe sock stamped with the store logo.

I opened the drawstrings and removed the pipe. Wow what a gorgeous pipe. It fits well in my hand and is very light weight.

I look forward to smoking it when I return to Vancouver. I even have a tobacco in mind for the first smoke. In the meantime I am enjoying just looking at it and examining the craftsmanship as I turn it over in my hands.

If you are in Milan make sure stop by the shop as I am certain you will not disappointed. Say hello to Cosimo for me when your there and be sure to buy a pipe.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.

Flash Tour of Gallwitz Pipe Shop – Budapest

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was preparing for my trip to Budapest I came across this great old tobacco shop. I enjoyed the video/flash presentation of the shop, its history and wares and thought I would post the link here.


Once you are on the website click on the word Belepes (If you are Hungarian, please forgive my lack of accents on the Hungarian words. I do not have the ability to add them at this point) as pictured in the screen below. That will take you to the second screen pictured below.


Or you can just click on this link http://www.gallwitz.hu/gallwitz.html and you will be taken to the screen pictured below. Once you have the screen pictured above on the website click on KEPEK UZLETUNKROL and a new screen will open with a video tour of the pipe shop. You can also click on the headings on the screen for a bit of a tour of the wares. Click on PIPAK for Pipes etc.


It is an amazing place. Having been there in person I can tell you that it met my expectations of a place filled with pipe history. Enjoy!

(You will need to have Adobe Flash installed to watch the video.)