As many of you know, last weekend we moved our entire shipping and receiving operation out of four rooms spread across two buildings into one 3,500 sq ft space a little down the hill from our other buildings. Our goal was to have absolutely zero service disruption. This required considerable planning. Everything had to be laid out and organized before a single tin of tobacco would move.
As a quick overview, our main building has three floors and about 5,500 sq. ft. We moved into this space in early 2005, with the store and shipping on the bottom floor, and offices on the top two floors. Our building is surrounded on two sides by a commercial complex with various offices and small shops. Immediately across the parking lot, a building came available and we snatched it up in mid-2009, moving our shipping department, plus customer service and a couple of other offices over there (store, some shipping area, offices, photography studio and pipe restoration workshop remained in the main building). After another two years, our new shipping space was splitting at the seams. The whole company had grown, but especially in those areas that require warehouse space: pipe tobacco and accessories. We talked to our landlord for the smaller building and asked what he had available. The first thing he showed us just wasn't going to work; it was too small and oddly located for freight pickups and dropoffs. Then he had an idea. The end/basement of his largest building contained nothing but his wife's decades worth of accumulated junk (I hope you don't read this, Miss Virginia). We couldn't even get in there past the loading door to look at it properly. I cannot properly articulate how much junk there was, nor quite how junky it was. Everything from a dozen early 1990s vintage computers to thousands of plaster molds to a kid's disney themed play car were in there. Along with displays for flooring, displays of fabric, assorted furniture (including some church pews), a half-dozen aging vacuum cleaners, and about ten ceiling fans. Really, it was what my garage would look like without my wife's intervention. But seven times the size...
It took them three weeks to empty it, but we knew we'd made the right call once we could get in there. It was the perfect space for us. And, instead of picking up 4-6,000 sq feet off-site, it was just a few hundred feet from the building, an easy two or three minute walk. We got a golf cart (which doesn't yet have the Smokingpipes.com logo spinners installed) for moving stuff back and forth. Once it was empty, we went to work. UPS Freight dropped off scarily large stacks of metal shelving, a pallet jack, roller-coveyors and assorted other warehouse goodies. Our preferred builder/handyman Billy Harrelson then went to work with his crew to do the upfit. Two weeks later (one of which was while I was in Chicago for the show), everything was in place. With rigorous use of database queries and excel, Tommy, Susan and I managed to layout the warehouse for optimal picking and packing speed, with higher volume items closer to the central packaging area. We then went to work labeling every single slot that a product (tinned or bulk tobacco or accessory) might inhabit: some 1,500 of them (pipes and cigars remain, as always, in the main building).
On Sunday (the only day of the week that shipping is closed), the entire company (save Mark, who was on vacation), some 25 people, showed up to help move everything. Much to our surprise, most of the work only took about three hours. About half of us stayed on to work out little details and kinks, but we pretty much had it knocked out by noon. By three, it was just five of us left. By four, we were done, complete with running four packages through the whole process to make sure we hadn't forgotten anything and that everything was working. Not one single package was delayed due to the move; everything worked perfectly when shipping resumed Monday morning (well, almost everything).
Bobby Altmann, our staff photographer, snapped a few photos of the work on that Sunday, whenever he wasn't busy shelving tobacco.
It's done - as of Sunday afternoon Smokingpipes.com's shipping and inventory has been relocated to a much, much larger building. The entire company (minus Mark, who had conveniently absconded to New Jersey on vacation) showed up Sunday morning to pack, lift, drag, cart, stack, and re-shelve the entirety of our stock of tobaccos and accessories, minus of course that which is kept available in our brick & mortar store, Low Country Pipe and Cigar. Though Tom and I grumbled a bit about the distribution of manpower once or twice (Tom doing similar work on the side, and I having worked in the mobile broadcasting industry, where loading, stowing, and unloading equipment is a daily constant, in the past) Sykes prepared the organization and categorization of all our stock well in advance, with the result being that the bulk of our inventory was relocated and ready to be placed on already marked-out shelves within only a few hours. Who knew - planning actually pays off. Especially when you're asking office workers to become impromptu movers.
Sadly, in order for us to move our inventory into the new digs, its previous treasure-trove of flea market riches first had to go. I never got to see it with my own eyes, but I hear it was an impressive assortment of no doubt very collectable items, absolutely packed wall-to-wall. That is, until Sykes had it all trucked away. So, if you were in the market for a ladybug-shaped lamp, pink plastic flamingoes by the bushel, or a twenty-year old toaster - sorry. You missed the boat on that one.
Fortunately, there are other matters in which we are quite capable of serving you, today, with an update featuring Stanwell, Savienlli, Brebbia, Peterson, and IMP Meerschaum. Furthermore, there are handmade Italian briars from Ardor and Ser Jacopo, and, new to Smokingpipes, gorgeous Danish designs from Former-Eltang. Topping it all off, Ted's got several rarified numbers from Lasse and Matzhold for you, while Sykes has covered four from Toku.
It's been a while since I wrote a blog. Waiting for the right content, though, is what I'm leaning toward. Don't get me wrong - there is a ton of stuff to write about, but I remember seeing this advertisement over a month ago and just happened across it again this morning while filling up on gas when my cell phone was handy to snap a picture. Pipes were pretty much a standard manly thing to have in advertisements half a century ago; including (not by no means restricted to) grilling outdoors, sports equipment, rotary lawn mowers, camping equipment, and anything else that projected a positive image of "dad", "family man" or "successful bachelor". Pipes made the public aware that a man was choosing the right item because the smoker in the picture always had a smile on his face.
Needless to say, advertisements like this are rather rare these days. Some have a feeling that pipes are considered "retro" and have strongly come back on the markets along with fedoras, straight razors, and other implements that faded away in the last thirty or forty years in favor of new gadgets. I remember going to golf courses about ten years ago and seeing putters and clubs that were made with wooden shafts as a way to bring back something classic and older during a time when everything seemed to be composite or graphite. I had a set of clubs with metal shafts that got me the stink-eye from some people, but those are back now too! Many people growing up these days that didn't have a father smoking a pipe might have seen their first briars on a rack at an antique store next to the same wooden-shaft golf clubs that made a return to the market. There has been a recent renaissance of pipe design and other hand-made objects from individuals more so than large companies. As the old saying goes "What's old is new again", and we are seeing this in a lot of media. This particular advertisement is cool on so many levels. An older man smoking a pipe while applying a tattoo shows that he is comfortable with himself, his image, and extremely confident in his work. Tobacco and rum were partners in crime and entertainment for centuries; not to mention two of the most important things in the western hemisphere in the 18th-century. Given that this is an extended weekend when many of us wish to fire up the grill and have a bowl with a drink, my desire to hunt up this brand of rum and enjoy some good times is mainly derived from how good the advertisement can be.
"GOOD WORK AIN'T CHEAP. CHEAP WORK AIN'T GOOD". This is true for pipes, booze, tattoos, and anything else you wish to compare when quality really does make a difference.
The Great Chicago Pipe Show has come and gone, and all of Smokingpipes staff members have trickled their way back into our offices - often in states of exhaustion, yet also bearing a huge number of newly acquired briars. Though I wasn't at the show, I also managed to evade the office an extra day, to spend an elongated weekend cavorting about Myrtle Beach and Charleston with a long-legged young woman. The result of all of this being that I returned Monday about as equally exhausted as the rest, plus also well and thoroughly sunburned.
Despite all of this, we've still managed to put together quite a sizable Thursday update, with briars from Neerup, Johs, Stanwell, Savinnelli, Peterson, handmades from Cavicchi, Ashton, Wiley, and Winslow, and even high-grades from both Heeschen and Lasse. Add to that some seventy-one estates Adam managed to squeeze in somewhere, and that's a lot of pipes prepped, measured, weighed, and described in quite a short time, with about a dozen other matters to juggle within the same time-window.
As for our wealth of findings from the Chicago show, we're already at work getting those ready for you, so expect to see them soon.
While you won’t read this until the evening, I’m sitting here during the wee part of Monday morning, having labored for the last seventeen hours on only three hours sleep (yet again), hopelessly trying to put together the introduction to this newsletter. I certainly can’t say I’m alone in all this last minute, sleep-deprived work. Sykes is in the same, highly caffeinated state of stupor, Tony has skipped a night’s slumber more than once this week, and Pam and Susan tirelessly dedicated themselves to the daunting task of caring for us boys as we lived like depraved college students during the seven day marathon that was our recent experience at the 2011 Chicago pipe show. Although this is my first Chicago show, thankfully I was properly warned that it would be a unique kind of crazy.
But these last few days have been truly spectacular. Besides the diverse cast of characters, hobbyists, and consumers we’ve had the pleasure to spend time with, we’ve also worked closely with a large number of pipe makers and collectors alike - I’m extremely excited to say that we are going to be bringing home not only a ridiculous number of estate pipes for the boys up stairs to polish up, but dozens and dozens of fantastic new works from our favorite, tried-and-true makers. And all that in addition to the pipes from pipe makers we’ll be introducing to the site for the very first time. Excellent news? You bet.
Of course, it wasn’t all work here in Chicago; we’ve had our fun here too. Every night has seen extraordinary dinners with exceptional people, in addition to the many visitors to our hospitality room, where we’ve shared drinks, swapped stories and shown off our pipes. At last I understand why guys will fly in from every corner of the world, year after year, just to be a part of this show.
Soon we’ll be heading home with our big bags of goodies. Very big. Seriously, we’re talking about boxes and boxes of all kinds of stuff. And to the gentleman who accidentally left behind with us a Becker in a red pipe bag, well, we’ll be bringing that back home too, so don’t worry. I’ll look after it for you and refrain from smoking it. I promise.
In the meantime, we’ve another fine addition of new pipes to add to our website for this evening’s update. Be sure to check out all we’re offering from Savinelli and Radice, as well as Peterson and Vauen.
0.0002"x0.0000". Two-ten-thousandths of an inch. Those are the sort of tolerances that Alex Florov works with. While that is perhaps a large measurement in circuit board manufacturing, it is infinitesimally tiny by pipe standards. Alex is a model maker. He creates metal and plastic prototypes for industrial and commercial applications. Alex is also a pipe-maker. Clearly his long career as a designer and maker of models has influenced his pipe making.
I'm sitting in Alex Florov's workshop as I write this; it's the day after the Chicago pipe show and Ted and I are in Round Lake, IL visiting Alex and Vera Florov with Hiroyuki Tokutomi and our friend Tom Looker. The screams of briar being pressed against a sanding disk and the roar of a dust collection system fill the room. Six of us fit in here quite comfortably, with Alex Florov and Tokutomi both working, and the "piperazzi" (to quote Adam Davidson) snapping pictures and filming in the background.
Alex is one of the very few pipe-makers in the world with a milling machine. Though I've been in lots of pipe makers' workshops, I didn't recognize the thing at all - it sort of looked like a drill press to me at first. Well, one with a bunch of extra knobs and buttons. And a digital readout. Which displays measurements to the ten-thousandth of an inch (or one thousandth of a millimeter). This is not even a machine designed for woodworking. This is a machine designed to machine high-precision metal parts, large or small, for industrial applications. But, of course, it can be used for pipes too - and so Alex does.
Alex is a perfectionist. I knew this of my Russian-American pipe-making friend before I stepped foot in his workshop. I imagine that if one spends enough of one's life working with industrial models that require those sorts of tolerances, it will inevitably instill a certain perfectionism in one's pipe-making. With Alex it means that most pipe-makers' tools would not even be able to measure, let alone replicate, his drilling tolerances.
Tokutomi, in many respects, couldn't be more different. It's not that he doesn't measure when he works sometimes, but his attitude is much more that of the creative artist than the careful machinist. His background is as an artist. Alex's is that of a machinist and engineer. These two men, while they very much like each other and respect each other as pipe-makers, could not possibly be more different.
Though the Ardor name has been in business since 1974, the Rovera family's pipemaking goes back all the way to 1911 - a full century to this date. Since the introduction of the Ardor brand, the Roveras have (with a bit of prodding by Steve Monjure), produced a select few series in honor of certain esteemed members of the global pipe community. This year, it would seem, marks not only the Roveras' one-hundredth of pipemaking, but also the year Smokingpipes.com's own founder/president Sykes Wilford gets his pipe, as it were. They even let him design it, despite the fact that Sykes, like any true, hardened academic, is a complete danger to himself around hand tools of any kind. Fortunately, our resident pipemaker, Adam Davidson, was there to guide Sykes through the design process, ensuring the Roveras received a plan which would both capture what Sykes intended aesthetically, and still be doable while living up to Ardor's standards for engineering and smoking qualities (and also to ensure Sykes did not inadvertently skewer himself with a compass or become fatally entangled in a drafting board).
Sykes is, of course, presently occupied attending the great Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show, leaving me free to write such things without hindrance or, for that matter, being fired. Alyson is still here, of course, but it takes little more than hinting that the stray cats outside may be doing something adorable and/or dangerous and that's her taken care of. See? How do you think I got that one past her?
But enough of my intransigence - There are pipes to be proffered. Today we present a substantial selection of Stanwells, Petersons, and Savinellis, as well as some choice Brebbias and IMP meerschaums. Joining them are briars from Ser Jacopo and, naturally, Ardor, as well as a full seventy-five estate pipes. Topping off the list, we at last come to a bevy of beautiful bamboo-shanked Tsuges, as well as five fine compositions by America's own Rad Davis.
Tomorrow morning, Ted, Susan, Pam and I leave for Chicago from here. A few hours later, Tony leaves from Atlanta. We're all arriving about the same time at O'Hare and heading out to Pheasant Run Resort, longtime home of CPCC's Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show. The show proper starts Saturday morning, but festivities continue the entire week preceding the show itself. We're looking forward to seeing old friends, making new friends, and just generally having a good time in a pipe-filled environment.
If you're at the show, we hope you come by our hospitality room, where we'll be displaying pipes, hanging out, offering beverages running the gamut from water and diet coke to espresso to fine scotch. Come say hi and have a drink on us. And we have a shiny, new espresso machine for those who might be wondering...
If you're not joining us at the show, the folks remaining, under the leadership of Alyson and Lisa, will be here and we'll be operating completely normally (indeed, probably better without me constantly fiddling with stuff). Five of us are gone, but twenty-one people are still here to meet all of your pipe, pipe tobacco, cigar and accessory needs.
Moreover, Alyson and Lisa have decided (perhaps out of spite for not going to the show) to run a sale in our absence. There are something like 250 pipes on sale that they picked out. While it's targeted at those not attending the show, I'd check it out irrespective of show attendance: there are some awesome deals in there.
Today, though, you'll find a big, broad selection of pipes, ranging from the new Sébastien Beo pipes to pipes from Brigham, Savinelli, Peterson, Luciano and, of course, Dunhill.
And to top off today's update, we have, yes, G. L. Pease Triple Play in stock and ready to ship. I know lots of you have been waiting on this! We have lots, but if it goes anything like JackKnife Plug went, we might run out and with C&D closed for the Chicago show, it might take a few days to restock. So, direct thyself to the G. L. Pease section, directly. You'll also find a new tasty blend from Cornell & Diehl called First Responders and from Hermit Tobacco's Captain Earle's line you'll find Diamond Head.
Whether or not you’re a fan of America’s most cherished of past times, you’re likely to appreciate (if not outright go nuts for) G. L. Pease’s latest addition to his New World Collection of pipe tobacco. With help from the old-timey ball and glove and the warm tones of red and yellow that grace the tin, ‘Triple Play’ stirs in the imagination fond memories of warm spring afternoons and summer evenings at the ball park. The name is also a nod at the three key ingredients of the blend: Virginia, Perique and a pinch of Kentucky. Like ‘JackKnife’, ‘Triple Play’ comes tinned as a two ounce plug, which is another incredible treat to pipe smokers everywhere as this style of tobacco is tremendously versatile in terms of preparation and not entirely common to find at your local tobacconist.
Greg Pease has been hinting at this blend almost as soon as he’d officially released his last. Tonight, we’re happy to introduce ‘Triple Play’ to our site as part of our Monday update. Enjoy!
Susan, Pam, Ted, Tony and I are headed to the show Tuesday afternoon. We'll have our hospitality room open every night through Friday, after which we'll move everything down to the Megacenter on Saturday morning. Tokutomi will be joining us from Japan this year and he'll have some awesome pipes with him. We have great pipes from all corners of the globe with us, so come by and check 'em out (and, more importantly, say hello and chat awhile).
For those of you who know the Chicago routine, you know we'll have awesome espresso (we have a new machine this year), various and sundry adult beverages and a variety of soft drinks and water on hand in the room.
Chicago is simultaneously the most fun and most exhausting event of my year. It's totally insane. In a totally awesome sort of way. This will be the first Chicago show for both Ted and Pam. They don't quite know what they're in for, but they're appropriately excited and terrified.
I, for one, can't wait. I hope to see lots of you there. Come by the room if you're at the resort during the week and we'll get you a drink or an espresso. Or both, either in separate cups or otherwise.
(Oh, of course, that still leaves 21 people here at the offices and warehouse. Everything will run normally, (probably better) in our absence).
Not going to the Chicago Pipe Show? A little ticked off about it? Yeah, we know how you feel.
Every year a select group of our smokingpipes.com “Teammates” leave the rest of us behind for the Chicago Pipe Show. While we are always happy to “hold down the fort” and pick up additional duties to help get through the crunch, we always find ourselves a bit miffed when everyone returns and they start telling stories of the previous week’s fun and excitement while at the show. “…then Peter Heeschen told this story about a dog that had a penchant for JackKnife Plug … it was hysterical!” “Oh and you should have seen Rad Davis’ new pipes, they were brilliant!” “The dinner with the Florovs was the best meal we ever had!” and “The night in the hotel bar was a blast, I was so tipsy I tried smoking my new Brad Pohlmann out of my ear!”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. Go ahead, leave us behind for all the fun and excitement of the Chicago Show and then rub it in our faces.
Well, we are tired of it and we’re not going to take it anymore. So we’ve put together a killer sale sure to knock your socks off (and totally tick off Sykes and our accountant).
Check it out from the banner on the front page, the "Specials" section to your right, or just click here if your feeling especially lazy.
With the combination of fair weather, my typical night-owlishenss, and having recently, and finally properly installed a modern radio in my old Lincoln I've of late taken to meandering about at night with my windows down and a pipe hanging from my lip. I consider it my good fortune to drive something which was designed and manufactured in a time before our self-appointed betters declared such simple pleasures ideologically incorrect, and began social-engineering the ashtrays out of automobiles. (So to, of course, has gone the actual cigarette lighter - now they apparently just give you the socket. Saves about $0.20 in manufacturing each vehicle, I suppose.) Granted, the Lincoln, an '88, only has but one up front, which is nothing compared to the half-dozen or so which were scattered about various regions of the late-60s Chrysler I owned for about a decade, but one is certainly far better than none.
I've always loved to drive - the effortless speed, the search for new back-roads, the exploration of unfamiliar networks of roads, alleys, overpasses, and squares, and the thrill of discovering just how fast a 5000-pound American land-yacht can take that unexpected corner which someone decided to put in the middle of nowhere (and, so frequently, on the side of a mountain). I've also always preferred older vehicles, cars designed by men at drawing and drafting boards rather than in front of computers and in accordance to the whims of politicians and focus groups. As a rule, they are not as efficient, nor as quiet, nor so resplendent with digital gadgetry - but they do more often possess the irreplaceable feel of a machine designed to follow the commands of a driver, and not merely a cocoon designed to isolate and protect us, even from ourselves. The Portuguese language has a word, a curious, enigmatic, poetic word: "Saudade". It describes, as one man put it, the thing which is known by its absence - the longing for a distant loved one, a lost country, a time irrevocably passed. The English language, I propose, could use a similar term, a word to describe things absent due to the meddling of puritanical ninnies - a word, in short, to describe this nefarious absence of ashtrays which has come to descend upon us, and all that their silent disappearance implies.
Fortunately though, you won't be needing such an as-of-yet-unformulated word to describe pipes; at least not today anyway. Savinelli, Peterson, Stanwell, Johs, and Neerup briars are all here, in quantity, along with plenty of meerschaums from IMP, Poul Winslow, Randy Wiley, Ashton, and L'Anatra are each represented as well, and so to a fine selection of high-grades from both Matzhold and Pohlman. Finally, add to that seventy-eight estate pipes, and there's sure to be something for everyone.
Pretty soon here we are going to be moving our shipping operation. Most of this decision has to do with meeting a need for more space as our current facility has become quite crowded over the last six months. So instead of walking back and forth between headquarters and shipping we will be riding to and fro in a tricked out golf cart complete with an oversized Smokingpipes.com insignia emblazoned on its hood. For some of us, this is one of the more exciting aspects of changing our shipping location. Or maybe I’m only speaking for myself. But I digress.
Our folks in shipping work hard. They’re on their feet all day putting together hundreds of orders worth of pipes, pipe tobacco, cigars, ashtrays, pipe racks, lighters, humidors, etcetera (ad infinitum, or so it seems sometimes). It’s not easy work, especially in an environment busting at the seams with inventory. They’re very excited about doubling up the size of their warehouse. And they should be.
We’re taking all of the lessons we’ve learned since we moved into our current shipping and receiving site and are addressing them one-by-one as we plot the layout of our new building. As well as having room for everything we‘ll also have room to grow our inventory considerably. We’ll have bigger work stations and more of them. We’re even looking at a fork lift down the road. It’s a pretty exciting time.
So when you next come to visit us here in Little River, don’t be surprised to find one of our staff (namely, me) racing around like a madman in a pimped out golf cart filled with pipes and tobacco. I solemnly swear not to crash the thing.
In the meantime it’s business as usual. We’re continuing our preparation for the upcoming CPCC show in Chicago (Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16) as we piece together bi-weekly site updates. Today’s update features new pipes from Castello, Radice, and Savinelli as well as Brigham and Peterson. Additionally, we’re very pleased to make available another two dozen pipes from Sebastien Beo, just in case you missed the boat last week. Enjoy!
Hours of Operation:
Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Saturday. We are closed on Sundays.
We reserve the right to verify delivery to cardholder via UPS. You must be 18 years or older to make any selections on this site - by doing so, you are confirming that you are of legal age to purchase tobacco products or smoking accessories. We will deny any order we believe has been placed by a minor.
WARNING: Smokingpipes.com does not sell tobacco or tobacco related products to anyone under the age of 18, nor do we sell cigarettes.WARNING:Products on this site contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.