To know Sykes is to know that his interests lie primarily in pipes, technology, and...the 11th century Mediterranean? Born into an academic family, Sykes entered college assuming he would continue in that tradition. But life has a funny way of turning a history major from Vanderbilt expecting a career in academia, into a successful pipe retailer. During his freshman year of college in 1998, he was hired to work in a local tobacco shop. And thus began a love affair with tobacco and pipes that has not diminished across his years in the tobacco business. It was about this time that everyone thought that the internet would change everything and that company book values were measured in 'eyeballs', and Sykes saw an opportunity to combine his love of pipes and technology. He founded Smokingpipes.com in 2000 while he was still finishing up his degree, with the hopes that it could become a hub for pipe enthusiasts around the world to find high quality pipes. "Technology should augment the personal touch, not replace it" says Sykes, about almost everything (and occasionally entirely out of context during meetings, which is how we know he's been napping). He has experience in every capacity within the company, seeing as how he was the company in its infancy, but his main responsibilities include sales, vendor relations, overseeing finances and operations, coding, and making high level decisions about restaurants on business trips.
Having studied art and poetry at CalArts in Valencia, California, Ted admits freely that his initial impulse to pick up a pipe had more to do with cultivating his pretentiousness as a blossoming young artist than it had to with his desire to smoke fine tobacco. Fastforward ten years and Ted's thoughts on pipes and tobacco are as sober as his critique of conceptual art. After years in a local rock band in Stockton, California, and six years with Starbucks Coffee, Ted came into the company as Sales Manager. Presently, as General Manager, Ted supervises the various departments that compose Smokingpipes.com. This means he has a hand in estate restoration, purchasing, customer service, sales, shipping, photography, our bi-weekly update, and our brick & mortar store. He’s a pretty busy guy anymore.
If one were to idly wander through the Smokingpipes offices, your first impression of Lisa might simply be that of a quiet, diminutive, friendly lady sitting behind a contrastingly large desk. The reality is that she sits behind that large desk because she is the rock of Smokingpipes - while Sykes is brainstorming with John or Ted, or trotting off overseas to meet with pipemakers and work out some crazy deal, Lisa's the one making sure we have things like electricity, shelter, fresh coffee beans by the sack-full, and paychecks.
Originally from Reading, PA, Lisa relocated to South Carolina on account of her love of the beach, and ascended to her current senior position (rather literally) from being manager of our first-floor brick & mortar pipe and cigar shop, Low Country Pipe and Cigar.
Aside from her official duties as the Smokingpipes matriarch, Lisa also serves as our resident expert on all matter Disney-related, as evidenced by the hefty dream-vacation itinerary she provided Adam with when he took his wife to Disneyworld. (And which turned out, by all accounts indeed, to be a rousing success.)
After more than seven years of direct involvement in Laudisi Enterprises, and as VP of Sales for four years, Tony left at the end of 2009 to continue to pursue his 'education' in Atlanta, GA. Forgive us for being skeptical, but having received his reports of the co-ed population of Atlanta, we're now expecting his thesis to be entitled "The Biological Implications of Postmodern Anthropological Rituals in Atlanta, GA: A Case Study". Tony managed day-to-day operations at Smokingpipes.com for two years, so we're constantly finding ourselves calling to ask questions, mostly beginning 'where the ____ is...'. He's also involved in strategic planning for the company, and joins us for major company events, such as the Chicago Pipe Show.
Until mid-2011, Alyson was manager of the combined Merchandizing and Marketing departments. These days, she is our point person for recruiting, herding applicants through the interviewing process and new team member orientation. Although she has lived in the South since 2002 (leaving behind New Jersey), she refuses to eat grits or say "y'all," though she has developed a fondness for sweet tea and fried chicken. She is a self-diagnosed ailurophile, but we secretly think she's just building a cat army. (Alyson, you shouldn't leave your "literature" in the copier.)
Chuck is the son of a United States Marine Corps Sergeant Major and former Drill Instructor - which, he assures us, did indeed make for a colorful boyhood. Upon reaching adulthood, or at least a close approximation to it, he himself enlisted in the Marines "despite my knowledge of that organization", as he tells it. Having eventually survived that youthful indiscretion, he later embarked upon a career in telecommunications, starting out as a technician, and retiring forty years later as a senior application engineer. Upon retirement, his initial plans were to settle down in the North Myrtle Beach area and enjoy himself by, for once, doing nothing. As novel as this experience may have been for Chuck, he soon realized there was a reason he hadn't done it before - and promptly came to us, hoping we would give him something to do. And so we have, utilizing his "limitless creative talents" (as he modestly describes them) as the all-purpose office go-fer, and, by unanimous decision, our Master Coffeemaker.
Tracy and her husband David set out together to Myrtle Beach when they were both just nineteen and have made a pretty good run of it down here. David has owned and operated his own income tax and accounting practice since 1994, which Tracy continues to help out with part-time. She herself ran her own mortgage broker firm from 2003 to 2009, and her considerable experience in purchasing, accounting, and inventory control has quickly proven valuable here at Smokingpipes, where she enjoys being able to utilize her skills - not to mention our relaxed environment and the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of an industry that's entirely new to her. When they aren't busy with, well, business, she and her husband enjoy getting out and back to nature, camping and hiking with their three children.
Greg has lived in the Myrtle Beach area since 1988, certainly long enough to be considered native, and has spent much of that time with his wife, Cheryl. He has earned an AS in Computer Programming, and has worked in the industry as a Programmer and Computer Tech for over eight years. A food connoisseur, he loves mac and cheese and an elegant blend of coffee and energy drinks. He likes puppies and enjoys long walks on the beach.
Originally from Langhorne, PA, Michael moved to Myrtle Beach to be closer to his parents. He was an Operations Specialist in the Navy, working with Tactical Data Systems and as a Tactical Air Controller, having been deployed a number of times to the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea, South America, and Baltic Sea. The wealth of knowledge gained from his education in systems and network administration has lead him to work for businesses small and large, such as hospitals, car dealers, real estate offices, and even Dell. Now that he is at Smokingpipes, however, he has realized a growing interest in pipes and tobacco. When he isn't on the job, Mike spends his time at the beach, playing video games, or with his parents.
Originally from Mississippi, John found his way to South Carolina by way of his education; first receiving a bachelors in Fine Art/Photography from Delta State and then his masters at Clemson. Finally realizing that he was born a pipe smoker (who knew?) during his first week of employment, John feels complete now that he has the outlet to nuture his newfound hobby. John is a movie buff, a cat person and a mediocre juggler. He also loves the taste of burnt cheese.
Lead Photographer & Winner of best Smokingpipes.com Beard Award
A graduate of Atlanta's Oglethorpe University, Chris Johnson relocated to the Myrtle Beach area with his wife Katy and their little daughter Maeve shortly before joining the Smokingpipes.com team, and has since become quite the budding pipe enthusiast. This latest pursuit joins his already long-running interests in surfing and the art of aquascaping. What's more, he's also followed in another great Smokingpipes.com employee tradition: Conspicuous beard-growing.
Katie works in the Marketing Department to ensure that your pipes, cigars, tobacco and accessories look as beautiful on the web as they do in person. Part of the Smokingpipes.com Jersey faction, Katie moved to South Carolina with her family when she was just two years old.
Kelly originally hails from Montgomery County, Maryland, and only relocated to South Carolina about a year previous to her joining the Smokingpipes team. Though she and her husband originally moved here to be closer to his grandparents, it's proven fortuitous for Kelly, someone who loves the color green (which we have plenty of), as well as wearing flip-flops -- something she'll do as far into winter (which we have very little of) as she can. In her spare time she enjoys just about all manner of music, thriller and horror novels and movies alike, cooking, and playing with and caring for her family dogs -- all half-dozen of them.
Following in the Smokingpipes tradition of unorthodox career paths, Pete Kogler capped off a twenty-six year long run as a touring musician by earning a business degree focusing on marketing and graphic design. (That's not to say he's stopped playing music, though; along with boating and fishing, it still makes up a healthy chunk of his free time.) And as a native of Buffalo, NY, Pete's furthermore added to our other great tradition, that of welcoming into our bosom those who have migrated (fled?) to the Myrtle Beach area from the Northeast.
Eric's humble beginnings with Smokingpipes.com started with data entry where his love of pipes grew and eventually merged with his creative writing talent. He now describes about 75% of the pipes on the and smoking accessories that go up on the website every week. Eric is another member of our New Jersey faction, and is a fan of smoking latakia, cheap cigars, and silence. In his own words, "Animals adore me, women giggle school-girlishly at me, and men want to know what I could have possibly been thinking."
From an early age Seth wanted to be an artist. Of what sort became a creative quest that would span over two decades. His childhood, in West Virginia, was spent compulsively drawing, obsessed with aspirations of becoming a Disney animator. Spending his teens as a graphic novel penciller, by his early 20s, money suddenly became very important and so he resorted to illustration. After visiting the Louvre in Paris, he said "screw it, I'm doing what I want", and, against his family's wishes and good advice, settled on fine art painter. Graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009 with his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Seth moved to Philly to attend The University of the Arts in pursuit of his Master of Fine Arts degree. There, after writing a million essays—and one very long thesis—he discovered a love of writing that had long been dormant. Having enough of city life, Seth moved his wife and two children to the laid back town of Myrtle Beach, SC, in hopes of gaining some introspection and sanity, and somehow wound up a copywriter for Smokingpipes.com.
Kathryn, or "Kat" for short, is a South Carolina native who has been in the Myrtle Beach area for 12 years. Having recently achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English at Coastal Carolina University, she is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Writing. Having been accused of "Facebooking too much" she is thrilled to have a position that revolves around social media. Kat loves novels (especially by the Brontës), photography, and traveling with her husband, Dennis. Sadly, her love of travel has not given her the aptitude for direction. She is normally lost, and is known to be surrounded by cats and Disney merchandise.
Ron ‘Bear’ Graves was born in Landstuhl, West Germany (back when there was a West Germany) to parents who were serving in the US Army as psychiatric social workers. Shortly after returning stateside, Bear’s father joined the BIA as a social worker, which resulted in the family living on tribal land in Alaska and Arizona for the next ten years. It was in the former that Bear acquired his nickname; a village shaman told his father, through a translator, that his son’s totem was the bear, something that he had never encountered in a ‘gussak’ (a derisive term for the non-indigenous). The nickname stuck.
After his honorable discharge from the US Army, Bear attended Arizona State for his undergraduate in business. It wasn’t until 1998 that Bear (in his words) “On a lark” entered a private medical college, graduating with a 3.96 GPA in 2002.
While Bear’s overly-gregarious nature made him a natural in sales, his passions for writing and pipes combined, which led to his eventual hire as a principle copywriter for Smokingpipes.com in 4/2005. Bear remained with SPC until 4/2010, after which he spent the next 41 months freelance writing for other sites and Pipes & Tobacco Magazine. Bear’s return to Smokingpipes.com found him with different responsibilities in the company; as a Media & Content Specialist.
Bear’s interests include photography, technical scuba diving, spending as much time on his Harley as possible, and (of course) Viking hats.
Calvin Miller was born in Saint Louis, Missouri to military parents. Imagine their surprise when he decided to pick up a colored pencil set instead of a cap gun. After graduating from Winthrop University with a degree in Visual Communications, he immediately immersed himself in everything to do with advancing technology and marketing trends. His passion is to continue to make art relevant in today’s growing mediums while making a ton of money. Calvin enjoys short walks on the beach, smacking while eating, Guinness, video gaming and watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns. Calvin dislikes splinters and videos about parasitic organisms.
Dennis' interest in pipes grew from his history with woodworking and carpentry, both personally and through his family. He's joined us after an extensive career as a Firefighter, embracing the artistry of the pipe, but also hoping to incorporate his experience in structured management and organization. Dennis loves to travel, frequently dragging friends and family with him, and not only makes up for his wife's lack of navigational skills but enjoys total immersion in new places and cultures. He is also an amateur Irish historian and beverage aficionado.
A native of Geneseo of western New York, Cyndy moved down to Georgia following college, working in the restaurant industry for several years before becoming a full-time mom to three (wonderful) children. Later on down the road she would make use of her acquired child-wrangling skills as a school bus driver, then, following that, as a customer service representative. Eventually she decided a change of scenery was in store, and, like so many with a similar urge, she chose South Carolina as her destination.
Born in Arley, Alabama (roll tide), Joshua came to South Carolina in 2005 to start graduate school. He taught for seven years while he earned his PhD in early American history. While writing lectures and a dissertation which focused on the religious and cultural history of colonial America, Joshua found pipes to be his constant companions. What free time he had, he spent reading about pipes and tobacco, and restoring estates that he picked up in antique stores. He comes to us having taught on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of South Carolina, and a background in wine sales. His interests include food and wine, cooking, reading and writing history, and a secret love of Victorian ghost stories, which are to be read by the light of an oil lamp and accompanied by a pipe, naturally.
Kaye comes to us with extensive experience within the customer service industry. Throughout her 27 years of customer service experience, she served 13 years in the Air Force, worked within the restaurant and hospitality industry, and spent her last eight years as a customer service representative and sales coordinator for a newspaper company. Born in Virginia, Kaye moved to South Carolina in 1977. Basically, she'll do anything to be outside; yes, even yard work. And in what may be the greatest example of yin and yang, she owns both a poodle and a Harley.
Customer Service Liaison & Dave Grohl Doppelganger
Comments? Questions? Straightforward, hardcore, no-nonsense customer service? Mark's your guy. His mission is to guarantee your experience with Smokingpipes.com is so good that you’ll want to have another experience with Smokingpipes.com. His genial manner and positive attitude are infectious around the office (which is a great change of pace in this era of bird and swine flu). Mark is yet another member of the New Jersey faction, but we don't hold that against him. Before Mark joined the SP.com team, he worked in the trucking and logistics industry where he was a Safety Director. His hobbies include music, movies, spending time at the beach, friends and family.
Phillip is a native of Marion, South Carolina and a graduate of Francis Marion University with bachelor's degrees in both Chemistry and Biology. He's also a pipe and cigar guy, who came to us as both an established Low Country customer and with previous experience working in tobacciana retail. In his spare time he enjoys a good pipe, preferably paired with quality bourbon or scotch, playing guitar and bass, and his most recent endeavor: researching and writing his own "Technical Guidebook to Pipe Smoking".
Ryota is our man in Tokyo. He handles customer service for our Japanese customers, providing the same service in Japanese that we offer in English from our main offices in South Carolina. An avid pipe man, Ryota fell in love with pipes while attending Keio University in Tokyo. Since then, he's become involved in pipe clubs and shows in Japan. We first met him at the Chicago Pipe Show in 2011 and he joined the team at the beginning of 2012. A California native, Ryota relocated to Japan to attend college, and now resides there helping to bridge the gap between Smokingpipes.com and its Japanese customers and suppliers.
A pipe smoker for over 10 years, Jeremy is the perfect guy to help our customers. We're certainly going to take advantage of his experience as a tobacco shop manager, as well as a wood-fire pizza chef. When he isn't smoking his pipe, well, or even while he is, he enjoys the outdoors, particularly camping and hiking. He claims he is an "adventurous eater," and has an expressed love for trying new things and attempting to recreate them in his kitchen at home. Born in Portales, New Mexico, Jeremy is a bit of a rolling stone. He has called Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, and Portland home, before moving to South Carolina, where we hope he will stay.
Forgive the cliche', but Adam's passion for pipes definitely goes to 11. And you realize that when you ask him a question about pipe bits and his twenty minute answer doesn't include a comma or a breath. Adam's duties here include, but are not limited to, inspecting all new and estate pipes for drilling, fit and finish, construction, and cosmetic issues. He also enjoys writing weekly condition statements along with pipe descriptions, mainly estates. He is, to put it mildly, meticulous in his research and would rather quit smoking a pipe than sell something below quality to a fellow smoker. Adam is also a celebrated pipe maker, creating and crafting some of our more sought after pipes. He is an industrial design graduate of Purdue University, and has designed pieces such as office products, furniture and cars. Adam's future in pipes was cemented when, as a young child, he refused to watch Frosty the Snowman because he couldn't fathom why a snowman with a magic hat would choose a corncob pipe over a patent sandblast.
To join our team, Romeo relocated from Alaska; a fact we should thank his wife, Jenna, for. While visiting Jenna's family in North Carolina, he made a point to visit our storefront a few times. Having been an online customer for years, Romeo explained that his hobby was not only pipe smoking, but also cleaning and restoring. He didn't realize there was a position open in our restoration department. Romeo, Jenna, and their daughter, Georgiana, accompanied by two cats and a Russian tortoise, moved to South Carolina shortly after. When he isn't at what he refers to as his "dream job" or doing other pipe-related activities, he enjoys cooking traditional Romanian food since, even though he has been in the states since 1995, nothing is better than the food he grew up with.
Since joining us here at Smokingpipes, Don has been picking up the ins and outs of pipe restoration with an alacrity - not to mention impressing us with his workmanship when he was asked to expand the restoration department's very work area itself. None of this should come as a particular surprise though, as Don came to us with 25 years of residential and commercial construction and management experience. Though this native Irishman refers to himself as a "beach-bum", he keeps plenty active with interests in furniture restoration, the culinary arts, horticulture, and the enjoyment of a good wine - not to mention being an experienced divemaster who's visited shipwrecks both locally and throughout the Caribbean.
Tim, along with his wife and son, moved to South Carolina in 2010 in order to be closer to family. They still miss Autumn in New England but family comes first, of course. In the past, he has been a U.S. Marine, as well as a correctional officer, so we know he'll be able to keep up with the fast pace of the Estate Restoration Department. His fascination with pipes extends as long as he can remember, "If you have a problem in life, just sit back with a good pipe. The answer will surely come to you".
Denis comes to Smokingpipes.com most recently from his position as Maintenance Director for a senior assisted living community. For a decade or so before that, he was the Owner/President of a home repair/construction company. He is also a veteran of the Air Force (Law Enforcement Investigator) and has spent seven years as a 911 dispatcher.
Hailing from rural NJ, home for he and his wife, Kathleen, has included Wyoming, New Hampshire, Republic of Turkey, and now and forever, South Carolina. Although his children live in LA (son and wife) and Austin (daughter), Denis will tell you this: “We're not from the South, but we got here as soon as we could! We love it”. Since 2002 home has been a small house on a dirt road, with a couple acres and a pond, outside of Loris. He enjoys the “rural lifestyle” and target shooting in the back yard.
“I will bring everything I have learned in customer service, efficiency, streamlining, and logistics to the Shipping Department. I was raised on a simple philosophy; “Do it right the first time”.
Aside from her duties as a member of the shipping department, Janice is enjoying her introduction to the world of pipes, cigars and tobacco. After serving as a retail sales associate within our store, Janice now fulfills the duties of shipping supervisor, where she oversees the process by which all of your orders get to you in a timely manner. She and her husband came to the beach from the northern Chicago suburbs, preferring to experience snow through the magic of television.
Add yet another new name to our (increasingly long) list of NY/NJ/Philly area expatriates: Aaron Young. Aaron comes to us from Piscataway, NJ, and confesses to being a huge TV and movie buff, as well as a huge fanatic for football, and the Raiders in particular. He made the move down here to the Myrtle Beach area's warmer climes on the advice of our own Bill Westfield, and has not regretted it. Along with Janice, Deborah, and Cassidy, he helps see to it that all your orders are put together, packed up safely, and shipped out with efficiency.
As the second person we've hired with the name Aaron J. Young, we're lucky that he prefers to go by Joe. Coming to the Smokingpipes shipping department from a very different career, Joe is a veteran of the Air Force, where he worked on survival equipment and evasion tactics. Joe is accompanied by his wife, Lyndsey, and his four-year-old son, Ivan. He loves movies, especially sci-fi, and is a huge fan of Doctor Who.
One could call Tammy a shipping and receiving expert, since it has been her specialty for about ten years. She was inspired to pack her crazy hat collection and leave small-town Pennsylvania life after being exposed to two blizzards in only three days. She can handle the cold for a good cause though; frequently volunteering for activities like the Polar Plunge in support of the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Awareness, and the Special Olympics. She has two children, Davika and Branson, and a pet teacup pig named Harlee.
Active, hard-working, and sharp, Renee brings a cheerful energy to the shipping department. Her adventurous nature draws her to hobbies like roller derby, rock climbing, kayaking, and pretty much any other outdoor sport. As is apparent in her eclectic travel and range of skills, Renee enjoys trying new things. Though California was the starting line, Kentucky, Arizona, Texas, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Oregon were the route which brought her here to South Carolina. Equally as interesting; among other creative endeavors, she's spent over ten years perfecting her art as a barista, seven years as a professional body piercer, and is an artist for her own permanent makeup business. When she isn't a dauntless adventurer, Renee loves the circus and animals.
Like many of us, Jacqui is originally from New Jersey, which is proof that there is probably a billboard to work for us somewhere along the turnpike. She moved to North Myrtle Beach in the early 70s, and has recently returned to the area after living in San Antonio. In her free time she enjoys travelling, playing golf, and watching television. Family is important to Jacqui; she is happy to be living close to her parents and brothers again, is the proud mom of two, Jalil and Jamir, but is "most of all glad to join a family as great as Smokingpipes.com."
Vallin's first day of work with Smokingpipes also happened to correspond with our monthly birthday and anniversary party. After meeting the entire crew at once, and getting to know us over sandwiches and cake, Vallin determined that he never wants to leave. Born and raised in Longwood, NC, he is 29 years young and a kid at heart. He loves watching cartoons, playing video games, and working on cars -- especially Hondas. He is quite happy to be joining the SPC shipping department.
Retail Manager & Purchasing Manager & Buckeye Bill
Bill has been living in the Low Country for 27 years which makes him the closest thing to a "local" that we have. Originally from Ohio, Bill has a Bachelor's degree in Business and over 16 years retail experience. A frequent cigar smoker, Bill also owned a beachfront bar for four years (we figured if he could handle that riff raff he would have no problem with the crowd that frequents our store.) Bill's pride and joy are his wife of 25 years, his two children and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Dave relocated to Little River with his wife Patty from the ski resort area just southeast of Pittsburgh, PA in 1995, following an experience with a defective snow shovel which he chose to interpret as a "divine omen" to seek warmer climes.
Dave has many years experience in industrial machinery and heavy mechanics, stretching back to his first job at WABCO in 1971. In 1987 he thought he would try his hand at a Mack Truck distributor because they were smaller than trains, and they let him drive them. When he saw an ad for a job at a "pipe shop" in May of 2011, he admits he didn’t realize the kind of pipes they meant until he got to the store. They took a big chance and hired him anyway, and Dave now enjoys the easy life, smoking his briar at work and talking to customers. He is very happy that most of these pipes only weigh a few ounces and enjoys “picking” orders for website customers from all over the world. He's even taken to using his motorcycle to shuttle items from the warehouse for our "brick & mortar" customers.
As a personal goal, Dave has set out to make sure he samples each of the vast number of pipe tobaccos the store has available as part of his “bucket list”. Of course, that will no doubt take many, many years, as the shop’s tobacco inventory is quite extensive and new products are coming in all the time. When you visit Low Country, be sure to ask Dave what he thinks you should try. He guarantees you’ll like his suggestions.
Thomas comes to us with over 20 years of sales experience in various areas: insurance, auto, and cellular services. An easy-going fellow, he enjoys getting to know his customers, what they like, and what they don't. It's rare to catch him without a pipe or cigar, but, when he isn't at work, his passions include golf and motorcycles. With his cheerful attitude and joking nature, you can always count on Thomas to lighten the mood.
Unlike most of our crew, who have moved from state to state, Lyndsey joins our retail team a native of North Myrtle Beach. She's earned her Associates in Psychology and is a great listener, but promises not to make you put your feet up on the couches. She loves watching movies and TV with her husband, Joe, and son, Ivan, particularly Game of Thrones, the Avengers, Dr. Who, and paranormal movies. She also enjoys fishing, hunting, country and rock music, and video games.