By Bob Tate
The New York Pipe Club (NYPC) was established in the early 1980’s and currently has around 200 members. Over the years they have had many different presidents such as Sailorman Jack, David Siegel, and Vernon Vig to name but a few. The current president, Lou Carbone sat down with PipesMagazine.com’s Bob Tate for a chat to find out more about the pipe club in America’s largest city.
The NYPC currently meets once a month on the second Tuesday of each month. Over the years, the club has had many different meeting places for their monthly meetings. As most of you may know, it is becoming increasingly hard to find smoker friendly establishments where they can host the meetings. Unfortunately, this is not something new to the NYPC. They have had difficulties finding and keeping a meeting place pretty much since its inception. And now with all of the current smoking bans in New York, it makes this task that much more difficult.
Fortunately, they have found a very accommodating place to have their monthly meetings. Currently the meeting place is Florio’s Restaurant which is located in New York City’s Little Italy. Florio’s Restaurant also has a cigar bar inside of the establishment where they allow the NYPC members to congregate to smoke at the meetings. You can find Florio’s Restaurant at 192 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013.
There are occasionally guest speakers at the monthly meetings. Some of the guest speakers that they have had over the years include; Rich Esserman, Jacques Craen, Kurt Ballaby, Gennaro Filoso, and most recently, Nanna Ivarsson.
The membership count of the club, as with all clubs, fluctuates from year to year. Currently the NYPC has over 200 members with about 50 of those who have enthusiastically responded to the call for voluntary annual dues of $25.00. The dues are voluntary, but they are extremely important to help the club cover the cost for their website and other expenses.
Well-known to many in the pipe community from their travels to shows, having witty, entertaining personalities and being the organizers of the Balkan Sobranie Throwdown, the Guss brothers are also each members of pipe clubs. Peter and Jon are members of the NYPC while Matt is one of the founding members of the Seattle Pipe Club. (See our coverage of The Seattle Pipe Club’s 10th Anniversary.)
I decided to ask Peter Guss a few questions as well. I asked him what it is like to have siblings in the same and different clubs, do they talk about club things when not at meetings, is there a lot of good-natured ribbing or competition between them, and do they collaborate with each other about things to do in their respective clubs.
Peter Guss: I love spending time with all of my brothers. They are the smartest, funniest people I know, and smoking pipes has given us another thing to share and discuss. There is no end to the good-natured ribbing, as you say, but there is no competition between us. Matthew got both Jonathan and myself into smoking pipes, and he is a ball of energy and great ideas, so we always look to him for inspiration.
The Seattle Club is certainly one of the best in the country and we are pleased to steal ideas from them whenever possible; they in turn pay attention to what the NY club does and are free to borrow from us as well. Our hats are cooler, for instance. Our NY and Seattle clubs form a classic pincer movement leaving the delicate core of the country exposed and vulnerable. We are trying to convince another brother to move to the Midwest and start or commandeer a club there so that we will in effect control all pipes clubs in the US (we already have a mole in the Southwest).
We frequently talk about club business when we are together, brainstorming new ideas and sharing our mutual problems. The Balkan Sobranie Throwdown was just such an idea that was germinated in casual discussion and brought to fruition through great effort on the part of Matt and Jon. Next year we will do Captain Black.
Another question that I asked Peter is; The New York Pipe Club is in the largest city in the U.S. with some of the best and most historied tobacconists; like Nat Sherman, De La Concha, Davidoff, Barclay Rex and others, yet ironically, New York has some of the most harsh anti-tobacco laws on the books.
I know that Matt has testified against anti-tobacco legislation in Seattle, do you or any of the other club members get involved in trying to make the pipe smokers voices heard? Have you done any lobbying or testifying?
Peter: As far as I know, NYPC members have not attempted to work against the restrictive tobacco laws. We are as sheepish and indolent as most other pipers (Matt being the exception). Then again, we have not been faced with the ban on mailing tobacco that Washington State has implemented.
I also had the opportunity to talk with and interview NYPC President, Lou Carbone. Here is our interview with Lou.
PipesMagazine: What year did the NYPC start?
Lou Carbone: The NYPC began as an idea in the mid 1970’s. By the early 1980’s the club was formed by founding member and first president Sailorman Jack along with Harvey Silver and Sam Barnett.
In fact as early as 1975 Harvey Silver was thinking about forming a club when he wrote about his idea as a suggestion to any interested parties in the Winter - Autumn 1975 Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris, published by Tom Dunn, the "patron saint" of our hobby. Thankfully, Harvey found a few like minded gentlemen and the rest is history.
PM: What was the impetus for starting the club?
Lou: While I was not there at the start, the premise was simple: provide an opportunity where all who enjoy the pleasures of pipe and tobacco could gather, meet others who share the same passion and arrange to meet regularly to enjoy each other’s company.
One of Sailorman Jack’s original advertisements, which he regularly mailed to Tom Dunn for publication in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris, read:
"The New York Pipe Club: Friendship - Trades - Rarities - Meerschaums - Briars - Clays - Corncobs - Antiques - Lore - Books - Etc."
So, from the very beginning we were established to welcome any and all who share the love of the enjoyment of pipe and tobacco.
PM: When did the NYPC join the United Pipe Clubs of America?
Lou: The NYPC has been a member of the UPCA since its official inception in 2003, thanks to past NYPC president, Mr. Vernon Vig, who now serves as the president of the UPCA.
PM: Please explain why you think that it is important for pipe clubs to join the UPCA.
Lou: The UPCA provides a unified voice and a united front on all issues that affect and are important not only to the member clubs but the pipe smoking hobby in general. It also provides a helpful resource of experience for clubs that need suggestions on becoming successful as well as for those interested in forming a pipe club in their own community.
PM: How long have you been the president of the NYPC?
Lou: Having been elected president in April of 2010, I have had the privilege and honor to be the club president for a little over one year. It is my pleasure and I take on the position with great respect for the history of the club. I am completely thankful to serve such a fantastic group of gentlemen.
PM: What are your duties as President?
Lou: Being an informal club there are no real official duties other than to promote the club, the hobby and to promote the positive image of the pipe smoker. I invite anyone I happen to encounter that is smoking a pipe, (I even employ my wife to do so, as well!), by handing them a NYPC business card and inviting them to join us at the next meeting and I encourage all of our members to do the same. We welcome all.
PM: Are there other officers and, if so, what do they do?
Lou: The only other official position is that of the webmaster for the club’s website. The club’s webmaster is Peter Guss, who is always willing to help out in any capacity, and I am grateful for his enthusiastic involvement. He has also been a huge help in putting together our monthly newsletters and securing sample tobaccos from tobacconists around the world as well. Additionally, I rely heavily on the wisdom and experience from the past president, Vernon Vig.
I’m happy to hear from our members when they make suggestions that will make our club and monthly meetings more enjoyable and interesting, and to volunteer to help out in any way, and I realize that our club is only as successful in proportion to the involvement of our members. Members often email me about ideas on how we can make the club even better than it is right now. I will always listen and do my best to help make the club an enjoyable and comfortable place for all.
PM: What is the New York Pipe Club’s mission?
Lou: As noted on our website: The NYPC is a very informal group that has no legal status, rules, or officially elected officers, except for that of club president. It counts on volunteers and operates on consensus. Members are asked to pay annual dues of $25 to help support the website and other incidental expenses. At some meetings we raise money by raffling off pipes, tobacco or related items contributed by members, and we also sell club pins.
In short, NYPC is holding its own and even growing a little despite the current hostile environment. This is no doubt due to a number of very loyal long-time members, the shared passion for pipes, pipe smoking and, most importantly, to the fellowship and strong friendships that have developed over the years. This is a close group that is committed to sticking together to enjoy our hobby!
Simply put, the mission of the club is the same as it was from the beginning: to promote and support the pipe smoking hobby and all who share the same passion, to provide a venue or opportunity for all to come together to enjoy each other’s company and to share the joy of the hobby. Again, we welcome all.
PM: What type of goals, planning, and organization are done for managing the pipe club?
Lou: In terms of goals, we work to maintain both an active member list of dues paying members as well as high meeting attendance. Obviously, the more dues paying members we have the more we are able to do on behalf of the club. The planning process is very informal and usually is handled via emails, phone calls or discussions at meetings, and usually pertain to what we would like to schedule for a monthly meeting such as tobacco tastings or guest speakers as well as any other event that we might take part in such as a pipe show, International Pipe Smoking Day or our Summer BBQ/Picnic.
PM: What are the benefits of being a member of the club?
Lou: The greatest benefit of being a member is enjoying the camaraderie of fellow pipe smokers! Also, some vendors of our pipe smoking community will offer a discount on purchases to members. Dues paying members can access areas of the club website not available to non-dues paying members. When available, dues paying members get the ever popular NYPC lapel pin.
PM: What are the trends that you are seeing for enrollment in the club as far as it increasing or decreasing, and the demographics of the membership?
Lou: I think the club is seeing an influx of younger pipe smokers, (or hopefully it’s not a result of me just getting older!). We have members as young as 18 to gents in their mid to late 70’s. It is a very encouraging sign for our club and for the hobby that we can boast such a diversified group.
We average 20-25 attendees at our monthly meetings and this has been the case as long as I have been attending regularly. There are always cyclical trends regarding membership enrollment as well as meeting attendance, sometimes low other times high but on the average, we are maintaining a membership base of roughly 200 members and roughly 40 - 50 are dues paying members.
I am glad we can gather about 20-25 attendees at our meetings, but we’d always love to see more come out and join us. We have a good mix of older members in terms of tenure, as well as members who are fairly new to the club. At nearly every monthly meeting we welcome a new pipe smoker or two and I am very happy about that.
PM: Please explain how important the member dues are to the club and some of the things that they pay for?
Lou: Dues are, and have always been, voluntary. They are very important since they enable us to do things for the club to make meetings more interesting; such as inviting guest speakers, purchasing tobaccos to try, and the scheduling of club events.
Whenever we cannot get them donated, dues help us purchase tobaccos for tastings at our monthly meetings. We enjoy inviting guest speakers and offer to pay for their meal and drink for them. We use dues to help us plan and arrange for the popular Summer BBQ/Picnic, which we’ve had annually for the last few years, an outing that is open to all, paid or non-paid members.
We have been providing club corn cobs, stamped NYPC Summer Picnic, and certain types of tobaccos that some might never get to sample as a way to entice members to come out to enjoy the day with us. One of our club members has graciously opened his yard for us over the last two years and will do so once again this summer.
PM: What are some examples of what gets discussed at the monthly meetings?
Lou: Meetings are very informal but I like to open each meeting with the customary Attention, Attention!!! (my way of honoring our past president and friend, the late Sailorman Jack), a welcome to all and a little update on any pertinent news from the world of the hobby, any news that affects the club, announce what we might be doing at that particular meeting such as tobacco tastings or introducing a guest speaker and I always encourage everyone to get involved in club activities, promote the club to their pipe smoking friends and thank them for coming out to join us. I always ask or at least try to remember to ask if anyone has anything to add before I conclude my remarks.
PM: What are some of the events that take place at the meetings?
Lou: We like to include tobacco tastings at each meeting as a way to entice members to come out to join us. In this way a member can get to sample a tobacco that they have been considering adding to their cellar, or enable the tasting of a tobacco that they might never had selected to buy. Also, we enjoy having guest speakers when we are able to. We also engage in buying, trading and sharing of pipes, tobaccos and hobby related books.
PM: Do you ever have club outings in addition to meetings?
Lou: Yes, as I have mentioned we have been holding a Summer BBQ/Picnic for the last two years and will have another this August. Fellow member Todd Platek from New Jersey has graciously allowed us the use of his back yard which is quite beautiful and very comfortable.
The club also participates in the International Pipe Smoking Day each February 20th by coming together at the gracious hospitality of De La Concha Tobacconist in New York City. We feel as a club, it is important to join together globally on that day in unity with fellow brethren of the briar as a way to celebrate our love and passion for our noble hobby and as an expression of solidarity.
We also take, and I encourage, impromptu visits to other smoke friendly establishments throughout our fair city.
PM: The club occasionally gets guest speakers at the meetings, could you tell us a little bit about them?
Lou: The club enjoys having guest speakers. We welcome any of the fine folk of the hobby to join us as our guests for a monthly meeting.
We typically play host to pipe makers such as Nanna Ivarsson, Andrew Marks, Marzio Radice, Jacques Craen and Sébastien Beaud; tobacco blenders Russ Ouellette and Dick Silverman and various vendors from the hobby such as Luca di Piazza.
PM: How do you get guest speakers to attend and speak?
Lou: Mr. Vig or I will make a phone call or send an email. Anyone in the club can also suggest an individual from the hobby as a guest speaker and we will contact them as to their willingness. Sometimes we get speakers voluntarily as well.
PM: How formal or informal are your meetings? Is there a general order, such as call to order, reading and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, discussion of old business, discussion of new business, program, adjournment?
Lou: No, nothing as formal as that. The club has no official set of rules or by-laws. We are a very informal club.
As I have mentioned before, I do like to open each meeting with a little update on any pertinent news from the world of the hobby, any news that affects the club, announce what we might be doing at that particular meeting such as tobacco tastings or introducing a guest speaker and I always encourage everyone to get involved in club activities, promote the club to their pipe smoking friends and thank them for coming out to join us. I always ask or at least try to remember to ask if anyone has anything to add before I conclude my remarks.
PM: I see that the club meets at Florio’s Restaurant in Little Italy, NYC. How long have you been meeting at Florio’s?
Lou: We have been meeting at Florio’s for at least 6 years (2005), since I have been attending regularly.
PM: While you are not allowed to smoke in the restaurant anymore, I see that there is a cigar bar inside of the restaurant that allows smoking. Can you explain about that a little?
Lou: Florio’s Grill was smoke friendly until roughly May of 2009 when the ongoing battle became just too much effort on the part of our gracious host, the late Larry Amoruso. He fought a bulldogged battle against the city ordinances that wanted to take away the right to smoke in his restaurant. It just became too much for him and he eventually had to comply and as a result we were no longer permitted to smoke in the restaurant.
Larry invited the club to enjoy the use of the cigar lounge one flight up from the restaurant; Three Little Indians Cigar Lounge. It is a members only (cigar members), lounge that was offered to us free of charge. We enjoyed that arrangement until the untimely death of Larry Amoruso in December of 2010. While we are still welcome to use the lounge by the current management of Florio’s, we now are required to pay a $10 lounge use fee per attendee at each meeting.
PM: It is unfortunate that they have started charging a per person fee for the use of the smoking lounge, but a lot of places do charge something to use their smoking lounge. In the grand scheme of things, $10 is not much at all to spend once a month to be able to congregate, relax, converse, and smoke with your friends.
I think that most people involved with this hobby has heard of the New York Pipe Show, is the NYPC involved with that show?
Lou: NYPC does not organize or operate the NY Pipe Shows, but does all it can to support them.
In March of 1993, the NY Pipe Club hosted its first ever Pipe Show, called The First Annual Pipe Convention. The Club hosted and organized the show and the club’s involvement in the production of the show lasted for a number of years but at some point the show became the production of two members and the club’s actual involvement was to support the show by promoting by word of mouth and attending.
Also, occasionally, a member would purchase a table at the show. Thus is the current extent of the club’s involvement with the show which is really the Newark Pipe Show since after the NY City smoking ban took effect, the individuals moved the show to the other side of the river to Newark, New Jersey where it continues its run 2 -3 times a year to this day, each year.
PM: Does the NYPC have any plans in the future of having and hosting their own pipe show?
Lou: We would love the opportunity to provide a "New York" Pipe (NYPC) Show where attendees can actually smoke at. I’m not at liberty to go into details but suffice to say that a number of us from the club are pursuing available options and setting our sites beyond the NY City environs if it means being able to smoke freely. So, while this idea is in its infancy, we do discuss it quite frequently.
PM: I hear that the NYPC is going to have their own club tobacco blends coming soon, could you fill us in on them?
Lou: Yes, I am most excited about this! We have been working with one of the hobby’s top blenders Russ Ouellette of the famed Hearth and Home Series of tobaccos for a couple of years now and Russ has agreed to help us create 4 club blends of our very own.
We have been sampling different versions of the blends and are very close to final decisions. Russ was very generous enough to send the club samples for us to try and we have selected 4 types of blends that he will produce for us and have tinned. We need to come up with the names for each blend and the tin art. We have some very talented individuals in the club who have already submitted names and tin art and all we need to do is finalize our decision on the modifications to the blends.
We look forward to a straight Virginia, a Virginia/Perique/Oriental, a Balkan and a Cigar Leaf blend in honor of founding member, our friend and past president, Sailorman Jack. One of his favorite blends was a cigar leaf blend that he mixed and blended himself. I felt strongly that if the NY Pipe Club was to create a line of tinned club pipe tobaccos we should include a blend in honor of our friend, so we would like to honor his memory with a blend that he himself loved to smoke. Check our website for further details on the release of these blends when they become available.
PM: Those blends sound very interesting. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Lou: Only that I encourage pipe smokers to join a club, start a club and get involved. Join the UPCA and promote the hobby. As I always say, a club is only as successful in proportion to the involvement of its members, so get involved! There is so much opposition to us that we need stick together. Promote the positive image of the pipe smoker! Our right to enjoy our hobby is quickly eroding so get involved and let your voice be heard. The UPCA and your local pipe club is the best way to do that. I wish all Happy Smokes!
If you live in the New York area, be sure to go to one of the NYPC monthly meetings and join the club!
New York Pipe Club Website
Photo Credits: New York Pipe Club, A. Waiter, Ron Melendi, Kevin Godbee
Bob Tate is Associate Editor of PipesMagazine.com. He lives, sleeps, eats and breathes tobacco … literally. We’ve seen him do it. Bob smokes roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes. He uses snuff as well, and is actually in the midst of writing a tobacco cookbook titled; "Tobacco - It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!".
When Bob was interviewed for the job at PipesMagazine.com and we asked him why he would like to work here, he told us; "I love to smoke. I smoke seven thousand packs a day, ok. And I’m never quitting! I don’t care how many laws they make. What’s the law now? You can only smoke in your house, under a blanket, with all the lights out? Is that the rule now, huh?! I love to smoke."
Needless to say, we hired him on the spot. In the last 3-years Bob has penned myriad articles such as; English Blends and Latakia Blends - One in the Same?, Routine Tobacco Pipe Cleaning (With Videos), Dedicating Tobacco Pipes to Pipe Tobacco Blends, A Few Pipe Lighter Reviews, Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation, Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 1, and many more.
Bob knows tons of stuff about tobaccos and pipe smoking. He loves to smoke and does it all the time. Heck, Bob would smoke rabbits if he could keep them lit.