Back from the proverbial ash heap!: (warning! Loong)

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settersbrace

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
0
As I'm sure at least one or two of you all may have noticed my presence on the pipe forums has been non-existent for 6 or so months. There are many reasons for my a vacation from the ever whimsical, knowledgable, thought provoking and often times, hilarious threads and I've honestly not even lurked until the last couple weeks or so. My reasons for the hiatus are many but the most important one for this discussion is that I wanted to kind of sequester myself from the online pipe community for a time to allow me to have an opportunity to take some personal inventory of what I thought I knew or didn't know about pipes and tobaccos.

Shortly before I vanished from this forum I had made mention that I was taking a part time position at a local B&M that a friend of mine owns and upon doing so I recieved a great many well wishes and several PM's from folks who do work in the business and off to work I went. The shop I work in has a tremendous pipe inventory and an even better stock of both tinned and bulk tobaccos relative to what anyone else within a 100 miles of us has to offer. We don't have an online presence and most likely never will (for many good reasons I may add) and the cigar business is second to none in the area as well. My first epiphany came to me not long after I got into the swing of things and it was becoming crystal clear that the man I worked for was not just a shop owner but a true to life, tobacconist. Mike knows more about origins, cultivation, processing and consumption of tobacco than many of us will ever hope to know and on top of that he has a very educated palette that never ceases to amaze me and those who know him well. Although he has an extensive pipe smoking history his primary focus in the past 10 or so years has been on the cigar side. He hired me because I smoked a pipe (I've long smoked both pipes and cigars and still do) and I was surprised that he and his partners really valued and desired to hear my opinions on their pipe and tobacco offerings. I've met many pipe makers, factory reps, hobbyists and just regular pipe smokers along the way and have been enjoying the ride, immensely.

I recall confessing on here on a thread not long before my departure that I personally felt I knew a great deal more about pipes, pipe design, drilling, etc. than I did about pipe tobaccos. In fact, I made mention that I felt I was very weak in the tobacco dept and turns out I was right. The terrible truth is that when it comes down to it the pipe itself is no magical, complex instrument, it is however an instrument and one that has to be properly constructed and tuned and if done properly and lovingly it CAN become magical. A very good to excellent smoking pipe can be had without borrowing against ones retirement savings and at the same time there are ultra expensive "hand made" artisan pipes that I wouldn't give $1 for. That is not cynicism or sarcasm, it's just my humble opinion. Working in a pipe and cigar shop has done much for me but the one stand out attribute I've gained from being on that side of things has been humility.

Over the last half year I've learned much and have had the opportunity to try and appreciate many types of tobaccos and blends, some of them very well aged. My tastes have wandered all over the map and I discovered that there are blends that I do like that I'd never dream I would but just by pushing prejudice aside, I tried them.
It's been wonderful to take an otherwise curious customer and spend the time to educate them on the ways of the pipe and then have them return to buy more or try this tobacco. The newbies aren't coming out of the woodwork but I must agree with many on here that there is a micro resurgence in pipe smoking and the tobacco blenders obviously feel the same way as we see more and more new and reintroduced product hitting the shelves.
The point of all this long winded post is that I'm asking to be welcomed back into the fold and in doing so it is with a renewed respect towards what these forums represent to us pipe smokers. I've never been anywhere else online as it relates to pipes and tobacco and I see no reason to do so now or ever. Some of the most knowledgeable and generous individuals I've never met reside here and I only hope to contribute and help out the new guys and ladies, (yes, there are many women taking up the pipe!) as much as possible.
If any of you are in the Pittsburgh area and have the opportunity, stop in Allegheny Smoke Works and ask for Jeff, I'd love to meet you and show you around!

 

klause

Preferred Member
Jul 9, 2012
554
0
Wow! What a great read!
I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts, Jeff - you've given me plenty to ponder for the day, thank you. It sounds like a magical journey, one, I must admit, to being a little envious of - I would love to get a few hours in an Olde Worlde tobacconist, meet like minded people and learn from them - not to mention having a mentor like your boss (sounds like a smashing fella).
It's been a long time since I was in Pittsburgh (I lived in the Allegheny Apartments for a time), but I intend to get back at some point in the future , to revisit old stomping grounds and friends - if I do, I'll swing by for a chat and smoke, for sure.
Welcome back, Jeff.

 

mephistopheles

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2014
545
0
What a cool post. :D Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Welcome back, Settersbrace. Good to meet you as well.

 

desertpipe

Junior Member
Nov 13, 2014
98
0
Jeff, great post and you hit some good points on what for many pipers would be a dream job. I as fortunate enough to find a similar position out here in the Southwest going on three years ago, and it has forever changed how I view the world of tobacco. I look forward to your insights and comments.

 

johnnyiii

Senior Member
Nov 30, 2013
315
0
hertford nc
After your post two great thoughts come to mind.
One is the bigger brain for the rest of us to pick. :D With your greater knowledge comes greater sharing GrassHopper
The other was your true thoughts of help to your customers. That's what spurred the reply more then anything!!! You can easily tell my best local tobacconist for the lack of better words patiently tolerates a pipe smoking discussion to SHARE or extract knowledge. At my other source SmokingPipes.com maybe two or three people at best out of their vast array of staff are willing to give the time, and I feel I am getting shoved out the phone or chat door even over a simple question. You can tell that both are only interested in the sale!!!
FYI ... I have been away my self for about 8 months cause of work .... So I didn't realize you were gone.

 

khartman

Member
Jan 6, 2015
129
0
Awesome post. My fiancé's family lives just outside Pitt. (We live in VA), next time we go up there I'll have to stop in! If I'm not mistaken I actually looked at the webpage for your shop a little while back.

 

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,413
3
I'm very new here, but will gladly welcome you back. It sounds like you are helping stave off the "end of a breed" we hear so much about, vis a vis truly knowledgeable tobacconists. Thank you for that.

 

settersbrace

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
0
Thanks for the kind replies!
I'll add this and maybe it'll help explain why the there are fewer pipe shops in this modern age of instant information, an age of instant gratification.

When a customer comes in and is bumping around in the pipe area gazing at different pipes, gawking at the mind numbing selection of pike tobacco it's sometimes hard to tell if that person is a newb or just another piper coming into the shop for the first time. The dialog and time spent on a pipe customer is entirely different than what you'd expect from even a newer cigar customer. We take the time needed for our pipe brethren, plain and simple. On average it takes 30-60 minutes to seal a deal on a neophyte pipe customer, that's uninterrupted time, we take them through every step of the selection process, getting the needed accessories, help choosing some tobacco and if needed, a pipe packing and lighting demo.

Our shop values all our customers and if they didn't want to take the time that's required to service the pipe smoker, they wouldn't even carry one pipe. We also host a pipe club gathering the second Saturday of every month and the shop is literally filled with pipe smokers for most of that day. Talk about a chance to flatten the learning curve!

 

vespertillio

Senior Member
Jul 9, 2012
327
0
Welcome back Jeff. Thank you for the great read and your thoughts. It's great to hear there are still stores out there that truly go the extra mile to help and educate people. I'm sure you will get many a lifelong customer this way.