My tale begins about a month ago. There is a very cool B&M in the SODO district in Seattle. I was able to visit the store and the owner told me that he no long is carrying pipe tobacco or pipes (he had about 4 tins left). He said the prohibitive laws in WA state plus competing with the internet has led to his business decision to move away from pipes.
Then yesterday while in San Jose (thank you all for the recommendations), I was able to vist Mission Pipes and Smokers Pleasure. Mission was a nice store but like I experienced in Seattle, the guy I was speaking with did not have any knowledge of pipes or tobacco. They had a nice selection of pipes there and when I asked to see a Poker, he said "ummm, which one is that". I think that store will survive because their main business is cigars, they have a smoking room and are knowledgeable of cigars.
Next I went to Smokers Pleasure and had a nice conversation with Lisa (or Linda). Very nice, knowledgeable of pipes and helpful. Giant selection of tobaccos but I noticed that almost all of them were completely full to the brim. When I opened them to smell, the tobacco was packed pretty tight, telling me that they're probably not seeing a lot of action. We had a nice conversation about small business ownership, the excessive and heavy hand of Gov'mt (ok, I'll stop there before I get my A thrown out of here), and how the internet has really taken a bit out of her business. Of course, I wouldnt even be in her store without the internet but I think there is a balance we need to strike. At least for me - not telling anyone what to do.
Going forward, I am going to shop first at the B&M and get what I want. If not available, then I'll go online. I would hate to think of the day when pipes are no longer a viable business. We can probably count on 1 hand how many record stores are left but I remember the great pleasure of spending an entire saturday in the store listening to music I would someday own.