Industry Spotlight

Tinder Box, Tacoma WA

Kevin Godbee
Just out of college in 1987,
Jeff Packer was looking for a job to hold him over until he could find something "more permanent". He walked into Tinderbox in Tacoma, Washington, and now 25-years later he is still there. As a matter of fact, he owns the place now—and has for the last 15-years. Jeff worked his way up to manager, and then became the franchise owner in 1997. He had not smoked pipes or cigars prior to working at the store, but soon took to the hobby and became well-versed in pipes, tobaccos, and in running a successful retail store.

When asked what his smoke of choice is, he says; "I like to smoke pipes more in the winter, and cigars more in the summer", which is not uncommon for people that smoke both pipes and cigars. As far as pipe tobacco goes, Packer likes to smoke aromatic tobaccos. Two of his favorites are the Tinder Box’s own blends; Wilshire (a Cavendish blend named for the original Tinder Box on Wilshire Blvd.) and Waffle House.

Packer is in agreement with statistics and others in the pipe business that the market is growing. Even though many in the business have discussed the new influx of younger adults in the past few years, Packer states that his pipe business is on the rise throughout all age brackets. He has young adults, middle-aged, and more mature customers buying pipes and tobaccos. Some of his new customers also include former cigarette smokers switching to the pipe for a healthier alternative, and women as well.

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As far as sales trends in pipes, the "traditional half bent is still the most popular". He sells more smooth finishes, and most of his sales are in the price range of $30-$60. The pipe inventory overall ranges in price from $30 to $125, and there are one or two pipes in the $300 area. There are 65 bulk tobacco house blends, along with a few blending tobaccos and a small selection of national brand name tins, which brings their selection to about 100 different pipe tobaccos. The store sells more aromatic tobaccos, which represent 80% of the overall tobacco sales.

 

A longtime customer of Tinder Box, Greg Mitchell, has been shopping here for over ten years—the entire time he has been a pipe smoker, and he only buys his pipe tobacco from Tinder Box. He evangelizes at length about the superior quality of Tinder Box tobaccos.

 

If you are in the Tacoma or Seattle area, be sure to make time to visit the Tinder Box store. You will find an impressive selection of pipes and tobaccos, and quite knowledgeable staff that has been working there for ten years. That alone says something about the management of the business and quality of service.

 

 

Kevin Godbee is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of Pipes Magazine. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started an online cigar magazine & community site in 2005. (The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists.) He launched PipesMagazine.com in 2009, and in less than three years the site has become the largest trafficked pipe smoking related site, and the #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information.

In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.

Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) through Tobacconist University, a member of Cigar Rights of America and is a "Media Member" of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. In his spare time he sings, plays guitar, cooks, and enjoys all the wonderful places to go and things to do in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida where he lives in his penthouse bachelor pad. Kevin has been smoking pipes and cigars for 14 years.

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    mlaug
  • June 20, 2012
Its nice to see a successful business run by someone with a passion for the industry. The only Tinderbox, local to me, gradually moved to more and more gift inventory over the years and finally became a pipe/cigar/tobacco shop in name only.
It closed shortly thereafter.
My first experience of an honest to God pipe/tobacco store was going to a Tinderbox back in 1977. I still remember how I felt walking out of that store with my first non-drug store pipe and tobacco. I still have that Ben Wade Golden Walnut, 30+ years later.
I have lots of good Tinderbox memories.
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    rigmedic1
  • June 20, 2012
Always enjoyed Tinderbox tobaccos, particularly Connousieur, the 1928 Special Reserve, and Philopher. Unfortunately, the local Tinderbox does not carry the ones that I like. Purchased my Sam Martin pipe in that Tinderbox, way back in 1986. Glad to see someone keeping the faith, and making a successful go of it.
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    cortezattic
  • June 20, 2012
Thanks for a very well written and wonderfully illustrated feature article proving that the B&M is still alive and well.
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    oldtom
  • June 25, 2012
Thanks for the report.
Nearby Nashville once had two locations but by the mid '80s both were gone. I discovered both stores when I moved to Nashville back in '70 and enjoyed every visit and smoked many of their blends and bought several pipes there even with my limited budget. Chuck (last name not remembered) who owned the shop was very friendly and helpful. Bill Hill who once worked for CAO also worked there.
Sad to see it close. I've been to a couple of others but they just weren't the same.
I'd like to see another one open here.
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    bornagainbriar
  • June 25, 2012
I too am a big fan of the Tinder Box blends. I just received a sample of the Waffle House blend from store owner Jeff Packer, and it is fantastic. If you like the aromatics, the Waffle House bland is not only unique to The Tinder Box chain, it is unique to the Tacoma location! The only place to get that blend is from the Tacoma Tinder Box store! Great people to deal with and work with.
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