Rogers AR – Frank Romeo, 48, can tell his customers, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it." He can also sell them the pipe and other products for tobacco smokers. He opened Romeo’s Downtown Pipe & Tobacco Co. in November with wife Pamela, 51.
Frank Romeo opened the business after feeling the need for a bulk-blend tobacco store closer to his Bella Vista home. The location in Rogers’ downtown appealed to him because the couple loved the cobblestone streets and historic decor that meshes with the relaxing and traditional image they wanted for their business.
Smokers tend to be loyal to brick-and-mortar stores, customer Zach Hoyt of Pea Ridge said.
Romeo said the camaraderie of other smokers and the opportunity to handle the selection of pipes appeal to smokers. He also sees the advantage for his customers of walking out with a new pipe or cigar to try immediately rather than waiting for a package to arrive after an Internet order.
Romeo calls the current era the golden age for pipe smokers. Many pipes now are handcrafted, and the design of the wood is one of the factors to check for quality. He jokes that once someone becomes a smoker, he may get PAD, pipe acquisition disorder, or TAD, tobacco acquisition disorder. As with many hobbies, frequency of use leads to the wish to taste a new pipe or another blend of tobacco.
The aroma of a pipe or cigar can bring back memories from childhood, Romeo said. Many customers recall enjoying time with their grandfathers, who smoked a certain blend.
One of his favorite activities at the store is teaching new smokers the proper process for smoking. How to prepare the pipe, to properly draw on it and how to clean it are all important to the experience.
"It’s definitely a learning process to smoke a pipe properly," he said.
Pipes can be bought by customers of any age, but minors can’t buy tobacco products. Pipes in the store range in price from $25 to $95, and Romeo can order pipes not in stock, some of which can cost $250.
While there are comfortable chairs inside for enjoying a pipe or cigar, some customers also like to sit outside and enjoy watching the active downtown. Usually jazz music is playing softly in the background as a smoker slowly enjoys a pipe or cigar with company.
Romeo’s pipe club will meet from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 12 for its second monthly gathering. The club will affiliate with the International Association of Pipe Smoking Clubs.
Romeo’s Downtown Pipe and Tobacco Co.
111 S. 2nd Street
Rogers, AR 72756
Monday – Friday: 11am – 7pm
Saturday: 10am – 6pm