First Visit to Iwan Ries - Anything I Should Know?

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jonasclark

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 4, 2013
741
387
Seattle
Much appreciated! The advice about parking (or lack thereof) is important. And yes, I'll take lots of photos. I'll have a very firm limit to my budget.
 
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Butter Side Down

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jun 2, 2023
226
2,198
Chicago
I'm in Chicago, so it's been my good fortune to have it as my local B&M for the last 20 years. I'm not actually sure how many times I've been there, but it's a lot.

Some general tips:
- If you treat them well, they'll treat you well.
- If you want recommendations, definitely talk to them about what you like or what you're looking for and they will help you out.
- Like you have heard, not everything is out on the floor, so if you don't see something you're looking for, it never hurts to ask. The worst that's going to happen is that they'll look in the back and won't have it. But sometimes they will and you'll be glad you asked. Don't expect miracles every time. They probably won't have to look in the back to tell you they don't have any penzance.
- You probably will spend more money than you think you should. Not because they pressured you in any way. Just because they have so much stuff. If you do overspend a bit, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you've just done your part to ensure that the doors of a 166 year old institution get to stay open for another day.
- If you want to hang around for a bit afterwards to enjoy the fruits of your shopping, they have a nice smoking lounge there. It costs. And it's more than you usually want to spend. But it's quite nice in there. And you can bring a beverage (alcohol if you want, or if not there's a pretty good fancy coffee shop a couple of doors down). I usually take a book. If you live in a place where you can smoke pretty much wherever you want, you can probably skip it. But for city folks who can't smoke hardly anywhere, it's nice to have a place to relax and enjoy a pipe or cigar or two without being hassled.
- Last thing, and my only criticism really, is that their website design and functionality haven't been updated in at least 15 years. It's not that intuitive to use and flat out terrible on a phone. If the site says they have a tobacco in stock, they do. But for pipes, I don't entirely trust that it's correct as far as what they have and don't have. For instance, the site says they have zero meerschaum pipes in stock, but last time I was there about a month ago it said the same thing and were at least 10 on display. But anyway, it's not a huge concern because it's the kind of place that's really experienced better in person.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. If you have any questions that are more specific, send me a PM. I'm happy to help out with whatever info I can provide.

P.S If you have all day and a full tank of gas (and you didn't already spend all your money), there's a shop about 15 miles NW of Chicago called Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge that might also be worth a visit. It's not a destination/institution in the same way as Iwan Ries, but they're real nice out there. Their pipe selection is fairly small, but the tobacco selection is among the best I've seen which makes it worth the trip.
 
Last edited:

sardonicus87

Lifer
Jun 28, 2022
1,050
10,835
36
Lower Alabama
Not sure where in Chicago that Iwan Ries is located, but my only advice is if you're in Chicago, go out of your way to go to the Hispanic part where there's this bar and restaurant called Kuma's Corner. You might not like the atmosphere, but it's worth dealing with for their burgers (I highly recommend the Plaguebringer).

Do that and you'll have enough food in your stomach you can smoke the heaviest nic-heavy tobacco available at Iwan Ries. Hell, you might even need Rustica to digest all that food.
 
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HawkeyeLinus

Lifer
Oct 16, 2020
5,592
40,961
Iowa
I had an event near Chicago that got postponed at the last minute by the organizer (for a good reason for him, happy for him) but to a date that meant we couldn’t go. Wife was looking forward to the art museum and a lunch at The Berghoff (have their cookbook from many years ago - it’s great!) and I was also looking forward to a visit to IR. We’ll do it next spring! Disappointed especially because that meant no dinner with @scloyd (we were to stay nearby and he had good restaurant recs) and although he didn’t know it, was hoping to lure the legendary @dino downtown as well. Something to look forward to in ‘24!
 

jonasclark

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 4, 2013
741
387
Seattle
Yes, I'll be taking a lot of photos. I've found many online, and their site has a lot too, but there aren't enough detail shots of pipes for me. The site's tour gives a pretty good idea of what the shop looks like; mine will be about details.
 

Sir Yak

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jan 15, 2022
215
643
Arkansas
I'm in Chicago, so it's been my good fortune to have it as my local B&M for the last 20 years. I'm not actually sure how many times I've been there, but it's a lot.

Some general tips:
- If you treat them well, they'll treat you well.
- If you want recommendations, definitely talk to them about what you like or what you're looking for and they will help you out.
- Like you have heard, not everything is out on the floor, so if you don't see something you're looking for, it never hurts to ask. The worst that's going to happen is that they'll look in the back and won't have it. But sometimes they will and you'll be glad you asked. Don't expect miracles every time. They probably won't have to look in the back to tell you they don't have any penzance.
- You probably will spend more money than you think you should. Not because they pressured you in any way. Just because they have so much stuff. If you do overspend a bit, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you've just done your part to ensure that the doors of a 166 year old institution get to stay open for another day.
- If you want to hang around for a bit afterwards to enjoy the fruits of your shopping, they have a nice smoking lounge there. It costs. And it's more than you usually want to spend. But it's quite nice in there. And you can bring a beverage (alcohol if you want, or if not there's a pretty good fancy coffee shop a couple of doors down). I usually take a book. If you live in a place where you can smoke pretty much wherever you want, you can probably skip it. But for city folks who can't smoke hardly anywhere, it's nice to have a place to relax and enjoy a pipe or cigar or two without being hassled.
- Last thing, and my only criticism really, is that their website design and functionality haven't been updated in at least 15 years. It's not that intuitive to use and flat out terrible on a phone. If the site says they have a tobacco in stock, they do. But for pipes, I don't entirely trust that it's correct as far as what they have and don't have. For instance, the site says they have zero meerschaum pipes in stock, but last time I was there about a month ago it said the same thing and were at least 10 on display. But anyway, it's not a huge concern because it's the kind of place that's really experienced better in person.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. If you have any questions that are more specific, send me a PM. I'm happy to help out with whatever info I can provide.

P.S If you have all day and a full tank of gas (and you didn't already spend all your money), there's a shop about 15 miles NW of Chicago called Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge that might also be worth a visit. It's not a destination/institution in the same way as Iwan Ries, but they're real nice out there. Their pipe selection is fairly small, but the tobacco selection is among the best I've seen which makes it worth the trip.
I almost mentioned Arlington Cigar and completely agree—it’s not as exciting of a place but they’ve got a nice stock of tins. When I was there they had a tiny mason jar with a little bit of tobacco from each tinned blend on the shelf so you could smell it. Sort of like how you can sniff most bulk blends at a b&m but for that tins. That’s a cool idea that more B&M’s should do.
 

telemitry

Lurker
Aug 28, 2023
29
122
I'm visiting a friend in October, will be in milwaukee, Madison and Chicago, and I've finagled a stop at Iwan Ries, a pipe pilgrimage for me. I'm a collector first and a smoker second, but I hope to buy a pipe there-- just something I can say I bought there - and some tobacco. I've looked extensively through the website. Is there anything others who've been there suggest I know ahead of time?
I understand they were one of two buyers of old stock Bekler pipes when CAO moved over to cigars, though I don't know how many they have left. I'm usually more into meerschaum. I see they carry estates, but focus on big briar makes; I'm not sure if the store carries any more esoteric ones, or antique pipes, on occasion. Do the people tend to be friendly if I have questions? And with, I'm told, a massive stock "in the back," if there's something they have that I might want but isn't out, are they able to just access it on demand, or is that a "come back next week" thing-- or is what's "in the back" only very similar to, if not the same as, what's out on display?
It’s on the second floor, non obvious sign on the door. Ask for Harry he was kind and patient . We spent an hour plus going through different pipes while regulars came through and jumped into the conversation. Hard to say for sure what the prices were compared to online (seemed a hundred or so high on some Castello) but it’s pretty incredible getting to feel them in hand and see the grain so that makes it worth it.

They also have pipes in the back so ask if you are on the hunt and don’t see one. I left behind a gorgeous Ardor, a very cool silver banded Castello and a few other awesome pieces I had my eye on but had spent enough .
 

renfield

Lifer
Oct 16, 2011
4,316
32,276
Kansas
Enjoy your visit. Definitely a pipe destination.

Be prepared to buy something, lots of great pipes and tobaccos to be had. I scored some Penzance when I visited.
 

Butter Side Down

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jun 2, 2023
226
2,198
Chicago
I realize most of the statements about Chicago being unsafe were half in jest, but as a resident with a certain amount of local pride, I feel compelled to provide a counterpoint that I hope will ease the OP's mind.

I've lived in Chicago for 25 years and I've been absent-mindedly ambling my way around downtown to Iwan Ries for many of those years (including two trips in the past three months). In all that time I've never felt unsafe. Also, I'm not the world's most observant person, but I've never seen anything that looked like the wonton Purge-like violence party drenched in blood and flames that people seem to think is happening here. Except that one time when the Bulls won their third championship. That got a little scary. But it doesn't look like there is much chance of that happening this year.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,455
It is a sort of choose your own adventure kind of thing. I've shopped with them for years online but haven't actually been there myself. You can just do "Disneyland," and go revel in the vast inventory and try to stay within your budge.

If you have particular older pipes you'd like to see as estates or unsmoked, you could inquire about those, and let them know in advance when you will visit so they can have these available for you to see. They used to claim an inventory of about 15,000 pipes, so what you see online is just a sip of a sampling.

For example I remember some Hardcastle pipes with copper bands they had at moderate prices that looked good that I might buy if any are still hanging around in a drawer somewhere and they could sell them to me for the old time price or not much more.

So you can just go for the entertainment or you can go with objectives in mind. I think being focused on something special might be more satisfying, but that is just me. Also, study their online tobacco offerings. They have an array of blends that are exclusive to them that are good if you find ones that are specific to your tastes.
 

jonasclark

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 4, 2013
741
387
Seattle
It is a sort of choose your own adventure kind of thing. I've shopped with them for years online but haven't actually been there myself. You can just do "Disneyland," and go revel in the vast inventory and try to stay within your budge.

If you have particular older pipes you'd like to see as estates or unsmoked, you could inquire about those, and let them know in advance when you will visit so they can have these available for you to see. They used to claim an inventory of about 15,000 pipes, so what you see online is just a sip of a sampling.

For example I remember some Hardcastle pipes with copper bands they had at moderate prices that looked good that I might buy if any are still hanging around in a drawer somewhere and they could sell them to me for the old time price or not much more.

So you can just go for the entertainment or you can go with objectives in mind. I think being focused on something special might be more satisfying, but that is just me. Also, study their online tobacco offerings. They have an array of blends that are exclusive to them that are good if you find ones that are specific to your tastes.
I wonder if calling ahead and asking them to bring out estates proper, or if pipes "in the back" are really accessible.
 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
24,708
27,310
Carmel Valley, CA
Call and/or email then before with your request. They will have all the inventory ready for your visit.

Make sure enjoy the lounge upstairs afterwards with your purchase :) One of the best lounges in the US.
Yes, I'd think an email asking for a few specific pipes you desire would be the thing. Friendly folk, can be very busy. I'd go on their open on a weekday if possible.

Enjoy!