Gus’s Smoke Shop

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Pipes505

Lurker
Jul 14, 2023
30
70
New Mexico
Any Southern Californians remember Gus’s Smoke Shop on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks?? Man, I used to love that place in the early ’80s. A fellow named Jim owned it at the time, but I can’t remember his last name. Super nice guy. I was just a kid then - like 11 or 12 years old. But I was obsessed with pipes (guess I still am). I knew a lot for being a kid, and wanted to learn everything I could. No other shop owner back then would give me time of day. But Jim was really nice to me and taught me a ton over several years. I think he was somewhat entertained by me as a curiosity!
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,929
45,902
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
I was a regular customer of Gus’s. It was a great shop that was packed with the best of everything.
Because they got the Star clientele they also sold a lot of star’s collections, which is how I got the Hitchcock and Conrad pipes.
They also carried a nice selection of Cuban cigars which they shared with me.
Really, nothing else in LA was quite like them, not Kramer’s, not the original Tinder Box.
 

Pipes505

Lurker
Jul 14, 2023
30
70
New Mexico
If there was a Gus, it was long before my time. It’s possible that it was just a name that sounded correct for a pipe shop and there never was a Gus. LaLa Land, don’t forget.
Jimmy was running the shop as long as I can remember.
Do you recall Jim’s last name?
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,929
45,902
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
Do you recall Jim’s last name?
Afraid not, it was always a first name basis. There were a few articles written about the shop so maybe that info is available.
I remember driving past the place after it closed, with that awning still up for the longest time, and feeling sad.
 

Pipes505

Lurker
Jul 14, 2023
30
70
New Mexico
Afraid not, it was always a first name basis. There were a few articles written about the shop so maybe that info is available.
I remember driving past the place after it closed, with that awning still up for the longest time, and feeling sad.
Here’s one such article! It was Jim Hurwitz. And apparently Gus Pfender owned it in the 1930s. Fascinating.
 

warren99

Lifer
Aug 16, 2010
2,074
24,702
California
Back in the early ‘70’s, there were three Gus’: One in Studio City, one in Sherman Oaks and one in Encino. The one in Sherman Oaks was the last survivor. It closed in the early 2000’s; although Gus’ had an online presence for a few years thereafter.
 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
18,614
11,785
Maryland
postimg.cc
From that article,a few interesting mentions:

Bill Fader also owned the three Faders tobacco shops, located around Baltimore.
but “pipe sales have been increasing,” affirms Bill Fader, the Baltimore-based executive director of the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America,

Did anyone ever put eyes on the massive GBD they mention?

More than 600 pipes are arrayed on various shelves and in a glass display case. These range in price from $30 to $3,500, the latter for a massive 1960s-vintage, gold-trimmed example from famed manufacturer GBD.
 

huntertrw

Lifer
Jul 23, 2014
5,346
5,809
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
I correspond occasionally with Richard Carleton Hacker, and this is what he was kind enough to share today concerning Gus':

"Gus’s started out as Boyd’s Pipe Shop in 1927, back when Ventura Blvd. was still largely a dirt road and horses vied with automobiles. In addition to pipes and cigars, Boyd raised and sold chickens and candy and a few other sundry unrelated items.

"Boyd sold the shop to Gus Pfender in 1937, who renamed it Gus’. Note the unusual apostrophe placement.

"Sometime before 1975 Pfender sold the pipe shop to an Englishman named Norman Fudge. Fudge wisely kept the Gus’ name - otherwise folks might have mistaken it for a candy store!

"I first began going to Gus' in the late 70’s and remember seeing the original gas stove in the back room and the brass cash register that was sill in use. I also remember seeing the occasional chicken feather poking out from the floorboards, and Norm telling me how they got there. Although he had a reputation for being cantankerous, I got along with Norm, especially when he learned I wrote about pipes and had a collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia (which may have appealed to his British heritage).

"I met Jimmy and Paula Hurwitz when they came to the store and Jimmy was deciding on whether or not to buy it, as Norm was getting on in years and frankly, was tired of dealing with the public.

"Jimmy asked my opinion and I thought it was a good deal, especially since store ownership included the property on what now was now a main San Fernando Valley thoroughfare.

"Jimmy bought the store in 1985 and I continued to be a regular customer and even put the photo I took of the store in at least one of my books.

"I lived in the same area, as did a number of pipe smoking movie celebrities. with whom I became friends. William Conrad gave me one of his beloved Charatans (which I still have) and David Rose, the musician and I shared both pipe and train hobbies.

"An interesting side-note: David had an unusual triangular pipe rack he had purchased in London. I tried to buy it but he wouldn't sell. When he died in 1990 Jimmy bought it and resold it to me - at I’m sure more than David would have wanted for it. It still have it.

"To his credit, Jimmy kept the old stove in the back room, remodeled the store to include a walk-in cigar humidor, and still occasionally cranked up the old brass cash register, although a newer electronic gadget saw much more use.

"Gus’ was the quintessential neighborhood pipe shop and might have still been there today if Jimmy hadn’t run afoul of some sort of California law and subsequently was imprisoned for a short while and, of course, lost the store.

"When he got out of stir he tried selling pipes out of the back of the corner liquor store, but of course, it wasn’t the same. That venture only lasted a short while and he sold socks at Nordstrom’s but eventually died of cancer some time back.

"Gus' was next door to the Mistral’s restaurant and sat vacant for many years (it was always sad to walk by its shuttered facade) until Mistral’s purchase it, used it for the occasional private party, and now plans to open it as an extension of the main restaurant. But those plans were put on hold due to the pandemic.

"And now you know 'the rest of the story.'"

Thank-you, Mr. Hacker!