The Fate of the Local Pipe Shop

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juanruiz

New member
Aug 19, 2015
25
0
I am wondering to what extent you all have witnessed a decline in the number of local pipe shops? The US has seemed to go on an anti-smoking Inquisition, banning it just about everywhere in some cities. I have noticed that the places I used to do business years ago are no longer in existence. Where I live now, there are three places, two belonging to the same owner, and they all seem to specialize in cigars, with little square footage assigned to pipes and tobacco. Will all the independents--and chains, for that matter-- eventually disappear from malls and Main St?

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
8,972
5,140
Most likely in small markets the mom and pops will whither away. Shrinking customer base, the net, taxes, minimum wage and a host of other factors will dictate this. It's not just smoke shops, hardware stores, book stores, etc. are all going the way of the dinosaur. Adapt or die!

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
26,156
30,376
Helena, Alabama
The number one killer of local pipe shops are online vendors. B&M's can't charge a mark-up enough to pay the bills, employees, and themselves. And, folks like us forum members gladly order online at almost wholesale prices and have our wares delivered for way less, most of the time bypassing local taxes that B&M's have to charge. This is what is driving B7M's out of business faster than any politics or social changes.

 

brass

Preferred Member
Jun 4, 2014
1,840
5
United States
I'll add another reason. Years back, we had full service tobacco shops. Shopkeepers were actually tobacconists and offered a full range of pipes and pipe tobaccos as well as nicely stocked cigar humidors. You could select from a variety of tins, bulks, house blends and custom blends.
Most tobacco stores today are focused on cigars and cigarettes with only a casual nod, if anything, to the pipe smoker. In the entire Washingington DC area, I only know of one "pipe" shop. The rest are essentially cigar stores. If they offer pipe tobaccos at all, the selection is lean and the prices are 30% or higher than I get from the online stores.
If we get a real pipe shop around here in DC, I'll patronize it.

 

ray47

Preferred Member
Jul 10, 2015
2,089
3,780
Dalzell, South Carolina
The number one killer of local pipe shops are online vendors. B&M's can't charge a mark-up enough to pay the bills, employees, and themselves. And, folks like us forum members gladly order online at almost wholesale prices and have our wares delivered for way less, most of the time bypassing local taxes that B&M's have to charge. This is what is driving B7M's out of business faster than any politics or social changes.
I have to agree with Cosmic and I'm guilty of using online vendors more then my local shop, but my local shop only sells some OTCs like PA, CH, SWR & CB and assorted accessories like pipe cleaners and such. The only cobs they sell are those mini things which I don't care for at all. I do try to throw some business their way when I need some OTCs but for everything else I go online. Sign of the times I guess.

 

gloucesterman

Preferred Member
Jan 4, 2015
1,859
2
Massachusetts
In Boston/Cambridge were fortunate to have three good "pipe" shops. But they survived because they also cater to the cigar trade and they're in a major metropolitan market.

 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
19,296
14,044
Carmel Valley, CA
Our local shop in Oakland is an old line store, lots of tobacco choices and a good inventory of pipes, all middle to high end. Based on how I see customer flow- really, a trickle, I wonder how long they can last.
OTOH, in Sacramento, there's a thriving (seemingly) three store chain that's pretty darn good in all areas.

 

juanruiz

New member
Aug 19, 2015
25
0
I wonder how much in some areas it could partially be due to the drying up of one traditional constituency: the professor. When I was a student, over 45 years ago, most professors I had smoked a pipe; it went along with the corduroy jacket with elbow patches (which has also disappeared). The last couple decades of my time on a campus saw few pipe smokers; and this was before the smoking prohibitions imposed by administrations. While many things may be seen on a campus today, pipes don't seem to be one of them.

 

wyfbane

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2013
4,880
2,724
Tennessee
We have the Tinderbox here in Tacoma. They do a very fair job of keeping up with pipe customers... especially since we are a 95% tax state on pipe tobacco. They don't stock any upper pipes, but do a good job with mid level good-smoking pipes. They also commit to the estate market. I have scored a Dunhill estate pipe there.
I buy pipes there and tobacco SOMEtimes. I also go to every cigar event they have and help out there even though I smoke maybe 6 cigars a year. I spend what I can, but online is just the only way to go.
They did jump into the new millenia and get a great line of Hookah's and Shisha and now have a good selection of Vape products.
No glass pipes though. Jeff is a forward thinker, but has his limits (thankfully).

 

settersbrace

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
5
The number one killer of local pipe shops are online vendors. B&M's can't charge a mark-up enough to pay the bills, employees, and themselves. And, folks like us forum members gladly order online at almost wholesale prices and have our wares delivered for way less, most of the time bypassing local taxes that B&M's have to charge. This is what is driving B7M's out of business faster than any politics or social changes.
Michael
I applaud everyone who has chosen not to be offended at something. Keep up the good work!!
As an employee of a B&M who has a very strong pipe and tobacco inventory, I couldn't agree more. Look, you don't have to buy everything from a B&M but if you have one in your neck of the woods, toss them a bone now and then. Let them know you are out there and are willing to spend a little, ask what they have going on for their pipe customers, any events or specials? We have seen the decline of pipe oriented shops over the last 10 years in this area and there was at one time 6 very good shops, now we are one. The good news is that there are new pipe smokers coming in almost daily and we take the needed time to help them enjoy this hobby successfully as we obviously want to see them come back. The cigar guys are even taking notice in the uptick of pipe customers and are eavesdropping on the conversations regarding the massive array of pipe blends to choose from.

Would I try and start a new business catering to pipe smokers? Hell no. What we can do as consumers is to help sustain the few shops that have survived.

 

juanruiz

New member
Aug 19, 2015
25
0
"We have the Tinderbox here in Tacoma."
Tinderbox was where I did a lot of shopping many moons ago. It's gone now. I remember when they did national ad campaigns. Now it seems they have very few franchisees. Really liked their Philosopher blend.

 

drezz01

Senior Member
Dec 1, 2014
483
6
I am wondering if there will be a minuscule resurgence in B&M tobacconists with the trend of Tobacco-Free Pharmacies and large retailers ceasing to sell tobacco products to promote their Family-Friendly images.Some of these changes have been driven by regulation while others have been enacted by the retailers independently.
CVS President & CEO Larry J. Merlo said, "We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting."
NYT
Up here in Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart (probably the largest pharmacy/convenience store chain) has stopped selling tobacco products in new stores across many provinces. In Canada it is illegal to sell tobacco online across provincial lines and the customer base within each province is so small that an online shop is impractical (with the exception of maybe Ontario). If regulations are enacted to close the pipeline of tobacco from the states we will all be subjected to ordering from local B&M's. At the same time many provinces are enacting laws to restrict the sale of 'flavoured tobacco' which in some cases includes pipe tobacco. Don your tinfoil hats and cellar now folks.
All of this said, I still purchase one or two blends from my local B&M, Peterson Irish Flake and Capstan Original Navy Flake, the only two blends they offer which I actually enjoy. Just feels like the right thing to do.

 

sagepipe

New member
Nov 27, 2014
20
0
In my opinion, Cigar Aficionado is a symbol that represents the popularization of cigars. Cigars have become associated with status which has broadened its customer base. Is the pipe smoking community ready for this type of marketing? If so, then more pipes and pipe tobacco can be sold in the shops. If not, then we can be proud of our unique, less-than popular culture community while hoping some mom an pop places keep on keep'n on.

 

griffonwing

Senior Member
Nov 12, 2014
497
0
Springfield MO
For the longest time, I lived in a place where there was no FLTS for a 2hr radius. So websites were my only source. I now live 15 minutes from a great tobacco store, and in the past 2 months have purchased a dozen tins, 3 pipe cleaner bags and an Old Boy lighter.
Now, I will still use online shops to purchase my bulks/staples, however, I know have a place to go and buy singular tins and samples. The best of both worlds.

 

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,407
32
I try to support my two locals as much as possible. The high prices and not-so-great selection are certainly tough to get over, though. I can see, in the near future, tobacco sales becoming more centralized with the Indian reservation tobacco shops, as they do not have to shoulder the same tax burden as in-town B&M's. The business will go somewhere from the drugstore market, and around here, I believe the reservations will be it. One reservation shop I know of is already branching out from their original cigarettes-and-chewing tobacco model and starting to carry a modest selection of pipe and cigar products.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
35,642
35,358
All of my early pipes and non-over-the-counter tobaccos were bought at the local Tinder Box and the local independent pipe shop Pipes by George (Raleigh, N.C.). As I have acquired more pipes, and more exacting taste in tobacco (that may be an overestimation of my taste...) and as online retailers have come on strong, the online merchants have tugged me away from brick and mortar stores. The tobacco prices are much more competitive/lower, and after I had a couple dozen pipes, I needed to go online to see hundreds of pipes, and thousands, to find pipes that weren't repetitious of what I already had. Cigars provide a revenue stream for both my local shops, but especially George maintains a strong selection of pipes and a good array of blends. When George retires, I'm not sure the shop will remain. He has a great sign on the glass door, in pencil, warning about pipe smoke inside -- the essence of informality and considerate customer relations. Long live our actual shops, the bedrock of pipe culture.

 

frozenchurchwarden

Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2014
2,936
2,300
My experience with Brick and Mortar stores is pretty miserable. That said in Canada it's probably virtually impossible for a real tobacconist to be able to operate anywhere outside Vancouver or Toronto.

Scratch that, it's probably impossible to operate a decent pipe tobacco shop at all.
That said, I'm a big fan of the on-line retail model, and I have seen retail stores that thrive in the new marketplace. Heck, last month bought a pipe from a retailer in Ireland, how cool is that?

 

davet

Preferred Member
May 9, 2015
3,813
286
Estey's Bridge N.B Canada
The prices at the local B&M's are beyond what I'll spend, but I will purchase my pipe cleaners, lighter fluid etc. and a couple of cigars a week just to help them out.

 

drezz01

Senior Member
Dec 1, 2014
483
6
That said in Canada it's probably virtually impossible for a real tobacconist to be able to operate anywhere outside Vancouver or Toronto.
I've heard the Thomas Hinds in Winnipeg is fairly impressive (see image below). I used to go to the one in Toronto but it more-so catered to the cigar crowd. Jade's in Regina is a small but nice joint. Burlington on Whyte in Edmonton and Epicure in Calgary look like fine shops. I think there are some decent B&M's sprinkled across this fine country. I wonder if there's a forum post attempting to make a list of good tobacconists in Canada ... would be handy for travel.


 
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