Pipe Shops for the Pipe Clubs
by Joe Fabian, Laudisi Distribution Group
I learned to smoke a pipe the way many of us do, at the pipe shop, with the local club. In fact it’s that first pipe club and its president, Doctor Garr, that I credit with finding my way into this great hobby and a fantastic career. Since then, it’s been my primary job to help tobacconists become better pipe shops. Great pipe stores can seem few and far between these days. Pipes often feel adrift in an ocean of cigars on the brick and mortar world. The right shop can be a wonderful thing for a pipe club, though, and even the most devoted cigar merchant can still see the value in taking care of their pipe people.
A good club has license to build their own pipe shop. That doesn’t mean every club president should start looking for business loans. Rather, a good club becomes the core of a pipe shop’s business. In addition to a comfy place to meet and smoke, a retailer who wants to keep the loyalty of a good pipe club can see the value in always having your favorite blends in stock and an ever changing collection of the pipes the club is most interested in. A pipe shop can facilitate raffles, events, and group purchases. They can find your slow smoking contest a sponsorship for prizes and bring wholesalers (hello!) into the shop for trunk shows and tobacco tastings. Most importantly of all, a good pipe retailer can help you start or grow your club. They act as an ever open front office for your pipe club, taking contact information and distributing your fliers to customers. (Your club has a flier, right?)
The first step to having these things for your club is talking to your retailer. Even retailers who may seem lukewarm on pipes can see the value in fostering a club. Retailers want to stock the stuff you’re most interested in, as it is, and a club makes it easy for them to know what’s best. Ask for space. Ask to put your fliers on the counter or leave a sign up sheet for collecting emails. Ask for the kinds of things your club wants and the resources to help your club grow, then make it pay the retailer back. Encourage members to pick up a few ounces of pipe tobacco or a cigar on meeting day. It doesn’t need to be a requirement, but tobacconists are small businesses that have to stay afloat financially. Show your host retailer you appreciate their commitment to your club by helping their business grow. That will mean they have a very real stake in helping your pipe club flourish.