SHPC Road Trip
The "New" Gold Leaf Tobacconist
Seabrook, NH

January 21, 2006

It seems that most of the news we hear these days about smoking and the tobacco industry is not very promising. For instance, watching the tobacco taxes rise steadily into the stratosphere; hearing about businesses closing as a result of the smoking bans while new bans are being proposed every other day; how about the fact that in some places now you can't buy certain tobacco products online. It just keeps getting worse. So once in a while it's nice to be able to report something positive. This is one of those times.

Partners Joe and Linda Noradaki had been looking for a bigger location for their shop the Gold Leaf Tobacconist in Seabrook, NH, but they were having some trouble finding the right place for the right price. With fewer and fewer places where people can smoke outside the home, more and more people have been frequenting the local tobacconist to enjoy their cigar, pipe or cigarette without having to listen to anyone else harassing them about it. The Gold Leaf, once a one room shop that doubled as a walk in humidor with an adequate but snug area for patrons to sit, was quickly outgrowing itself. To make matters worse, Two Guys Smoke Shop had opened up a brand new shop a few doors down the road which was a little too close for comfort and a move that is frowned upon in the tobacco business for obvious reasons. But fate smiled down on Joe and Linda allowing them to secure a brand new location further up the road and putting more distance between them and Two Guys. The new place was just what they were looking for, a perfect location right off Exit 1 on Rt. 95 with lots of extra space. I've always enjoyed my visits to the old Gold Leaf, it was a great place to enjoy your pipe with plenty of friendly people; but one foot in the door of the new and improved Gold Leaf and you realize that you've just been upgraded from the Motel 6 to the Hilton.

Seven or eight of us had planned to take the trip north to check out Joe's new place. Tim graciously invited us all over to his house for lunch and a pipe before heading up to Seabrook. I picked up Greg at his place in Quincy and we were soon on our way. It was unseasonably warm and a perfect day for a road trip. Greg is fairly new to Massachusetts and has not yet made a visit to New Hampshire so needless to say we were both looking forward to the day ahead of us.

Driving though Haverhill I recognized the gates of Winnikenni Castle by Kenoza Lake. Since we were much earlier than expected, I asked Greg if he wanted to check it out. Being a lover of castles himself it was an easy decision. We turned the car around and headed up the wooded roadway to the top of the hill. Winnikenni Castle is small compared to most castles and seems a bit out of place where it is situated, but it's a beautiful castle nonetheless and well worth a visit if you're in the area. From a distance it has the appearance of the castles of old but the closer you get, ill placed modern items like blue plastic benches out front and a popcorn maker sitting in the window, detract a bit from the castles true authentic charm. Winnikenni is generally used for functions, craft fairs and music concerts and has a huge grassy field that wraps around two sides of the estate. Out in the field we noticed a peculiar statue of a huge elk that was placed there in dedication to members of "The Greatest Generation," so we walked over for a closer look. To our surprise it seems the elk had already been privy to the news of the new Gold Leaf and agreed to pose for this picture (roll mouse over picture).

Now that we'd killed some time we decided to make our way to Tim's house which was just a few minutes away. Dock, had already arrived and Tim suggested we go up to his smoking room while he finished preparing lunch. We gladly retreated up the two flights of narrow stairs to Tim's attic level hideaway, which just happens to be a great place to relax and enjoy your pipe I might add. Ted and Mark arrived as I was filling my bowl with some of Russ Oulette's Old Tartan that I got from Tim. I absolutely love the smell of this tobacco both in the pouch and in the air, but as much as I want to love the taste, I guess I'm just not a huge fan of deer tongue. Fortunately, this blend has an ample number of fans and doesn't need my approval. We got the call for lunch and headed downstairs to find Tony and his wife Louisa had arrived and we were all told to help ourselves to what was an amazing feast of Spiral Ham, beans, pasta salad, three types of mustard, two kinds of freshly made bread (compliments of Mark), soda and beer. Everything was out of this world and although I was completely stuffed, I managed another helping of the pasta salad and beans. Conversation shifted from Howard Stern to football to chuckling over Tim's wedding picture that looked as though the two of them had just stepped off the set of "That Seventies Show." But just when we thought we couldn't eat no more, Tim announced dessert. For dessert there was cake topped with exotic fruit with a side of homemade fruit salad. We were definitely being spoiled and it was impossible to pass any of it up. After lunch we headed downstairs to Tim's workshop, making sure we didn't trip over our stomachs on the way down. We engaged ourselves in idle conversation while finishing off our pre-lunch pipes.

One o'clock rolled around and we made our exodus to the cars. Tim rode with Dock and led the way. We made a few U-turns before finally heading in the right direction (ask Moe (Dock) and Larry (Tim) about it, we were following them... nyuk, nyuk). It took a scant twenty minutes to reach Exit 1 on Rt. 95 in Seabrook, a left at the lights at the bottom of the ramp and the new Gold Leaf sign loomed before us (just past McDonalds). We pulled into the parking lot and everyone posed for a picture out front before heading inside.

Talk about a transformation! Was this really the Gold Leaf?? It was everything you could possibly want in a tobacco shop (except maybe... free alcohol), a huge, I mean huge walk-in humidor, a three sided display case full of pipes and plenty of tobacco and accessories. One of the highlights of the new store was the expanded sitting area. The old shop had a few leather chairs around a small table that were crammed into the only available space left in the shop. As great as it was to hang out there, change like this is always welcome. The new Gold Leaf had two to three times the seating area, a larger table and six new leather chairs. There was also a high table with two comfortable stools by the window. For an added touch, complimentary coffee and sodas were also available (I had a root BEER).

As you walk in the door of the shop the pipes and tobacco are straight ahead. I picked out a seat, put down my bag and went over to take a look at what they had. I found a very nice selection of pipes on hand including eight to ten display trays of new pipes made by Neerup, Sumerler, Mastro DePaja, Ardor and Rinaldo, which were on consignment from local distributors Mike Ferrero and Kenny Kasparian. In the pipe case itself were pipes by GBD, Chacom, Barling, Peterson, Dunhill, Paronelli, Stanwell and more. They had an excellent selection of tobacco both tinned and bulk (but let's face it, there can never be enough tobacco to choose from right) and just about any accessory you need including pipe stands and cigar humidors.

Another highlight of the new shop was the addition of a walk-in humidor which is the biggest one I've seen yet. Joe gave me the personalized tour. The cigars were neatly organized and arranged alphabetically. The humidity level inside seemed perfect and there was that familiar earthy smell of fresh cigars. The whole set up made me feel like a kid in a candy store... only better. To top it all off they even had my favorite cigar in stock.

After the Christmas morning-like excitement had died down a bit we took our seats and commenced to the business we all came here for. Rick, who was unable to meet us at Tim's house showed up at the shop completing the list of SHPC's loyal subjects in attendance. The leather chairs were very comfortable and arranged in a circle around a coffee table so that you could easily see everyone seated there. Every so often one or more of us would go back over to the pipe case to see which pipe hollered at us the loudest... this time. I finally decided on a gold banded Chacom billiard with a matching gold ring on the rim. Greg took home a very nice flat sided Mastro DePaja and as SHPC members we both got a nice discount too - Thanks Joe!

We whiled away the afternoon touching on a variety of subjects interrupted only by another walk around the shop to make sure we didn't miss anything. Tony's wife Louisa seemed to have a fair knowledge of football and blended in nicely with the others discussing the subject. I sat back, filled my bowl with some Rattray's Marlin Flake and took in everything going on around me. But the fact that the sun shining through the door was no longer in my eye told me the end of our day was drawing near. We paid for our purchases and packed up our pipes before bidding Joe and Linda farewell.

I'd like to extend a sincere note of thanks to Tim for treating us to a most excellent lunch, to Tim's wife Celeste for allowing a bunch of pipe smokers into her home, and to Joe and Linda Noradaki for being such gracious hosts during our visit to their shop. I've always envied Tim for living so conveniently close to the Gold Leaf and being able to visit anytime he likes without it taking a whole chunk of his day. Now I envy him even more.

If you're ever in the Seabrook area be sure and check out the new store. Tell 'em Sherlock sent ya.
The Gold Leaf Tobacconist - 695 Lafayette Rd. Seabrook, NH - 603-474-7744

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