a recent tobacco order from PipesandCigars.com I had the opportunity to
speak with the owner, Scotty Bendett. Scotty informed me that he would
be hosting a pipe show with Bjarne Nielsen, prominent Danish pipe carver
and one of the largest distributors of pipes in the US. The event would
take place at the Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe in Albany, NY, which is
the physical location of PipesandCigars.com. Scotty extended an invitation
to me and all interested to come up for the day and join them.
after heading out of the gold mine I ventured upstairs to the smoking
lounge complete with high back leather chairs, chess and dart boards,
a TV and VCR and the one thing no tobacco shop should be without... a
cigar store Indian. To Tim's surprise he found a few pipemaking videos
including none other than "The Great Danes" featuring Jess Chonowitsch,
Lars Ivarsson and others, which He and Ted quickly had loaded and running
while enjoying one of their favorite blends. Tim was in his glory!
The pipes on top of the display case were from the Bjarne Nielsen Signature Series and all completely handmade by Bjarne himself. These pipes were higher quality pieces and as you might expect were also a bit more expensive. You could tell just by looking, that all of Bjarne's Signature pipes were meticulously crafted employing the highest level of detail. But as beautiful as each of these pipes were I didn't see the one that I had envisioned would fill the empty space in my rack. Instead I was drawn to a brandy shaped pipe from Bjarne's Colorado series and also found a very nice pipe from his Viking line. Rather than put both of these pipes in my queue of unsmoked pipes, I selected one of the Bjarne tobaccos that were available for sampling and loaded up the newly acquired brandy. It smoked beautifully from the first touch of a match and has become consistently more mellow with each bowl since then.
I headed back upstairs to relax and watch the rest of the video with the guys before we headed down the street for lunch at the Smokey Bones restaurant. Ted and I had the ribs that were out of this world and washed them down with an ice-cold beer. One of the attractions at Smokey Bones is the cluster of TVs they strategically placed throughout the restaurant. The TVs are numbered 1-6 and from a small box on your table you can choose which one you want to listen to. Our choice was an easy one since the Red Sox were playing. We were very happy to see Kurt Schilling holding on to a comfortable lead.
So now with bellies full and thirsts quenched, we headed back to the shop to begin the digestion process with another bowl of tobacco while getting to know our new friends a little better. As we sat around talking, Scotty brought out a couple of boxes of estate pipes for us to rummage through and Tim was very happy to find a very nice Bonaquisti to add to his collection. It was easy to deduce that Scotty loves telling a story and he always seems to tell them with an abundance of enthusiasm. While sharing his story of how he got started in the business, I lost count of the number of times Scotty said how lucky he was to be able to do what he's doing and loving every minute of it. He told us that he began by selling cigars from boxes at the mall and then started a cigar of the month club, which did well, so well that he was able to open up a store inside mall and watched his business continued to grow. Before long he was making plans to purchase or build his own building and ended up doing both. He started up pipesandcigars.com to attract business through the Internet and apparently his magic is working there as well. He says that biggest portion of his online sales comes from pipesmokers as compared to the store where the cigars are more popular. It's one of those success stories that help to instill in your mind the old adage; "You can do anything you want if you set your mind to it." Scotty Bendett has definitely done that and with pride.
So as I looked down to see the last ember in my bowl dwindle to ash I knew that it was time to head home. We took a few more pictures and said our good-bye's and thank you's to Bjarne and the rest of the folks there before heading back to the grim reality of our mundane lives, our jobs and those ridiculous gas prices. So if you're ever in Albany, be sure to make a side trip to the Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe, and if you do be sure to tell 'em Nelson sent ya.
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