A Triumph for Tobacco
November 4, 2006

Park Lane Tobacconist Celebrates its First Anniversary
Clifton Park, New York
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With all the negative tobacco talk we've been hearing in the news and throughout the various pipe related message boards these days, it's a real treat to be able to celebrate in one of the few tobacco triumphs. Paul Bonaquisti, a notable pipe maker in the Northeast and well beyond decided to defy the odds and open up a tobacco shop during a time when so many are closing their doors. A builder by trade, Paul had all the skills necessary to create an environment that would beckon the smoker from the cold and entice him (or her) to sit back, relax and stay awhile. Well I'm happy to report that he has done all of that and more. Now at his one-year anniversary I see no looking back for the Park Lane Tobacconist of Clifton Park, NY.

We took the eight o'clock out of Marshfield with stops at Braintree and Newton to pick up Greg and Tim then shot down the Pike to change lines in Agawam. Dock took us the rest of the way in his newly acquired $500 Bonneville with its leather seats and all the bells and whistles to go along with it. We arrived at the Shoppers World Plaza in Clifton Park around 12:30 PM and had difficulty finding a place to park. Black and gold balloons could be seen blowing in the breeze under a sign that read "Park Lane Tobacconist" and marked our final destination. We had been wanting to visit Paul's shop for quite some time now but schedules always seemed to get in the way. But at last we've made it and after a long drive we were eager to get inside.

There were already quite a few people present, some just picking up their favorite cigar or a pack of cigarettes but most were hear to partake in the festivities. I noticed a man standing against one of the wall racks taking pictures and looking rather professional. "Wow, Paul's gone all out, I thought to myself." I later found out that the cameraman was none other than Chuck Stanion, editor of Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine. What an honor to have the editor of THE premier magazine for pipe smokers at your tobacco shop celebration.

As you enter Park Lane, on your right you'll find a wall display of pipes followed by a variety of pipe accessories, an excellent selection of tinned tobacco and finally a nice selection of humidors and other cigar accessories. There was also a table was set up with a display of pipes from Kaywoodie and local pipe maker Joe Skoda of the Hudson Valley Pipe Club. Immediately on your left as you enter the shop is a half wall that separates the sitting area from the rest of the store and also offers a bit of privacy and protection from the elements that find their way in through the main entrance. The walls in the sitting area are tastefully decorated with a variety of tobacco related photos, signs and memorabilia; there is seating enough for about ten smokers and the chairs were both attractive and very comfortable. I sat down, lit up and felt instantly relaxed. Further in on the left was the main display case filled with pipes and more cigar paraphernalia. But what really impressed me was the amount of bulk tobacco Paul had on hand. Behind the counter were more than 125 jars of tobacco ranging from the Park Lane blends to Bob's Chocolate Flake to Dunhill's 965 (even better, it was the Lane's version!).

At the back of the store was a huge walk in humidor totally lined with Spanish cedar. Paul made every effort to construct his humidor using the least amount of man made products as possible since the glues and adhesives found in these products can impart foreign odors into the cigars. Upon stepping inside, your olfactory senses are instantly aroused by that familiar musky smell. Every wall was filled floor to ceiling with a mind-boggling selection of cigars. Dividing the floor space was a six-foot display rack that was also completely stocked with cigars. I spent a few minutes trying to decide which one to try later but the decision was too difficult. Besides, Paul had another treat in store for us. Seated at a table just outside the humidor was a cigar roller from La Aurora cigars (view video clip 2.8MB). I've been wanting to try a hand rolled cigar and today was the day I got my chance. It was great watching him in action and the cigar I smoked was so good I brought another one home and smoked it the following day.

After taking it all in I decided to introduce myself to Chuck Stanion. Although many present here have met Chuck at various pipe shows in the past, those of us who had never met him before found it to be quite a treat. We chatted for a short while discussing a number of subjects from the magazine's new format, to the noticeable absence of William Serad, to the sad demise of our favorite pastime. Chuck was a much more approachable guy than I had imagined, soft spoken and mild mannered he was very easy to talk to. Dock and Tim both had a chance to talk with him and I watched as Chuck rendered Tim speechless while showing him a pipe case full of beauties by S Bang, Chonowitz, Cook, Rouse and Davis. It was easy to see that Chuck has a fondness for straight pipes.

About an hour after we got there lunch arrived and consisted of roll up and finger sandwiches along with a meat and cheese platter. I was starving and so tried a little of everything. Everything was delicious. Paul even had a supply of beer on hand, which is always a bonus as far as I'm concerned. I always enjoy trying new beer and today it was a Dominican beer called El Presidente, a very tasty lager and highly recommended.

  

Paul's had blended his rendition of Bengal Slices so I decided to give it a try. A dark, rich smoky blend that I, Dock and Tim all seemed to enjoy quite a bit. A little later on Paul brought out a box of estate pipes and laid them out on top of the main display case. Like chum in shark infested waters, the feeding frenzy began. There were quite a few nice pipes to choose from but it wasn't quite close enough to Christmas to start buying presents for myself. Dock, on the other hand picked up a nice von Erck churchwarden at a great price.

   

It was almost time to make that long drive back so we all took a last look around for any items we wanted to take home with us. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for the raffle but Paul tells me we had a couple of winners. Dock won a box of cigars and another of our members won a pipe (not sure who).

   

Park Lane Tobacconist has everything the smoker could ask for, an excellent selection of pipes, tobacco, cigars and accessories, a comfortable smoking area to enjoy your purchases and catch up with friends, plenty of parking and most importantly, a very welcoming atmosphere and staff. I envy the folks who can visit Paul's shop regularly and if we had a shop nearby that catered to its customers the way this place does, I'd be making every effort to visit as often as possible. I'd like to thank Paul and his partners John (who is also his brother) and Jim for inviting us up there for a great day, it was well worth the four hour drive it took to get there. We look forward to visiting again. All you need to do now is get a website going, those NY taxes are a killer.

  

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