The Pipe Shop in Edinburgh defies EU anti-smoking forces
by H. Lee Murphy
Anybody disillusioned by the decline in tobacconists around the U.S. ought to be glad he’s not living in the United Kingdom. There, in the cradle of pipemaking and pipe smoking—think Dunhill and Barling and Sherlock Holmes—retail tobacco is in perilous free fall as one shop after another goes dark, done in by high taxes, no-smoking laws and changing lifestyles.
One hardy survivor lies north of the English border, in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. It’s simply called The Pipe Shop, and it takes up less than 2,000 square feet on a main street in the Leith neighborhood, famous once for its docks and its cargo shipping center back when Scotland was still a home to manufacturing. It may look unassuming from the street, but the store has proved itself a serious pipe dealer, maintaining an inventory of 500 or more briar specimens and selling 200 or so in a single month. From its website, www.thepipeshop.co.uk, it ships pipes, tobacco and Cuban cigars to a worldwide audience that includes a long list of well-traveled Americans.
The owners are the father and son team of Alan Myerthall, 70, and James, 29, the latter a part-time artist and rapper who somehow finds the time to log 50-hour workweeks. The bearded James, in fact, fits the mold of the new-age pipe smoker in Edinburgh, a city of 500,000 dominated by universities and government buildings.
“People in Scotland under the age of 30 today want to smoke pipes again,” says James. “They are hipsters—growing beards and ponytails and getting anchor tattoos and smoking. We sell them a reasonably priced piece of briar, or even a corncob from Missouri Meerschaum, along with 50 pipe cleaners and a tamping tool and show them how to use it. Our pipe sales were actually up 10 percent in 2016.”
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