A small shop with a big inventory : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

A small shop with a big inventory

It doesn’t take a huge space to provide the best in pipe smoking

by H. Lee Murphy


Was it so long ago that enclosed malls were a prime destination for pipe and cigar shoppers? In the 1980s and even into the 1990s it seemed that every sizable retail center had a tobacco emporium where men could retreat while their wives and daughters wasted away their afternoons nearby in Macy’s and J.C. Penney. Tinder Box had dozens of outlets, in fact, in malls, and was considered a valued tenant by landlords.

Smoking bans changed all that, of course. Mall tenants decided they not only didn’t want smoke in their heavily air-conditioned environments, they didn’t even want the smell of unlit tobacco or the negative image of a cigar sign anywhere nearby. Only a few stalwarts have survived this upheaval in thinking and taste around the country. One of the best is Oxmoor Smoke Shoppe in Louisville, Ky., in business for a full four decades in the swanky Oxmoor Center, surrounded by names such as Pottery Barn, Old Navy and Kay Jewelers, along with Panera Bread. In a tobacco-growing state like Kentucky, nobody seems to find any irony in this proximity.

The smoke shop was an original tenant when the Oxmoor mall opened in 1972. oxmoor3It’s been owned since 1973 by J. Paul Tucker, 67, a throwback who still blends his own bulk tobacco from old company recipes on index cards stored under the cash register opposite a display of pipes that has stood its ground over the years as other shops have gravitated toward cigars and even hookahs.

This is one small place, spanning 550 square feet. It was even smaller, at 410 square feet, when Tucker got his start on the second floor, long before moving to a prime location on the ground floor close to the entrance. The owner, who has three employees, admits to experiencing claustrophobia occasionally in such close confines. “I’ll grab some coffee and a paper and go out onto a bench in the corridor to read at times,” he says. “There was a time when I’d sit on that bench to enjoy a smoke, too. But that was a long time ago.”

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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Spring 2014, Tobacco Articles

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