From high profile to high altitude : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

From high profile to high altitude

After decades of million-dollar business deals and
glamorous living, Mark Stewart finds a peaceful refuge
as a pipemaker in the North Carolina mountains

by Chuck Stanion

Living high in the mountains of Brevard, N.C., far from the Philadelphia, New York and Vegas of his youth, enjoying a modest lifestyle dramatically different from his former days as a millionaire sports promoter, Mark Stewart designs, Stewart1thinks about, experiments with, repairs and makes pipes.
He doesn’t make a lot of pipes, but the ones he does make are done to exacting personal standards. And the pipes that don’t meet his standards are relegated to a reject box. “A pipe is just a piece of wood, usually, with two holes,” he says. “What you do with those holes, how much care you take with them, means everything. The single most important thing is the engineering. If a pipe isn’t engineered correctly, it won’t smoke right, and I don’t care if it’s the most gorgeous thing in the world; it’s useless.”
Stewart is a 72-year-old who looks younger and speaks with the passion and assurance of a man at the peak of his abilities. He’s intelligent, articulate and charismatic, and it’s easy to see how he built and ran the multiple businesses that launched him into early financial success. Becoming a multimillionaire in your 20s, though, can come at a price money can’t redeem, a lesson he learned firsthand. It was a rough and exciting road to retirement in the thin air of Brevard. He built and lost fortunes on his way there.
His start was in real estate in the Philadelphia area, his specific genius in development. Through the early 1970s, Stewart financed, managed and/or developed significant real estate, including two Holiday Inn hotels, more than 5,000 apartment units, several strip-style shopping malls and more than 50,000 square feet of commercial office space. During that time he also launched Sports Management Inc., through which he became a sports agent for many of the most gifted athletes in the country.

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Category: Feature Article, Spring 2014

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