Sharing the insanity : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Sharing the insanity

ap4Legendary Milanese pipe shop Al Pascià shares its pipe passion with the rest of the world

by Stephen A. Ross

Every Saturday hundreds of pipe smokers and collectors from around the world logap1 onto their computers to visit the Al Pascià website to browse the new pipes that the shop unveils weekly. The items of interest include rare pipes from celebrated pipemakers and brands such as Benni, Dunhill, Former, Cornelius Mänz, Kent Rasmussen, Mimmo Romeo, S. Bang, Rolando Negoita, Axel Reichert and Frank Axmacher. Competition among potential buyers is fierce and mirrors the last few seconds of an eBay auction. If visitors are too early to the site, they frequently click the refresh button on their browsers, anxious to see the new pipes and have the first crack at purchasing them. If they’re too late to snatch up that perfect pipe, perhaps they’re disappointed, but they’ll likely be back the next Saturday, hopeful that their timing and luck is better and they’ll be at the head of the line to purchase that perfect pipe.

“People get excited about our updates, and we see a huge jump in our number of visitors on Saturday nights,” says Leonardo Sportelli, part of the family that owns Al Pascià. “Some customers get disappointed if they can’t buy the pipe in time. It all depends on your timing. It can be serious but it can be fun, too, and most of our customers think it’s fun.”

ap2Blending the serious with the fun in a fusion of new technology and traditional style is what Al Pascià is all about. As owners of the legendary Milanese pipe shop, the Sportelli family might have been forgiven if they had preferred to continue to follow status-quo methods of success that had seen the shop thrive since its establishment in 1906. After all, Al Pascià had survived two world wars and the heights and depths of a tumultuous 20th-century economy and turbulent Italian political scene. Yet, for Milanese pipe smokers, Al Pascià has been as reliable as setting your wristwatch to the chimes of London’s Big Ben or foretelling the coming of spring by the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, California. Indeed, Al Pascià’s longevity is an incredible achievement made more remarkable by the fact that it was established merely to support an Italian pipemaker’s brand.

Paolo Carati opened Al Pascià on Milan’s fashionable Via Torino in January 1906, notap3 far from the city’s center and its famous Duomo. One of the larger Italian pipemakers of the day, Carati at one time employed approximately 500 workers throughout northern Italy. For his Milan location, Carati selected the Palazzo Casati Stampa, one of Milan’s oldest buildings, constructed sometime during the 16th century. Translated from Italian, “Al Pascià” roughly means “of the pasha,” or to live like a lord, and Carati chose the name to reflect the elegance and refinement with which he wanted his pipes to be associated. Originally, Al Pascià would serve primarily as a pipe repair center with a small section of the location dedicated to pipe sales, but throughout the years, especially as the Carati pipe brand faded into memory, pipe sales at the location grew, and 110 years after its establishment, Al Pascià has become one of the world’s most famous pipe shops. One of just 29 businesses recognized by Milan’s city government and regional authorities for its long history, Al Pascià is a must-see destination for any pipe smoker traveling to Milan.

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Category: Feature Article, Other Stories, Spring 2016

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