Years ago while working in Knoxville, TN, I stumbled upon an excellent tobacco shop called Leaf and Ale. The store had a nice walk-in humidor stocked with many different options for many different budgets. I was very fond of their Arturo Fuente cigar offerings. The store carried a modest selection of pipes and pipe tobaccos. It wasn’t a huge selection, but it did provide some very good options.
Then I moved to Iowa City, IA for work. One of the highlights of Iowa City is the pedestrian (ped) mall in the middle of town, adjacent to some of the main buildings on the University of Iowa campus. There are many shops and festivities, as you would expect. A nice gem of Iowa City was the Tobacco Bowl, located in the middle of the ped mall. The Tobacco Bowl did not have the selection of pipe tobacco and cigars that Leaf and Ale offered, but it provided some excellent options. One would typically find college students studying and talking inside—a mainstay of college life. It was a fantastic option for grabbing a coffee and a cigar and strolling through the ped mall.
Fast forward several years and I find myself living and working in Kentucky. There are some very good tobacconists in Kentucky if you know where to look. However, nostalgia sometimes makes an appearance and, with the help of the Internet, it is easy to check up on one’s old haunts.
Before taking a trip to Knoxville from my current residence, I decided to look up Leaf and Ale online. Closed. Wondering about the Tobacco Bowl, I looked it up online. Shuttered. I do not know the various reasons why these fine tobacconists decided to close their doors. Perhaps it has something to do with the current climate surrounding smoking—cigarettes demeaning all forms of tobacco. Perhaps it has something to do with new laws and regulations that serve to halt the sale of tobacco. I cannot say for sure.
While I do occasionally grow nostalgic for the “good old days” of only a few years ago, I am encouraged by the interest and community online surrounding the pipe smoking hobby. I don’t yet see the hobby dying out—thankfully. It is a sad day when such fine stores shutter, though. I, for one, want to be able to remember them and encourage those who remain open that there are those of us who appreciate what they do.