Not Just Talking Tobacco Today

When Scott Bendett opened the Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe in the Colonie Center mall in Albany, NY, he could have scarcely imagined where things would go from there. After a few years of selling cigars and pipes to the locals, Scott felt that it was time to reach out to a larger audience, by going into mail order. So in 1999, Pipes and was born. The entire operation was run out of an 8 by 10 room by the staff between waiting on customers in the store.

As Pipes and Cigars grew, so did the retail store, and so it moved to a free-standing building about a quarter-mile from the mall, and the mail order operation took over the basement. It was around that time that some staff was hired to be dedicated to Pipes and Cigars. We thought that we were really taking off, shipping out 60 to 80 packages a day. Boy, were we in for a surprise. In only a couple of years, we wound up having to move the internet/mail order business to a larger warehouse to be able to accommodate the orders. In addition, we had introduced our own house-blended line of tobaccos, Hearth & Home, which took off much faster than we had anticipated.

Habana Premium continued its growth as well, and moved to a larger location, again, about another half-mile down the road. This building had a rather large second floor that could contain the mail order business, and had a conveyor to make it easier to send the packages to the trucks. So, with both operations under one roof, we thought we’d be set for quite a while. Once again, we underestimated the potential for growth.

In the last few years, our expansion has been exponential, due to the faith put in us by our loyal customers. But that brings us to today, and a crossroads. Those of you who have depended upon us to take care of your needs have helped us to grow at an incredible rate, and we recently had to assess our ability to do the job.

Our facilities were rapidly becoming incapable of containing our operation, and our equipment would need to be upgraded significantly if we were to handle demand. The investment in space and materiel would have stretched our resources and would have required a massive overhaul in how we did our jobs.

At the same time that Scott faced this major decision, a possible solution was presented to him. Pipes and could merge its order fulfillment with the facilities and resources of a company that was more than well equipped to do handle it; Cigars International. Since our primary consideration always has to be our customers, the decision was made to make the move. Now, with the ultra-modern facility and work force at our disposal, we can use our resources to save you money, get your shipments out quicker and develop new items and promotions to make your shopping experience that much more rewarding.

When I was presented with this scenario and the opportunity to move with the company and to help Pipes and and Hearth & Home to grow even further, it didn’t take much to convince me that this move would greatly benefit our customers, and afford me, personally, the chance to do more and better things for those of you who have supported H&H from the beginning. You can expect to see an even better selection of products as we work on coming up with better options for you.

As I’ve said repeatedly in recent weeks, if I didn’t believe that this was the best move to deliver the optimal shopping experience, I wouldn’t have made the move with the company. As it is, I’m in it for the long haul. Will there be some fumbles and hiccups as we make the transition? You betcha, but as we move forward, we’ll learn from our mistakes and when we get past  this phase, you’ll be amazed at how a company that always put you first will take that philosophy to the next level.

I believe this enough to stake my reputation on it. Give us a chance to show you just what we can do.

Russ Ouellette, blender,

Pipes and

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.