Too Close to the Forest

The somewhat enigmatic title refers to the idiom about not being able to see the forest for the trees. I’ve said innumerable times that I love my job, but it’s a detail-intensive livelihood. When putting a new blend together, I sometimes feel the need to make changes that seem infinitesimal to correct a problem, or achieve my goal. Then come the individual points about how to present the blend, as far as label art is concerned, and reaching all of you with the message.

For the first seven or so years of Hearth & Home, I was pretty much the whole show. I came up with the blends, planned the release, and in many cases, even did the label art. The labels were, to be kind to myself, crude, but they served the purpose. Of course, I had direction. I couldn’t just produce something because I felt like it, but once the decision was made, The rest was on my plate.

A couple of years ago, we realized that I couldn’t do it any more. We didn’t have the production space to allow me to expand, and I would have had to train people to help me make the tobaccos, so we began working with a company that had the capacity to handle the work and was willing to use the exact same tobaccos and methods I used, to keep the blends the same. Around the same time, I had the resources of a graphic artist and a marketing director to help us do a more professional job.

Flash forward, and now we’re in a very different place. We have design and marketing departments to help us, and our partner has stepped up to the plate to help us grow even further and elevate our products. But even better, I have co-workers who enjoy being involved in development, and who make suggestions to bring more creativity to our brand.

The reason I bring this up is because we had a brainstorming session this morning about future products, and we came up with two really innovative ideas for sometime down the road. They’re both ideas that I never would have thought of, because of my rather myopic view of Hearth & Home. Thus the “forest for the trees” reference. These ideas are exciting, because they express a “voice” different than mine, but they’re ones I can enthusiastically embrace. All of this means that we will eventually bring you even more unique blends that will serve to give you new choices that you won’t find anywhere else.

This new environment is serving to allow Hearth & Home to become more of what I originally envisioned – a boutique brand, capable of making items with concepts different than anything else available. I thank all of our customers who have helped us carve our niche in the US pipe tobacco market, and I can promise you that things will become really interesting in the months and years ahead.

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.