special? Try this
| The Mill
March 30, 2015;
I was going to tell the story about the guy who
brought a bag of pipes into the store, believing
that he would sell them to me, but I'll hold that
in abeyance for my Brakner story. A fine
Brakner Antique was just posted on the Danish
page, and that reminds me of my meeting with
the importer of these early and distinctive high
The year must have been about 1997 or '98
because I remember I was in the last iteration of
Sherlock's Haven, into which we moved in '96.
I went to visit my mother on Long Island, where
I went to high school, and was, of course,
bored. I didn't believe there were any good pipe
shops around, but one never knows, so I picked
up the Yellow Pages and under "Pipes" I saw a
listing for somebody in a town not too far
away. Most likely, it said something about
importing and distributing briar pipes, so I
called the number.
The man who answered was not too happy at
having to answer his phone and couldn't wait to
dismiss me as an annoyance, and an ignorant
one, at that. "I don't do business any more. I'm
retired," he growled. "I used to be the pipe
importer/distributor for all the Navy PX stores."
(Maybe they called them canteens in the
Navy...I was an Army guy.) He might have
explained that he still had a bunch of pipes but
he wasn't interested in selling them,
particularly, and what could I know about
pipes. But he couldn't help but brag, "I also
imported the Brakner pipe from Denmark. Sold
them mostly to a shop in Seattle, but you
wouldn't know about them."
"I do know them," I said, "and you didn't sell
them to a shop in Seattle, but to Leonard's in
That stopped him, and changed his tone, too.
I was right, of course, and now he didn't think I
was such a complete idiot when it came to pipe
We got to talking, he invited me over to see his
remaining pipes and I accepted the invitation.
He was right, he clearly did sell to the Navy PXs
because the garage was filled with a lot of low
grade pipes that I could not use, at almost any
price. But, he had something over a dozen
Brakners left and a good number of old, but
unsmoked, Danish freehands of medium quality.
The more we talked, the friendlier he became.
He had a nice split level home in a nice town on
Long Island, but he was probably lonely. What
does a man or a woman do when their long time
spouse dies? That's a rhetorical question, but
it certainly conjures an image of loneliness,
I bought his remaining Brakner pipes (I think
there were some smooth ones in there, along
with Mr. Brakner's remarkable micro-rusticated
"Antiques) and a few of the freehands. I didn't
want to carry too much back to San Francisco
on the plane.
We stayed in touch, with him calling me at the
store with some frequency and selling me, in
lots of about a dozen, the remaining pipes that
could be sold in a specialty shop.
Eventually, he met another woman and they
moved to Florida together, if memory serves, so
he stopped calling. Being lousy at outreach, I
never called him. I probably should have...there
is always a lot to learn from people who have
lived long lives. Still, a certain affection and
attachment developed from that relationship
and I can't help but think of my good luck at
having gone to Portland that time and visiting
with Lou Leonard at the fine shop he inherited
from his father across the street from the minor
league ball park there.
P.S. There's a newly posted Eltang on the
Danish page, and a Peterson on the Specials.