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No 63 - April 24, 2003
.Memories of Lorenzo - the Italian Master

For those of us who have been .involved in the world of pipes. for a long time, the name. "Lorenzo" conjures upvivid memories of unusual names and exotic shapes

Click the pictures for enlargements

Names such as Summa Cum Laude, Valgardena, Rome, Nouvelle Vague, Uncle Paul, Bent Galore; shapes that compel you to reach for them to test the feel and the balance.
Could that pipe really be comfortable in the hand and mouth? Would it smoke well?
The pipes almost invariably passed all the tests and were great value for your money, and the weight for size ratio was incredible.
Times have changed and the man with the golden touch has passed on, but his vision and care for detail have been continued by his right hand man in the factory - the current owner of the "Lorenzo" name. It was with great foresight that some years ago he saw the benefits of investing in Albania with its supply of briar and its emerging economy.
To-day the production of pipes from the House of Lorenzo is divided in two: the limited production of original Lorenzo shapes made in Italy, and the mass produced, almost classic shapes made in Albania.

The real fruits of this investment are now ripening and as usual this year we visited their offices and warehouse just outside Milan. Our normal order was in preparation, but after strong Italian coffee and chocolates we were invited into the warehouse to ferret through odd batches and boxes.
Now that was exciting - some extra large spot carved and walnut finish pipes and some very good value small pipes with a sandblast type finish (we recognised some of the old Lorenzo shapes). We also came across some nicely-sized, well-priced meerschaum-lined pipes - a worthwhile find.
Then the climax - sorting through the stock of original Lorenzos made in Italy to select just those shapes and grains that we thought would appeal most to our smokers back home - amongst them a dozen rich brown "Rome" shapes, a few Prestigio and several of the smaller version of the old Valgardena in the beautiful Moscato finish.
Just as we left we saw two pipes stamped "Tugboat" lying in lonely state on the shelf. I'm sure they used to be called Uncle Paul, one of the most popular ranges of unusual bent shapes from Lorenzo - they were available so we added them to the order.

The excitement has been rekindled now that the pipes have arrived. The special Lorenzos we selected are truly beautiful, and the Albanian pipes just have to be the best "value for money" pipes available in South Africa. And (surprise, surprise) the long awaited "Mini Briar" pipes were also in the parcel. Another pleasant surprise - the factory and freight price increases were cancelled out by the improved value of the Rand.

And for you the next surprise - from May 1 to May 14, 2003 you will be able to buy the Prestigio, the Moscato and the Rome at 25% off the normal retail price - and the two Extra Large ranges (Walnut and Spot carved) as well. Make the most of it!

Colin Wesley
April 24 to May 7, 2003

PS Can you take another surprise? The price of Imco lighters (Gas and Liquid Fuel) has been reduced, thanks to the increasing value of the Rand.

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 64 - May 8, 2003
"Boom Again"

.This headline recently caught my attention in the Cigar Aficionado, April 2003 .- page 162.

Despite a depressed economy and the legal assaults on smokers' rights, the premium cigar market in the USA is on the rise again - it's up nearly 10% on the previous year. The USA imported 195 million units in the first 10 months of 2002 compared with 179 million in the same period in 2001.
Davidoff of Geneva and the Arnell Group have just launched their Zino-Platinum range which starts at $29 per cigar, and tops out at $39. Business is brisk says David Kitchens of Manhattan's Davidoff Cigar Shop - I've sold $50 000 worth of them".
Most of the major premium brands are growing nicely from the 2001 bottom, and as with many events the "second time round" will be better controlled than the first (1991) boom. The consensus for maintaining this growth is that the bandwagon "Don Nobodies" should remain out of the trade and the quality of the cigars on the shelves must continue to be consistently good and good value, so that both existing and new smokers will be getting real value for their money.
The Cigar Aficionado November 2002 Big Smoke event in Las Vegas was attended by nearly 6000 people - 1000 up on 2001.

Talking of Big Smokes - we attended the May 2000 event at the Marriott Marquis, New York; the first session: 4.30 to 7.00 pm.
We arrived just after 4 pm to find that we were about No.200 (or more) in the queue which in true Walt Disney style wound in and out of places and fixtures so that you wouldn't see the front. My concern, voiced to Gillian, about how long it would take for everyone to register was overheard by a tall young veteran of these events - "We'll all be inside in 20 minutes" he re-assured me. And he wasn't far out - all 1200 of us!
Equipped with a Cigar
Aficionado carrier bag, a Catalogue of Exhibitors, a floor map and a book of vouchers we set off on our cigar hunt. Fortunately Gillian is a great navigator, so we soon found the stalls we were after - Arturo Fuente, Padron, Partagas, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey and Felipe Gregoria (all non-Cuban of course). At the Punch stand you were given your cigar, a minute to prepare yourself and then seated on a stool and photographed in front of the famous Punch logo. Your portrait was ready in 30 minutes. The cigar lasted much longer and was really stunning - Gillian smoked her Churchill to the very end.
By 5.15 pm the smoke was rising**; by 5.45 pm drinks and snacks had been devoured and the noise volume increased proportionately; by 6 pm you were discussing cigars with strangers "You get Cuban cigars in South Africa? Man, are you lucky."
The whole atmosphere was vibrant.
By 6.45 pm
people were starting to filter out.
It was quite an experience, but it's not a function where you sit back and savour a cigar - it's a joyous bun fight, and cigars are the buns! You need to plan your attack quickly and move fast or the best of the cigars, snacks and drinks can run out.
It was a truly American event - and we enjoyed every moment of it.

(**At our recent cigar event at the Grillhouse we found that their extraction system worked much better than the one at the Marriott! By the way, we're planning another event in the near future - keep watching this site.)

Our first cigar event had its farcical moments. We had primed the restaurant that there should be plenty of ashtrays, and attentive waiters to make sure the ashtrays were replaced regularly. However we omitted to make the point that a cigar in the ashtray did not mean that it was finished, and one smoker found on a return from a comfort break that his unfinished Partagas Serie D #4 had been replaced with a sparkling clean ashtray - he couldn't believe his eyes.

But those were early days - they know better now, and if the restaurant had had proper cigar ashtrays it wouldn't have been necessary to remove them.
A cigar ashtray should have an adequate holding slot to rest the cigar when it is still being smoked, and also to ensure that the end of the cigar is held above the ash.
A classic example is the crystal cigar ashtray we have on special - ideal for Fathers' Day in June.

Remembering Fathers' Day, we'll shortly be presenting a "Fathers' Day Window" on the website where you can see a selection of top ideas from the Wesley's Franchise Shops, and some for online sales.
That should save a bit of thinking and walking.

Colin Wesley
May 8 to May 21, 2003

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 65 - May 22, 2003
"Website Reviewed"

In 2001 at the beginning..of.... www.wesleys.co.za. I had very little idea of. what a website was, how..it was made, or the extent of what it could do for small specialist retail businesses. But it was made clear to me that it would involve a lot of work and that I would be expected to do some of it!

The bulk of the work, the finer details - photography, figures and artistic designs - would be handled by the Webmaster (Dee Krawczyk of Deezine Publishing), by Mrs Wesley and by M-Web.
The objective would be to build a website that would not only sell products on-line but would be informative and encourage people to visit the Wesley's Bricks & Mortar Franchise Shops.
Now after 2½ years, we are all a lot more knowledgeable about websites, and I am relieved that I only have to do part of the work, mainly the "Across the Counter" articles.

Have we achieved our objective? Since there is no definite end to this project, we cannot say a definite "yes" - but we feel that we're getting there. Our e-mail database is growing. The response to our fortnightly "features" is growing on-line, but especially through the shops.

The next features will be #67 & #68 - a double to include Fathers' Day (June 15)
#67 - A choice of 2 tobacco pouches with portable pipe rest for the Pipe Smoker
(May 29 to June 15)
#68 - For the Cigar Smoker another double - a stunning leather cigar case with three great Havanas;
or a synthetic case with 3 smaller premium cigars (June 5 to June 25)

The name "Wesley's" linked to smoking pleasure has spread beyond South Africa (which we neither planned nor expected). We have had orders for tobaccos, pipes and other products from the USA, UK, New Zealand and Europe, and a number of dubious requests from Indonesia. We have been listed as a group to be visited by tourists planning a trip to South Africa, and have been able to offer help to people both in South Africa and abroad with their smoking and "where can I get it?" questions. We've met interesting "web pal" friends and commiserated on the state of South African Rugby and Cricket with ex-Pats.

We like to feel that www.wesleys.co.za is a Wesley's that is open 24 hours a day, every day, to anybody anywhere in the world who has access to the Internet.

It's scary, but exciting!

Colin Wesley
May 22 to June 4, 2003

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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