As it seems all good things must, the “Dublin Era” chapter of Peterson pipes (1991-2018) comes to an end today. As we write in The Peterson Pipe, “It is tempting to call this the ‘[Tom] Palmer Era,’ but he resists the label, insisting “the reality is that it is a collective effort on all our parts. My role is to stimulate interest and bring out the creativity in the folks at Sallynoggin.” Tom, CEO of the company since 1991, is the most gracious and affable businessman it has been my pleasure to know. Like Tony Dempsey and Jimmy Nicholson before him, Harry Kapp and his father Henry Kapp and his father’s partner Charles Peterson before them, Tom has always believed the heart and soul of the company is in the craftsmen and women, its shop keepers and office personnel.
The company has been acquired by Laudisi Enterprises (parent company of Smokingpipes.com), Tom said on the phone yesterday, and he believes it could not have fallen into more capable hands: “Sykes Wilford,” he said, “lives, breaths, and smokes pipes, and I couldn’t ask for a better successor than that.”
Joshua Burgess, Vice-President for Retail Sales at Smokingpipes, has been in Dublin for about six weeks as Laudisi sets up its Smokingpipes.eu operation, which has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Dublin had already been selected as the site for their European operation when Tom Palmer made the decision to retire earlier this year, so setting up headquarters at Peterson’s Sallynoggin factory made perfect sense with the acquisition.
Conor Palmer, Tom’s son and Commercial Director at Peterson, as the releases indicate, will stay on for a period during the transition, while Damian Maguire, who has been Peterson’s financial director since August of 2015, will step in as managing director. Joshua forwarded me this official press release, which Smokingpipes has also issued today:
While change is inevitable and often painful, today’s acquisition will be far less so than any in living memory. Peterson’s management changes in the 1970s and 80s came at a difficult time in the world-wide pipe community and were potentially ruinous to the company. But the company’s strong heritage as an Irish family business carried it through until a management buyout by long-time Peterson employees Jimmy Nicholson and Tony Dempsey, which was shortly succeeded by Tom Palmer’s acquisition of the company.
Tom’s interest in Peterson as part business and part heritage is, thankfully, shared by Sykes Wilford. In his blog post this morning, Sykes writes: “Laudisi is about pipes and pipe tobacco. I don’t simply mean that it sells pipes and pipe tobacco, which of course is true, but that the very soul of the business is steeped in the product. There are plenty of companies that do something. They, as institutions, might even know a fair bit about it. But they don’t love it. Institutionally, Laudisi Enterprises loves pipes. That love informs every decision we make. It’s the reason that other serious pipe people like to work with us: we understand what they do; we share their passion. Peterson then, as an organization serious about its tradition, its history, and its pipes, is a rather perfect fit within the Laudisi tent.”
We explore the remarkable achievements of the company during Tom’s direction in the “Dublin Era” chapter of the Peterson book, but I invite you to take a few minutes now to take a look back at Tom’s innovative Pipe of the Year series, the Dublin Era’s unique B shapes, the 4 Antique Collection reproduction sets, and the13 special collections released under his direction. Two favorites, apropos of the day, are the 2010 Writer’s Collection quartet seen at top, and one of Tom’s favorites, the 2002 Great Explorers collection below. Life is such an adventure, and to reflect on it and learn from it is one of its greatest and most difficult joys.
As for the Peterson book, well, as our layout designer pointed out, this gives us a rather tidy ending—the Dublin Era is complete. There will be a few minor changes, but with a little luck these won’t postpone the book launch at the Chicago show next spring.
So good luck to Sykes, Joshua Burgess (may you soon find the brew pub of your dreams), and the newly-formed Peterson – Smokingpipes crew.
Raise a pipe (and a pint, if you’re of a mind) to Tom and Conor Palmer, for their uniquely Irish contribution to the world of pipes and the international pipe-smoking community: Saol fada agus breac-shláinte chugat! Long life and good health to you!