EL REWIND: Campbell's Smoke Shop

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Sunday, July 26, 2015, 7:29 am
By: 
Sarah Dougherty

A little red door on MAC Avenue leads to a store founded almost 60 years ago. When you walk into Campbell’s Smoke Shop, the smell -- woody, complex, pleasant -- surrounds you. The place is small, and the walls filled with history.

Campbell’s Smoke Shop is the real deal. Josh Woodbury, the manager, began working in the shop 19 years ago; he knows “tobacco from seed to final product.”

“We are what is known as a tobacconist,” he explains, “a professional retail tobacco dealer.” The shop blends and mixes fine pipe tobacco, sells imported products for cigarettes, and even carries hand-carved briar wood pipes.

When the store was founded by Bill Campbell in 1956, the front half originally held high-end men’s clothing. In 1970, “malls started popping up. . . . Bill Campbell saw the writing on the wall,” and the store “went strictly fine tobacco.” The establishment then went through a change of hands. Doug, Bill’s son, took over the store in 1980, running it until January of 2015 before retiring to the Upper Peninsula. Terry DeMarco, a longtime customer, became the owner after Doug.

Josh Woodbury

Through the many years Doug owned the shop, he maintained the store’s style. “The shop has always remained the same. No big changes,” says Woodbury. The store even has the original owner’s pipe collection and bear skin coat displayed on the wall. “That’s one of the nice things about Campbell’s that we always hear from customers,” Woodbury says. “Somebody maybe hasn’t been back in East Lansing in twenty years, they come back in here, they know the guy behind the counter, and the place is the same.”

Campbell’s Smoke Shop has strong customer loyalty, built on this consistency. “The customers that were coming . . . in 1956, we still have many of those customers,” Woodbury says, and those customers are now “in their late 70s.” The store has customers from age 18 to 106 years old; it’s a strong community. Woodbury remarks that customers “are like family. . . . After I meet a person once, I remember their name, everything I know about them.”

Though East Lansing’s landscape has changed over the years, Campbell’s Smoke Shop remains familiar behind the little red door.

 

Campbell's Smoke Shop is located at 207 M. A. C. Ave, East Lansing (517) 332-4269

Open Monday through Thursday 9:30-6:00, Fridays 9:30-7:00, and Saturdays, 9:30-6:00. (Closed on Sundays.)

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