Last July, Skip's working with Aubrey and I on a Thursday. He comes out of the office and says, "Guys, we've got to do something special for the show this year. Who've you got in mind?"
Aubrey reacts quickly with one of the new pipe carvers, but Skip reminds him that we haven't been able to get in touch with the guy. Aubrey concedes, and I look around the shop for who's been popular recently. I throw a name out there, and Skip tells me that the guy hasn't made much recently.
Then, Skip's eyes get wide, he announces that he knows who is coming, and vanishes into the back. Aubrey and I are left staring at each other with raised eyebrows. I shrug and go back to describing products for the website while a customer comes in for Aubrey.
After one week of Aubrey and I speculating about the pipe carver, Skip reveals that Eric Nording is coming. Aubrey says, "I thought he retired," and I add, "Yeah, is he still traveling?" Skip grins and says, "The thing is Eric said he's coming." Aubrey immediately calls Heath Hill and Scott Salmon from Rocky Patel, and Max Stokkebye gets an email from me.
In the months of planning, new regulations come into effect and travel hurdles arise. Plus, rumors of Nording's health circulate. Still, we keep working like we would without that noise.
Saturday, February 29, comes with a bright, chill morning. The sun had been absent for weeks, so Aubrey and I were feeling good when we got to the shop. Skip joined us a few minutes later as we finalized our set-up. Then, sure enough, Eric Nording walks into the shop with Heath and Scott in tow. Max followed closely behind.
While Eric and Skip catch-up, Aubrey and I open the doors, and everyone floods in. Y'all packed this place out. Eric and Skip pat one another on the back before greeting the first customers. They share what they love: well-crafted pipes.
Many of our old favorites joined us. John, the former store manager, stopped by to share a bowl, and Matthew Phillips, a former employee, came in second in the pipe contest. Our buddies from Rome, GA made their annual trip, and a couple of our fellow retailers visited.
We drew new favorites too. An online customer came up to me and said, "I've been trying for years to get down here, and I couldn't have picked a better day." The guy behind him bought his first ever pipe, and he joined us for pipe club in March.
After the show, Skip, Aubrey, and I are exhausted. We had a lot of fun with y'all though. Thanks for coming and making this Aubrey and I's best show. We look forward to seeing y'all around the shop and for the show next year, which will be even better.