“Hey, why don’t you give me a call sometime? I always like to get to know my customers by voice.”
I saw this message on an e-mail from Nick Miller, the man behind Quality Briar, after we’d been dealing with each other for a while. His website provides great value for high-quality pipes and is one of the few that carries a good number of Russian carvers, so I had become a frequent denizen of Quality Briar.
At first, I figured that Nick was just wanting to connect with a customer, as he seemed to me to be that kind of guy. I meant to call him, I truly did, but school and work and everything just got in the way, as life tends to do.
A couple of weeks later, I placed another order, for this pipe in particular:
(Michael Parks Pipe, Photo by Ethan Brandt)
Along with a confirmation from e-mail from Nick came another, slightly more insistent, appeal: “Hey, man. Call me when you get a chance.”
This contained no questioning tone and seemed to leave me no wiggle room. I picked up the phone and called him within a minute of getting the e-mail.
“Whoa, I didn’t expect to hear from you so fast,” Nick said on the other end of the line.
Since that time, I have gotten to know Nick quite well. He’s a call-them-how-he-sees-them type of guy, who often says exactly what he thinks and what he thinks is very often right. He’s quick to crack a joke or break into an anecdote or explain something casually, as if it were the most basic concept, that I had been unable to grasp after trying relentlessly.
The result of that initial phone call, and the many that have followed, is exactly what you are reading right now.
For a long time, the “Blog” section on Quality Briar went unused, gathering cobwebs. It was very much like Val Kilmer’s acting career: the pieces that were on there were good, but there just weren’t enough of them. That is what Nick called me to change.
Some of you might know me from my blog, Pipe School; if you do, I thank you for your patronage. If you don’t, get with the program! Just kidding.
(Me enjoying my IMP Meerschaum Freehand on Thanksgiving, 2011)
Allow me to take this chance to introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me. My name is Ethan Brandt and I am a senior at Washington University in St. Louis. I have been collecting pipes since my freshman year of college and have been seriously collecting for the last year and a half. For the last six months, I have been working on my own project, known as Pipe School, a small blog that has been an incredible amount of fun to make happen.
That blog is now going to be continuing right here on Quality Briar. It will still be Pipe School and will still feature the same content, along with some additional writers pitching in every now and then. The main difference is the URL. I know, change is scary, but this is good change, have no doubt about that.
I have enjoyed what Nick has done with Quality Briar, much as I have enjoyed the process of making Pipe School a reality. I am excited to announce that the two will now be coming together, something that I have no doubt will make each of us even more valuable to you, the piping community.
Thank you very much and look for the first real entry within a week!