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BEST TOBACCONIST

Lewis Pipe & Tobacco

This isn't the smoke shop you pop into for a pack of P-Funks before you hit the (nonsmoking) bars. If that's what you're looking for, hit up any generic corner store with "Tobacco" in big, bright-red block letters. If what you seek are some of the finest cigars and pipe and rolling tobacco, the tops is Lewis Pipe & Tobacco, in the sleepy Renaissance Square Building. In his store, tucked in a corner facing Nicollet Mall, Rich Lewis stands behind the counter like a pharmacist. (Lewis is being forced to move soon, but he vows he'll stay downtown.) The shop itself, with its glass-case, temperature-controlled humidors and giant jars of loose tobacco lined up on shelves behind the counter, is like a candy shop. Lewis has worked at the store since 1972, and has since studied pipe making in Europe. Lewis plies his trade as the national repairman for many high-end pipes. The tobacco ranges in color from oily blacks to olive greens and costs about three bucks an ounce. The pipes cost anywhere between $35 and $650, and some are Rich Lewis originals, crafted in the basement workshop. Like any great pharmacist or candyman, Lewis knows his product and chats with customers as they enter, some of the regulars lingering a bit longer.

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