Those involved in the pipe community for any length of time are familiar with Brian Levine, because he makes sure they are. He introduces himself to everyone, and with humor and self-deprecation, charm and bad jokes, makes them immediate friends. His knowledge of tobacco and pipes is a resource admired by many, confirmed when he was awarded the prestigious Dr. of Pipes degree, an honorary conferred by the Chicago Pipe Club. He's worked in virtually every capacity known in the tobacco industry, for a wide variety of companies and with various responsibilities. I've worked with him myself, when he was with Pipes and tobaccos magazine, and a few folks here at Smokingpipes remember him from his tenure in South Carolina ten years ago.
He was general manager here at Smokingpipes in 2009-2010, where he was popular for the continuing education classes he presented on pipes, and for his positive attitude about everything. "We bonded over Disney stuff," says Lisa Mogel, our CFO, "and he always had a joke; he always found a way to make any situation amusing." "Really nice guy, with a really weird sense of humor," summarizes our restoration manager, Adam Davidson. Sykes Wilford maintains his friendship with Brian, and remembers that he was especially good with employees. "I can confuse people, I lack patience and I'm just not a great day-in-day-out manager (particularly in those days)," says Sykes. "Brian's friendlier and easier to get to know and work with, which made him a natural fit for the GM role for Smokingpipes — until he started playing really loud Disney music in his office after-hours when we were both still working. That was intolerable...I have a kid now and I curl up into a ball every time I hear the opening bars of 'It's a Small World After All.'"
Before Smokingpipes, Brian was director of sales and marketing for the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade association. Before that he spent several years as sales manager for Peter Stokkebye International, and before that for Hollco Rohr (a tobacco and pipe distributor), and before that he was the humidor manager for Alfred Dunhill in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills.
"Everybody has a superhero origin story..."'
Post-Smokingpipes, he managed Brigham USA, distributing Brigham pipes and accessories, and that position morphed into a combination with being vice president of sales for Sutliff Tobacco company. When that position started to require his regular physical presence, rather than commuting occasionally from Charlotte, NC, and working from home, he knew it was time for a move, and he started working for SpecComm International, publisher of Pipes and tobaccos magazine. That position evaporated after six months as SpecComm was involved in being sold, though I speculate that the closing of P&T was incidental and he most likely wasn't entirely responsible. He is now an independent travel consultant specializing in all cruises and everything Disney.
You'd think he's unable to hold down a job, but all of those positions were for several years each, except at Smokingpipes and P&T. He was commuting from Charlotte, NC to Longs, SC for his time at Smokingpipes, and because his family didn't want to move, he knew it was unsustainable, and he moved on to Brigham pipes. "I told Sykes," says Brian, "'I've got good news and bad news for you, Sykes.' I said, 'The good news is you'll no longer have to pay for all the coffee that I drink in the office. The bad news is you're going to have to buy pipes from me.' Sykes said, 'Okay, I can live with that; it'll be cheaper than the coffee.'"
Despite all those positions in the pipe industry, Brian is most recognizable as the host of the Pipes Magazine Radio Show. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a podcast in which Brian interviews interesting people in the hobby and the industry. It's been a background part of his identity for the past eight years.
Excerpt of an article written by Chuck Stanion, and courtesy Smokingpipes.com. Read the full article here.