Best Smoky Tinder Box

Ed Kolpin knows a thing or two about pipes. The affable 96-year-old tells me that he once made “16 of ’em” for Bing Crosby, adding that the crooner was one of his favorite people. Catch him in a chatty mood, and he’ll regale you with anecdotes and stories about all the stars he’s rubbed elbows with over the years. The Tinder Box, Ed’s small, unpretentious pipe-and-tobacco shop, is surrounded by high-rises in Santa Monica and is redolent of those pristine movie props from shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Kolpin’s been in business here since 1928, and has catered to the smoking needs of notables like Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Pat Boone, Clark Gable and Robert Mitchum. All smokers are welcome; the place has an unmistakable “homey” feel to it and is a welcome haven for wary and harassed nicotine devotees who want to feel comfortable about indulging without fear of condemnation. Walk in, and you will immediately be struck by the sweet, pungent smell of aromatic pipe tobacco mingled with a tinge of cigar scent. Even if you don’t smoke, there’s much to see and enjoy here. The walls are filled with autographed photos of Hollywood celebrities who have done business here over the years. If you like an occasional cigar, there’s a separate room containing some of the finest stogies in the world. Glass cases hold vintage meerschaum pipes, lighters, rare pewter and ceramic mugs, countless numbers of objets d’art, vintage muskets, and some beautiful model ships and artifacts. Kolpin says his oldest pipe was carved 300 years ago in Turkey, with a bowl shaped like the head of Mephistopheles. Call it a smoker’s heaven.

Tinder box 2729 Wilshire Blvd., ?Santa Monica, (310) 828-4511

LA Weekly