Richmond C.O.R.P.S. Expo 2012

by Luca di Piazza


For two successive years the Richmond CORPS Pipe Smokers Celebration and Exposition changed his location.

2011 show was held in the Hilton Shortpump; the C.O.R.P.S. drastically changed direction, giving up the tradition of helding the show inside a hotel in order to save the possibility of smoking during the show.

The C.O.R.P.S Expo 2012 was held in the Richmond Convention Center, in the heart of the city and trade fair of the Virginia Capital. It was a huge space, well lit, with large windows and wide, tall rooms. These characteristics allowed to a couple of hundreds of people to smoke during the show without any kind of perception.

I arrived in Richmond on friday night, driving from Baltimore, where I organized a Radice, Don Carlos and Luciano trunk show at Fader's Store in Towson.
The hotel was close to the airport; it was the only one with more than 60 smoking rooms and I thought it could be the perfect choice for most of the Expo visitors: I was wrong. Fletch and Jeff of Fader's were my companions during the weekend.


Fletch and Jeff in Fader's Store, Townson


Many pipemakers, various collectors and some retailers decided not to attend the Expo. I heard the first rumors a few months ago, rumors of a declining show for three reasons: too many location changes, lack of a reference point like a common hotel to everybody, the closeness of the West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas.
Personally I tried not to nourish these rumors and I immediately confirmed that I would have been there. 28 years of history of the C.O.R.P.S. Expo, 28 years of passion and efforts, must be absolutely kept in consideration and preserved!

Friday night dinner was the perfect situation to undertake a conversation about our expectations. During the dinner Jeff told me how the C.O.R.P.S. Expo was born as a small collector show: "I will attend the Expo untill it will be held!" Jeff said. Asking why he had this peculiar fondness was natural for me; he answered: "This is my 15th show in this city. Richmond because the biggest and most attractive show after Chicago. Many Danish pipemakers were used to attend it. Even S.Bang pipemakers have been here a few times. In the beginning of the years 2000 many retailers started to attend the C.O.R.P.S. Expo with big satisfaction!".

My first Richmond show with a Neatpipes table was in 2009, just 4 years ago but I perfectly remember that a decent number of Danish pipemakers were there with a table and a nice selection of pipes. The large presence of pipe collectors inevitably attracted the biggest names through pipemakers, but also retailers with the double chance to sell and buy new pipes. A perfect circle, apparently indestructible.

But the circle is slowly going to close again and the C.O.R.P.S. Expo is coming back to its origins of a smaller event, with the characteristic of the main presence of pipe collectors.

In the hope that the show could be anyhow positive, I can't keep back that I was afraid the show turning into a fiasco. I was aware of too many Danish and American pipemakers, dealers and collectors who decided for interest to attend the West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas only.
The lack of a common hotel or the further change of location affected the show in a marginal way compared to the fact that the West Coast Pipe Show has been incredibly yearly scheduled for the beginning of November. Who's coming (like me) from Europe, hardly can attend both the shows, as they are extremely close. I can't imagine how a pipemaker can have a good selection of pipes made in just a couple of weeks.

Said this, I am not sure yet I won't be in Vegas, maybe just as pipesmoker, visitor and collector :-)



Back to the Richmond Expo, since the saturday morning opening, most of the tables were held and the walking-in people were even more than the year before!
As said, I was aware of many friends not coming to the show; as many were there and it was great to see and talk for a while with Michael Lindner, Adam Davidson, Russ Cock, Scott Thile. The only Italian, other than me, was Alberto Bonfiglioli. I have never met him in Italy but he never missed any of the events where I've been up to now!

Among retailes: Smokingpipes (Saturday night Asian dinner, with Sykes Wilford & Co. is something I can't miss!!), McCranie's from Charlotte NC, The Pipe Tart of Sally Gottliebson, James Island Piper of Don Seatter, The Pipe & The Pint, Ye Old Briar. Paul Bonaquisti eandPremal Cheeda of Smoker's Haven missed the show.

It was great to see Neill Archer Roan, Fred Goldring and obviously Linwood Hines, a man of the show organization. Unfortunately my good friend Brad McCluskey wasn't there as well as Rich Esserman.


Michael Lindner Pipes on his table


The show closed at 3 p.m. on Sunday; people were very satisfied! It was a great show, against any odds, for attendance, fun and business! 
I really hope that this will be kept in consideration and those who decided to attend the West Coast Pipe Show might even decide to take turns at attending these two important shows. Richmond Expo must continue its long and successful story; the WCPS must be able to build its own way not to the detriment of  Richmond.

The closing of the show was the moments of hugs and goodbyes. Everybody go home, the party is over and we must wait for a new year before coming back again.
This time it was a little bit different fr me_ Richmond was the first stop of a very long tour through the most important Tobacconist and pipemakers of the USA East Coast.


J.Alan, Castello Pot, a nice addition to my #55 Collection

J.Alan | Michael Lindner |