Monday, August 24, 2015

Brick and Mortar: Leavitt & Pierce

I had passed the storefront dozens of times.  But it was only after I wanted to find a stand for my badger hair brush, did I bother to stop in.  And once I did I was delighted.

My friend described Leavitt and Pierce as "the old man store," a condemnation as deep as we can muster in today's day and age.  But the only thing old about Leavitt and Pierce is the store itself (it is 127 years old).  It is a traditional tobacconist establishment.

They have loose tobacco of all sorts and though I am opposed to the wretched habit of smoking, this is mainly pipe tobacco and thus has a wonderful aroma (well, wonderful to me, my 5 year old son proclaimed that the store stunk the minute we walked in even though by law, no one was smoking inside).  

But there is stuff for everyone (or everyone that reads this site) inside.  I found a wide assortment of things, all held together by a common thread of quality.  There were very nice, high end fountain pens, some drafting style mechanical pencils, a few oLight flashlights, and a small handful of very nice blades--Spydercos, Fallknivens, Al Mars, and the Japanese SOGs.  Its not a huge selection, maybe 10 knives in total, but on a percentage basis it was impressive.  There wasn't a single stinker in the group. They also carried a much wider array of Swiss Army Knives than I have seen elsewhere.  Their stock of shaving supplies is incredibly robust, from good soaps to nice razors.  They also stock the classic board games in very fine renditions--chess, Go, dominoes, and backgammon--all in sets that range from nice and cheap (around $30) to fabulously expensive.  

There is a small second floor for playing chess that looked like it hadn't seen foot traffic since Nixon was president and an oddly incongruent beauty salon tucked under the second floor.  There are plenty of odds and ends that really are odd as well--giant glass jars of marbles and dice, a few hookahs, vintage signs and posters, and a massive selection of unironic actually-used-for-tobacco rolling papers.  I imagine if I were more of a tobacco fan the custom pipes and mind boggling selection of cigars would have been more interesting, but I am not.  That said, even I could tell this was quality stuff.  

The help was, surprisingly for the store's age, young and helpful.  The guy behind the counter really knew his stuff and informed me that the Al Mar STB I was handling was "made in Seki City Japan and makes an excellent everyday carry."  I smiled when he said that.  Then I frowned when I saw the price--$199.  Eek! Over MSRP.  But the store was fascinating enough that supporting it with a purchase, even that far over MSRP, would be like making a donation to a historical landmark that the public would never see fit to support. 

So, if you are ever in Harvard Square, check out Leavitt and Pierce.  There is no store I have ever been to that is even a bit like it.  And feel lucky you aren't a male in the turn of last century--Harvard and Leavitt and Pierce worked out a deal whereby young Harvard students were banned from the store.  I originally assumed it was because they wanted preserve the moral fiber of those young men, but having been inside I now realize it was to give the professors a place to go, relax, and avoid students. 


  1. I don't know if this is the appropriate place to point it out, but there is a tiny typo: STB should be SLB. Great writeup, I love stores like this!

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