Made in North Carolina: Sparta Still Packs a Pipe

Just posted to the web site is a really great article on the Dr. Grabow plant in Sparta North Carolina. Certainly worth a repost here. All credit to the and author Josh Shaffer.

By Josh Shaffer—
SPARTA — The inside of the Dr. Grabow plant looks like a high-school shop class from 1965, a warehouse-sized room filled with whining, whirring machinery that turns chunks of briar wood into smoking pipes and spits sawdust on the concrete floor.
The pipe-makers here have shaped, sanded, lacquered and buffed this wood for an average of 33 years each, some of them logging more than half a century on the job – a rare collection of lifetime employees still working in an industry that tends to remind people of their grandfathers.
Dr. Grabow persists in the Blue Ridge Mountains, its name still painted on Sparta’s water tower. Even as the country’s largest manufacturer of pipes, an annual output of 140,000 doesn’t justify reconstructing a plant and its 40-odd custom-made, jury-rigged machines overseas. But mostly, this is an archaic trade not easily taught to a fresh crew. Gary Dixon, for example, drills the bore for Dr. Grabow pipe stems using a wooden accelerator pedal, judging the depth of the hole using only the feeling he’s gained from 40 years on the job.
“I’m always proud to say I’ve got employees who’ve been here longer than I’ve been alive,” said Rick Wooten, vice president and general manager, whose grandfather worked at Dr. Grabow. “And I’m pretty bald-headed.”

For the rest of the article, please click HERE.


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