When did Wally Frank Ltd finally perish?

MLC

Foggy Fogey.
#24
Here's that clip from the 1987 flick --- the shop looks really small, but it appears to be in business unless it was all an elaborate prop for the movie.

Bette Midler even mentions Wally Frank by name toward the end of the scene when she's talking on the payphone.

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well-known member
#25
Here's that clip from the 1987 flick --- the shop looks really small, but it appears to be in business unless it was all an elaborate prop for the movie.

Bette Midler even mentions Wally Frank by name toward the end of the scene when she's talking on the payphone.

Well, plainly at least the midtown (?) store survived until summer of '86, when they were shooting the scene.

I'm really surprised there was no prominent newspaper article about the death of Wally Frank as a retail or catalogue operation. It was an institution in NY for decades.

I found a AP wire article about them shuttering their last domestic cigar plant in '86, in Kingston, NY, but that appears to have been submitted from the local Kingston paper.
 
#27
Very interesting stuff. Sorry getting to this thread so late.
I worked for Wally from 1975- 81 on the retail end. The company in some form started in 1930. It was said that Wally Frank was selling out of a suitcase. I guess the store on Nassau street might have opened in 1933.
He created Hollco as a wholesaler company. I think it was the success of Flying Dutchman and Sail tobacco that got that going. (Holland company). He also bought the Weber pipe company and the pioneer company. Word tobac in Louisville also. If you look at the map of New York city you will see that the Wally store on Church street shares the same corner as Warren street which was Hollcos address. He didn't partner up with Max Rohr on the west coast until years later. I'm not sure when they closed down. I know when I was there that his son left the company.
 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well-known member
#28
I had forgotten about this thread and it appeared again today thanks to @Brian.

For those who are interested, a 1970 issue of New York Magazine discusses pipe smoking, and profiles all of the major "full service" tobacconists in Manhattan back then, including Wally Frank, in a column entitled "The Compleat Piper"

https://books.google.com/books?id=gscDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA62&dq="the+compleat+piper"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiEw6-18dnnAhXihXIEHXwiDO8Q6AEwAHoECAAQAg#v=onepage&q="the compleat piper"&f=false

It's a fun little read. Sadly, only one of those pipe shops remains, and it is a shadow of itself.

Also, 1970 New York Magazine was extremely weird and out of touch -- even more so than they are today. They have some truly bizarre articles. Talking about $275 pipes (in 1970s dollars!) is one of the less expensive hobbies in this magazine. There's an entire architectural critic piece that is exclusively about new-built summer houses in the hamptons. (!)
 
#29
So at the tender age of 23 I worked for Wally Frank. I was there from 1986 until they merged with their California office in 93. I will give you a few tidbits - at least of what I can remember. First of all Mr. Frank was an amazing person. He lived in Connecticut. When they opened the warehouse in Middle Village and yes the address is correct (the school was across the street) he would commute by bus and train everyday up into his mid-90’s. It didn't matter if it was raining or snowing, he always made it to work. In the winter he would wear one of those hats that clipped underneath his chin and black rubber boots that slipped over his shoes. We were attached by plexiglass cubicles. Sometimes in the afternoon, I would watch him dose off at his desk. I would think to myself “he should retire.” I now understand why he didn’t. Keeping busy keeps you young! Mr. Frank owned the line of Comoy pipes along with Hollco Rohr and a few other companies. He decided to expand his line to include Men’s Executive Gifts and created Comoy’s of London. It was headed by a man named William Mickey. He was the buyer/creator for COL. He is responsible for many walking stick designs out there today. COL was both wholesale and retail. It had all sorts of really cool gifts such as lighters, scrimshaw (faux), walking sticks, razors, etc. When the Queens office relocated to California, Mr. Frank retired and his son Steve took over. Bill Mickey went to work for Nat Sherman, Inc., in NYC., who hosted a line of gifts with the company name of Concord Shear. Bill ran Concord and when he got wind of Comoy’s of London’s executive gift line going up for sale, he persuaded the Sherman Family to purchase it. They did, but only about half of the line was continued by Nat Sherman. Eventually Mr. William Mickey left Nat Sherman and he was able to take the Concord line with him. After a number of years Concord Shear got sold to Harvey Canes where Bill worked up until retirement. Bill Mickey and Mr. Frank were my mentors. I wouldn’t have the work ethics that I have today if it wasn’t for these two people. PS Hi Brian, what was your position at Wally Frank? Do you remember Lucy?
 

Riff Raff

Well-known member
#31
I used to stay at the Courtyard in Kingston NY for many years on a regular basis and when bored (ie too cold to smoke my pipe comfortably outside), I'd ride around. I wondered if I ever saw that Cigar factory, answer is no, they demolished the building the year before my NY work travel started.
(there are still plenty of empty manufacturing buildings around Kingston, its not exactly a thriving community)

https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/fhk/id/974/
 

PKT

Well-known member
#32
I had forgotten about this thread and it appeared again today thanks to @Brian.

For those who are interested, a 1970 issue of New York Magazine discusses pipe smoking, and profiles all of the major "full service" tobacconists in Manhattan back then, including Wally Frank, in a column entitled "The Compleat Piper"

https://books.google.com/books?id=gscDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA62&dq="the+compleat+piper"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiEw6-18dnnAhXihXIEHXwiDO8Q6AEwAHoECAAQAg#v=onepage&q="the compleat piper"&f=false

It's a fun little read. Sadly, only one of those pipe shops remains, and it is a shadow of itself.

Also, 1970 New York Magazine was extremely weird and out of touch -- even more so than they are today. They have some truly bizarre articles. Talking about $275 pipes (in 1970s dollars!) is one of the less expensive hobbies in this magazine. There's an entire architectural critic piece that is exclusively about new-built summer houses in the hamptons. (!)
My goodness. What a wonderful article. I was in the city then and was a Wilke regular in 1970. Great memories.
 
#34
I used to stay at the Courtyard in Kingston NY for many years on a regular basis and when bored (ie too cold to smoke my pipe comfortably outside), I'd ride around. I wondered if I ever saw that Cigar factory, answer is no, they demolished the building the year before my NY work travel started.
(there are still plenty of empty manufacturing buildings around Kingston, its not exactly a thriving community)

https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/fhk/id/974/
Riff Raff glad you enjoyed - but you got me a bit confused. The warehouse was in Middle Village, Queens, NY
 

BriarPipeNYC

Well-known member
#35
I can't find a definitive corporate history for Wally Frank / Wally Frank Ltd.

Custombilt collectors refer to the end of the "Wally Frank Era" as 1998, but the final reference to Wally Frank that I can find on the internet is 1990. An advertisement in a local newspaper advertises Wally Frank private label cigars:
https://newspaperarchive.com/panama-city-news-herald-may-13-1990-p-116/

When did the NYC stores finally close?
When did catalog sales really end?

Lots of 1940s and 1950s Wally Frank catalogs have been scanned, but I've never found a 1990s one.[/QUOT

I started smoking a pipe back in 1966 as a 16 year old teenager. I live in New York City, and I cannot tell you how many hours I spent in the old Wally Frank stores that were in the area of the World Trade Centers. I spent obscene amounts of time watching some old gent repair broken pipes while a customer waited. The repairman had a little workshop in the front window, a lathe, tools, supplies, etc. and worked in full view of passers-by. I ate dirty-water hot dogs while watching this guy re-stem some careless exec's pipe. Men would drop off pipes at lunch hour... and would return at quitting time ....the pipe would be repaired, buffed and ready to go. My happiest times in Wally Frank were spent at the tobacco blending counter. I looked, I sniffed, and I bought. I got queasy from smoking all my latest impulse-purchases. Huge apothecary jars were filled with blending leaf, and store-specific mixtures. Many customers had their own custom-blends that were kept on file. The aroma cannot be duplicated nor be described. The store was like an emporium....all mahogany, polished brass, etched glass, men in suits and ties, speaking in low tones. Those days are long gone and will never return. Today's strip mall, cigar lounges.... don't even come close.
 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well-known member
#36
I tried to save that New Yorker article, no dice, they have that content locked down!
Well, that's easily remedied

Here is a link to a crude PDF

Alternatively, image files. I could not upload these directly to the forum because it wants to down-size everything. So they're posted at imgur.


Being three pages out of a hundred plus page magazine, and fifty years old, I suspect it's copyright "Fair use" to copy this excerpt. At least, I'm not going to beat myself up about it.