Jon’s Pipe Shop moves from corporatization, construction of Green St.

By Angelica Lavito

Smoke, laughter, jazz and discussion fill the air at Jon’s Pipe Shop each night. 

On a Tuesday night, five customers and two employees are gathered in the shop sharing stories and ideas. Cigars are lit and relit after going out from engaging in conversation. 

“I come almost every day,” customer Ed Haas said. “It’s like a family. Every night, there’s always something everybody’s talking about. It’s really wonderful, it really is.” 

Haas was not always a regular customer at Jon’s. The pipe shop moved from its Green Street location to it’s downtown Champaign location on Nov. 1. 

The old shop was located at 509 E. Green St., which was close to campus and convenient for students and faculty. However, getting to the location could be difficult for customers who did not live nearby.

“I never went to the old shop because there was nowhere to park and nowhere to sit, and I gotta sit,” Haas, who is 72, said. “I’m not walking across the street and keeping track of the meter.”

Jon’s was located on Green Street from 1959 to 2013, but their longtime relationship with campustown ended when the staff decided multiple construction sites on Green Street were going to be a hassle for customers and ultimately harm their business.

“We were going to lose all of our parking because of construction. Nobody except walk-in trade was going to be able to get to us, and walk-in trade was not going to keep us going,” shop manager and City Council member Michael LaDue said. “None of the regulars or collectors would have a place to park if we stayed there because the parking lot for over a year is going to be tied up in construction.”

JSM Development plans to build a 6-story hotel and a 6-story residential complex that will include stores and a parking lot at Green and Sixth Street where Parking Lot J currently is. 

When asked how long the customers had been going to Jon’s, some laughed and replied ‘too long,’ then started playfully poking fun at each other. 

“I don’t want to call it a good-old-boy’s club because it’s not that, but it’s actually a club where gentlemen can get together and have a decent discussion; even though we might be at opposite ends of the spectrum, we still respect each other’s opinions,” said customer Barney Bryson. 

When the staff announced the shop was moving, customers offered their assistance. One customer runs a moving company and put together a team to move the shop in less than 17 hours, shop owner Pat Callaghan said.

The new shop is larger than the old shop, and the goal is to transform one portion of the building into a cigar lounge complete with a plasma TV and kitchen to host potluck dinners. Bryson will coordinate the construction.

“You can’t smoke at work, and in some cases it’s difficult to smoke at home because your spouse doesn’t like smoke or you don’t want to expose your children to it,” Callaghan said. “It will be an oasis for people who enjoy fine tobaccos and need a comfortable place to smoke them.”

Callaghan has worked at the pipe shop since high school, when his mother was the manager. Eventually, Callaghan purchased the shop because he wanted to do something he enjoyed.

Having grown up in Champaign and attended the University, Callaghan witnessed the changes on Green Street first-hand. 

“(Green Street) used to have a special character,” Callaghan said. “Now it seems like it’s getting more and more corporate and more like mayonnaise. It’s not spicy like it used to be with different types of stores and local ownership.” 

LaDue called the transformation a “Catch-22” because although development is good for the city’s economic vitality, it is not necessarily good for local businesses such as Jon’s Pipe Shop.

Callaghan said customers have been overwhelmingly supportive of the move, and he likes the mature environment of downtown. 

“I’ve had a few students that just say it was handier for them when it was right on Green Street when they could just walk right to it in between classes,” Callaghan said. “But most of them have really liked the new location, the feel of the new shop. They like the fact that there’s a little more seating so they can sit down, relax and enjoy a smoke if the weather’s bad.”

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]