Tewksbury & Co. Is Closing After Twenty Years, Putting Hobbit's Weed on Hold

Gwen and Dave Tewksbury were shuffling through paperwork for three orders of their famous Hobbit’s Weed tobacco that had come in that morning when the phone rang. Gwen answered, then handed the phone to her father so that he could repeat a line he's had to utter too many times lately: "We just can’t make the blend any more after the end of the year,” he told the caller.

Tewksbury & Co., the tobacco, cigar shop and smokers’ lounge that Dave Tewksbury opened two decades ago in downtown's Writer Square, used to ship about 900 pounds of Hobbit’s Weed a year to locations all over the world — but then the Food and Drug Administration started cracking down on pipe-tobacco regulations. Now the final orders are being sold or shipped out, and the shop itself will shutter on December 17.
“It was more like a perfect storm,” Dave says of the shop's imminent closure. A stiff rent increase and the FDA’s proposed ban on anyone who's not a registered manufacturer — Tewksbury & Co. is a retailer — from blending tobacco persuaded him that it was time to close the shop.

Housemade blends like Hobbit’s Weed account for 20 percent of the family-run business, and becoming a registered manufacturer is out of the question, he explains: “It’s unbelievable the red tape you have to get through to be a manufacturer."

While Dave Tewksbury says he's ready for retirement, his daughter was hoping to carry on her father’s legacy. “I’m the face of devastation,” Gwen says. “It feels like Prohibition is starting on tobacco and I’m right in the middle of the riot.”
She's not the only one who's concerned. Regulars like Craig Ford, who has come into the shop every day for more than three years, plans to stock up on Hobbit’s Weed, his pipe tobacco of choice, before the closing. “I like it because it has a nice taste and it doesn’t bite your tongue,” he explains.

Bret Goodman, owner of Jerri’s Tobacco Shop and Fine Wines in the Denver Pavilions, wanted to buy the Hobbit's Weed recipe, but the Tewksburys decided to hang on to it, in case the FDA rules change again. In the meantime, smoke shops around the world have sent samples of their attempts to copy the three-ingredient formula, in hopes of getting feedback or advice from Dave Tewksbury.

Both Jerri's and Tewksbury's had been simply blending two or three tobaccos from registered manufacturers into their own mixes, which they sold in the stores. Now the FDA wants to approve all the recipes of blends that are sold. Goodman says he even researched how to become a registered manufacturer, which would allow Jerri's to continue to blend in-house. But there would be a cost for each approved blend, Goodman says, and the FDA has yet to list a price.

So instead, Jerri’s will release some of its own blended-tobacco recipes to loyal customers, so that smokers can mix their own at home.

“The FDA recognizes that the final rule will have an impact on a significant portion of the market,” the FDA says in a statement. “The regulations are securing the evaluation of important factors such as ingredients, product design and health risks, as well as their appeal to youth and non-users.” Smokers will continue to see changes throughout 2018, including the regulation of cigar production and no more freebies. (Think buy-one-get-one deals.)

Both Dave Tewksbury and Goodman say they have some hope that President-elect Donald Trump will get some of the new regulations tossed — but any such move will come too late for Tewksbury's. “The new president may say enough is enough,” Goodman said, “but it won’t happen over the next four weeks.”

Tewksbury & Co., located at 1512 Larimer St., #14r, in Writer Square, is hosting a closing bash all day on Saturday, December 17, with food, giveaways and product markdowns on everything from furniture to cigars in the shop. Find out more here.
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