Missouri Meerschaum Co. has been in business for 148 years doing one thing: making corncob pipes. The company was the first—and is one of the last remaining—to commercially make corncob pipes in the United States. As anyone working within the pipe category can attest, selling pipes can sometimes be a challenge. From the outside, there may be a belief that pipes are a part of a past generation, but for a company like Missouri Meerschaum, which makes pipes and interacts with those who enjoy them and the hobby on a daily basis, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Years ago, Phil Morgan came across a help-wanted ad in the newspaper seeking a general manager for a corncob pipe company. Though he was retired, the new opportunity piqued his interest so much that he submitted his resume. Morgan has been the general manager at Missouri Meerschaum for nine years and still enjoys his job and being part of the pipe community.
“In the corncob pipe business, it’s like any business,” says Morgan. “You have all the headaches that you have in any business but … it’s corncob pipes! There’s definitely a fun aspect to it, too.”
CREATING A DEMAND AND A FOLLOWING
Having worked in the pipe industry for nearly a decade at a pipe company that’s been in business as long as Missouri Meerschaum has, Morgan has learned a few things about the industry. The biggest lesson, he reports, is that it’s now crucial to not only market to other businesses, but directly to consumers as well.
“It’s a very customer-orientated business, and you’ve got to have a relationship with your customer,” Morgan explains. “It’s not like you’re just selling nuts and bolts and as long as they work people don’t care about them. People in the pipe community care about their hobby. They care about the pipe makers and the pipes they make, and they care about their pipe tobacco.”