House of Horvath: Peter, when was Walper Tobacco Shop established, and by whom?
Peter Koebel: The Walper Tobacco Shop was established in Berlin, Ontario in 1891 by George “Pop” Philip.
Image from: Berlin: Celebration of Cityhood (Berlin, Ontario: The German Printing and Publishing Co., 1912).
HOH: How has the ownership of Walper evolved over the years?
PK: From 1891 to the early 1900s it was operated by George O. Philip, who was also widely known around town as “Pop”. The early 1900s to 1925 saw ownership change hands many times between F.W. Wahn, then L.A. Mahlenbacher, then James J. McCallum, then J.H. Brick. The stretch from 1925 to 1953 was occupied by Winfred “Win” Stumpf.
Soldiers march in front of Walper Hotel and Tobacco Shop
1953 to 1970 was Albert “Hahnie” Hahn, and 1970 to 2010 was my father Mike Koebel. 2010 to present day is yours truly.
Mike (L) and Peter Koebel. Sadly Mike Koebel passed away in 2010.
HOH: You’ve recently relocated to a new location from the original landmark. This must have been a difficult decision.
PK: The decision was certainly a difficult one – one where I had to balance the legacy of the shop and its previous owners with the future of the store. The Walper building was bought by new owners who ultimately broke our lease agreement. So, between that happening, and the changing tobacco laws in this country, the decision to move was the most prudent one we could have made.
HOH: Beyond cigars, what else can someone expect to find at Walper?
PK: At the Walper Tobacco Shop, people can expect not only a great selection of cigars, pipe tobacco, and obscure tobacco products like snus and snuff, but also a considerable offering of humidors, brand name and artisanal pipes, razors, shaving soaps and accessories, and even the odd hunting knife. All this is of course combined with our staff’s firsthand knowledge and guidance!
HOH: Do you have any house blends? If so, what can you tell us about them?
PK: We’re currently developing a premium house blend cigar, but already have several house blends for pipe tobacco. Our most famous, Plumberry, was created accidentally over 40 years ago. It was a very happy accident as it became one of our best sellers! In recent years we’ve made numerous aromatic blends, unique non-aromatics, and just this winter released our first ever limited-edition Christmas blend. It was a lightly aromatic festive blend that sold out in only a few hours!
HOH: Over the years you have developed a loyal base of customers. What cigar-related events does Walper conduct for its customers?
PK: During the warm weather season, we hold a monthly cigar event at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 50, which is also known as the Fred Gies Legion. Each one is sponsored by a different one of our distributors. The events make for a great chance to meet fellow enthusiasts and try some new cigars. We also have a golf tournament in the summer at the Highland Glen Golf Club in Priceville that always sells out. Last year was the most attended tournament we’ve ever had.
HOH: What advice would you offer to someone who is just beginning to discover cigars?
PK: For someone at the beginning of their journey into the world of cigars, I’d advise them to stop by and chat with us about what they know, what they want to know, and what kind of experience they’re looking for. There’re no silly questions here, and we all love talking about cigars. We’re all quite passionate about them. The world of cigars can seem daunting to the “uninitiated,” but there’s nothing more rewarding than helping out those who are just starting out to find
HOH: Do you still have any old cigars, boxes, accessories of memorabilia from the many decades past?
PK: Yes, we’ve kept a selection of tobacco memorabilia from years past, both from the shop, and from the industry in general. We’ve also kept the antlers, fish, and antiques put up on the shop walls by its previous owners – to keep their legacy alive.
A vintage 1960’s Walper matchbook
HOH: Tell us, what’s your personal favorite:
Cigar to have with a coffee?
PK: Tabak Especial Medio Robusto.
Cigar to have after dinner?
La Aroma de Cuba Immensa.
Cigar to pair with whisky or another spirit?
Montecristo No. 2.
Dark wrapper cigar:
Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado Maduro.
Ashton Classic Magnum.
HOH: Rapid-fire question time!
HOH: LFD or EPC?
Punch cut or V cut?
Robusto or Churchill?
Butane lighter or wooden match?
Candela or oscuro?
Whisky or rum?
Golf cigar or BBQ cigar?
HOH: Tell us something most people don’t know about Walper Tobacco Shop…
PK: When we say that we are the oldest continuously operating shop in Canada, we really mean it! Despite two World Wars, Prohibition, global depressions and recessions, pandemics, lockdowns, and our recent move – we’ve never closed our shop doors.