F.G.T. Enterprises, Inc: A Family Affair
Originally started by Frank Smith in 1965 as the Parent Company and supply side vendor for a chain of 30 Retail Franchises that had developed under the name of Edwards Pipe & Tobacco.
At that time “Smitty”, as Frank is affectionately known—was instrumental in getting all the pipe shops / franchises ‘up and running’ and concentrated on franchising the name ‘Edward’s Pipe Shops’ in the USA.
His work included site selection, renovation of buildings, training of franchises in the selling of pipes, Edwards Tobacco, accessories and managing 11 successful shops that were owned by the parent company which at the time was named Edwards Wholesale Tobacco and changed to F.G.T. Enterprises, Inc. in 1982.
The original Edward’s Tampa store which was started by Smitty in 1960 was used as a training ground for all new franchisees. This was a time of tremendous growth in the industry and Edward’s shops were opened in:
1) Orlando, Miami, Lakeland and Jacksonville, Florida
2) Dallas and Houston Texas
3) New Orleans, Louisiana
4) Milwaukee and Brookfield Wisconsin
5) Minneapolis, Duluth and Moorhead, Minnesota
6) Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado
7) Los Altos and Northridge, California
8) Charloette, North Carolina
9) Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama
10) Atlanta and Clarkston, Georgia
Establishing Edward’s Wholesale in 1965
In order to supply these shops with our own custom-blended tobaccos, Edward’s custom-made smoking pipes and smoking accessories; this new company was formed.
Then, and now,; we custom blend approximately 40 tobaccos blends for our Edward’s stores and several years ago we added 7 “Buccaneer Blends” that we sell to other tobacco shops. We work with all major tobacco companies that know stripping, cutting, and packaging of the raw tobaccos. All natural tobaccos are used in a process called “essence blending”. The tobacco blends have been very popular throughout the years.
A situation arose in 1972 that afforded the company an opportunity to purchase a pipe factory in St. Claude, France. At that time, St. Claude was considered the pipe making capitol of the world. This new source provided a greater variety of pipes to the Edward’s shops. Operation of this facility continued for approximately five years until a decision was made to manufacture our own pipes in the United States.
Forming P & S Systems
With the formation of P & S Systems, we began manufacturing both custom-made and machine-made pipes in Tampa. We had a great pipe master named Charlie Bergen who helped train our workers to develop new shapes. One of his trainees at that time, was Randy Wiley. Charlie took Randy ‘under his wing’ and trained him in making hand-made pipes.
Another pipe maker, Thomas Cristiano, who now owns Cristom Imports out of Tampa, joined the company. Tom had worked for Kaywoodie Pipes and was hired to supervise the pipe department.
In the mid-80’s, pipe sales began to decrease and we began to down-size our pipe making department. Currently, pipe bowls are made in Europe and we do only the finishing of the pipes in Tampa. We do however; make all out free hands in Tampa. These are all custom-made shapes and styles.
At the present time, we still supply pipes to the Edward’s shops under the name Edwards and a line of pipes under the Benton brand name to hundreds of retailers in the United States. We also do private label pipes for many of the larger retail shops.
F.G.T Enterprises, Inc (Frank & Gordon’s Team) arises 1982
In 1982, Gordon Smith, recently out of college, joined his father at the retail level. Gordon had worked in the wholesale end of the business during his high school years in packing, packaging, and shipping tobacco and accessories to the franchise stores.
At this age, he showed an aptitude for communicating with shop owners and began to develop skills in selling products and store merchandising. With his college background and his prior experience, he began to expand the accessory line, on his own, and started a wholesale operation for the purpose of supplying smoking accessories to other retail shops in the south-eastern United States. At the time, Bill Mynett was our only FGT salesman. Bill began to call on shops in the south and this new venture proved to be very successful. We added 12 new independent sales respresentatives and started marketing our products at various trade shows and this was the beginning of the company now known as F.G.T. Enterprises, Inc.
F.G.T. Emerges and Expands
Rather than continuing to open more franchise shops, we saw our growth potential in supplying smoking accessories to all retail shops. Through relationships that had been established over 25 years with sources in Europe, Frank Smith was able to sign contracts with companies to provide a larger variety of smoking products.
Over the years, the product line have increased tremendously and our business has benefited from representing and distributing some of the major name brands in the industry. We also have many lines that we are the World-Wide Exclusive Distributor of such as Humi-Pouch and have setup distribution networks in the global marketplace, we import products from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, China, France, Canada, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.
Present and Future Plans
F.G.T. Enterprises has dedicated it’s time and resources to this industry throughout the good years and the not so good years. Our purpose is to provide the finiest products and great customer service at the best prices to our many customers throughout the United States, and abroad.
Our success has been built from the associations we have made with our loyal customers and friends in the tobacco retail business. We will continue to strive to provide to them Innovative “New” products at reasonable prices along with good old fashioned customer service. Our thanks go to our energetic working team at F.G.T. We feel our personnel in the office and our warehouse is the best trained of any small company anywhere and we are proud to have them as part of our team.