Antoine Grenard is part of the rich history of the briar pipe. In 1825, nestled in the Jura Mountains in eastern France laid the small town of Saint-Claude where the Comoy family began making mouthpieces out of boxwood. It was merely 10 years after Napoleon Bonaparte’s crushing defeat at Waterloo and about 30 years before Sainte-Claude artisans began to use briarwood in pipes and thus lay the foundations to make the town the briar pipe capitol of the world.
At its peak in 1920, the town of 11,000 inhabitants supported over 60 pipe factories and made pipes by the tens of millions. Fast forward 50 more years and three generations from their start, the Chapois/Comoy pipe company had merged to become Chacom and was bought by Yves Grenard in 1970. As interest in pipes waned from 1970’s through the late 1990’s, Yves oversaw the company’s growth as other factories closed down and sold their stocks of briar and their trademarks.
Yves’s sone, Antoine treated the factory more as a playground than a production facility. There was all the old machinery to marvel at, countless dusty racks to climb and an almost endless supply of briar bowls waiting to be finished. Antoine took over the company in 2007 and Yves enjoyed watching his son for five years before his death in 2012. Now Antoine can walk the facility almost as a museum, still bringing life to machines much older than himself, and attempting to retain the spirit of a world still echoing through the factory’s mostly empty workrooms and attic spaces.