Welcome to the online outlet of the award winning Black Swan Specialist Tobacconist. This family run business has now been serving the smoking community with specialist tobaccos and accessories for over 50 years, over three generations and surviving four economic recessions. We are now one of the most recognised tobacco specialists in the UK, and with the success of www.thebackyshop.co.uk we are quickly gaining worldwide recognition.
In 2009 the Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders awarded Kris and the Scarborough branch the Pipe Livery 'Retailer of the Year' award for outstanding service, knowledge and extensive contribution to the smoking community. To date Kris is the youngest tobacconist to be presented with this prestigious award.
Now in its 3rd generation, The Black Swan Specialist Tobacconist chain started its life back in 1955 when the late George Rowland Parry left the engineering trade to pursue a new business venture hand crafting decorative wrought iron work. He took up residence in the rear buildings of former Black Swan Coaching Inn on Silver Street at the top of Westgate in Wakefield. As Georges reputation grew and the potential of his new venture was realised, he sought after a showroom to display his wares. At the time the Wilkinson family ran a tobacco shop in front of his forge and were nearing retirement age. George saw the opportunity and bought the business from the Wilkinson family. He appreciated the potential of the tobacco trade and kept the business but converted part of the shop to display his work.
The former Black Swan Coaching Inn was well known for its colourful history as being a well known house of ill-repute. In previous decades many local gentleman of this local mining town were seen stumbling from this public house with a slight swagger and a big grin before heading down to the near by Cathedral to confess their sins. Eventually the authorities caught on and decided to put an end to the locals happy corner. The first known inhabitants since the closure of the former coaching inn were the Ploughman family who made a living selling umbrellas before the Wilkinson family decided that it would be an ideal site for a Tobacconist shop. When George took over the business he wished to change the name from "Wilkinsons" for obvious reasons. Upon discovering its colourful past and in keeping with George's character and sense of humour, he decided to use the historical reference and the "Black Swan Forge" and "Black Swan Specialist Tobacconist" were born.
Initially Georges wife, Joan helped run the tobacconist, while he concentrated on his wrought iron work soon to be followed by his son Michael who joined the family business in 1970.
During the recession in the early 70's the government introduced the 3 day working week, which had a significant impact on George's wrought iron business as this meant that they could not physically keep up with the demand, and what they could produce was barely enough to pay the overheads. Following a difficult few years and the sudden death of his wife in 1979, the decision was taken to dissolve the wrought iron business and the tobacconist was left to his son Michael. By the mid 1980's many high street tobacconists were disappearing under the pressure of the supermarkets who were heavily discounting their tobacco products. The large double fronted shop was sadly no longer viable and in 1986 when a smaller shop became available across the road at No.7, Michael decided this was a more suitable location to ride out the difficult times, and the hard decision to leave the house of ill-repute was taken.
If you are reading this then you are probably already aware that we provide a mail order service for those less fortunate than the habitants of Wakefield, Whitby and Scarborough, literally bringing our specialist tobacconist to your doorstep. However, if you are planning a visit to any of these towns please feel free to pop in and experience the wonderful aroma and character of a true specialist tobacconist on the high street.
The shop at No.7 Silver Street in Wakefield is the oldest branch in the Black Swan chain. No.7 initially sold general tobacco products but Michael realised that the tobacco trends were changing and gradually introduced premium cigars, Snuff, loose Pipe and Hand Rolling tobaccos. It wasn't long before No.7 had developed into the true specialist tobacconist it is known as today.
No.7 is a small shop brimming with character and more tobacco products and accessories than you could ever imagine for a shop of its size. And of course as you step near the door the characterful aroma of aged tobacco that can only be associated with a true tobacconist pleasantly welcomes you. Unfortunately due to the size of the shop we cannot guarantee that it will stock every item on the website so we would recommend ringing before making a special trip. But worry not - if we don't have it in stock a little word in Shirley or Gail's ear (and the promise of a cream cake for their efforts) will ensure a swift one off delivery or they will find a space on the shelves if you would like something on a regular basis.
Knowing that No.7 in Wakefield was in capable hands with his assistant June and a strong desire to move over to the coast, Michael took the bold decision to expand and open a specialist tobacconist on the East Coast. Michael and George already spent a great deal of time at their holiday home in Robin Hoods Bay on the Yorkshire coast with Michaels sons James, Mark and Kris. It soon became obvious that the traditional seaside port of Whitby was missing the specialist touch that was offered in Wakefield, and so Michael made the move. Many initially doubted this decision as the tobacco trade was declining, but again with the right choice of products and the help of his son James it was an instant success. The Whitby branch was soon a well established harbour side shop. So much so in fact, that the family soon found that many smokers made a special trip to Whitby to select a pipe or purchase a special pipe tobacco, before ambling down the pier to break in their new purchase or enjoy a fine Cuban while watching the waves roll in.
Located at the end of the main shopping precinct Whitby's specialist Tobacconist is a small characterful tobacconist stocked from floor to ceiling with specialist Pipes, Cigars, Snuffs and tobaccos from every corner of the world. Even non smokers are drawn down the ramp into the shop by the wonderful aroma that takes you back to the days when there was at least one tobacconist on every street.
When Kris finished college and decided to move to the coast the Whitby shop was already running at full steam and there wasn't any specific need for more enthusiasm or an extra set of hands. It was decided that if Kris was coming into the family business it would be a great opportunity to open another branch. After careful research, the decision was made that the seaside town of Scarborough, 17 miles down the coast could benefit from a traditional tobacconist shop and so the search began for the right premises. This was found in the form of an old perfumery on Bar Street, a little cobbled side road which already boasted many unique and quaint shops. The business approach from the Wakefield and Whitby branches was adopted, and in 2001 the Scarborough shop was opened and was stocked from floor to ceiling with specialist pipes, Cigars, Snuffs and an extensive range of tobaccos. After a few months it was discovered that Bar Street had once been a street of ill-repute and had once been warmed by the glow of red candles. Upon hearing this Michael, Mark and Kris knew they were onto a winner. The people of Scarborough embraced the cheeky grins and friendly banter, as the new addition Kris learnt the trade from the people who know best - the smokers who were drawn in by the aroma! Over the next few years smokers who visited Scarborough were delighted with the discovery of a true specialist tobacconist.
Located in the town centre just 5 minutes from the scenic south cliffs and less than a minute from the lift to the South Bay and the Grand Hotel, there is no better place to treat yourself to a fine Cigar or Tobacco before taking a walk in the fresh seaside air. As you meander down the main high street your eyes will naturally be drawn to the traditional little cobbled street on the right hand side. As you walk follow this you will quickly be drawn by that wonderful tobacco aroma and you will know you have found us. Whether you want advice on choosing a fine cigar or a specific brand of pipe tobacco, or just want a friendly face while you buy a pack of fags you will be welcomed by Linda, Little Linda or Kris.
Soon after opening the Scarborough branch Kris noticed numerous mourning smokers who were reflecting on the times when they had a 'lovely little tobacconist on their doorstep', and missed the time they spent choosing from a wide selection of tobaccos as they had been replaced by brightly lit gantries in their supermarket full of commercial brands. The joy on their faces when they were given a 'proper choice' of tobaccos again was warming to see. It was decided that a Mail order service was much called for and in 2004 Kris bought the Black Swan Shoppe LTD's first computer and 'thebackyshop' was formed.
When the Scarborough shop first opened Kris needed to prove to his father that he was in tune with the business before he would be trusted to run it alone. He decided that the passers by needed to be aware that regular smokers were catered for as much as connoisseurs. One afternoon while his dad had to nip out for a meeting, he spent the afternoon making some signs saying "BACKY from £4.50" (yes that was for 50g!) Kris waited with baited breath for his fathers return and a "well done lad", but was soon disappointed with a "you daft pillock get that bloody sign down!". Kris then spent the afternoon being lectured on college fees and the correct way to spell 'baccy'! The lesson was never forgotten, so when Kris decided to provide the smokers of the UK with a much needed Mail Order service, the name was obvious - in 2004 www.thebackyshop.co.uk was formed.
Since business has grown so successfully for the Black Swan chain of Specialist Tobacconists, we have gradually built up a team who fit the Black Swan Shoppe LTDs philosophy.
We have therefore selected happy, friendly and helpful shop assistants who appreciate and enjoy the character of the tobacco trade to join the Black Swan Team. If you have ever visited one of our three retail outlets or spoken to us over the phone you will likely have picked up on the light hearted and friendly atmosphere. A smile and a bit of banter is actively encouraged alongside a patient, knowledgeable and helpful service.
If we don't have what you desire our assistants will be more than happy to look into it for you, and if they don't know the answer to your question you can be assured they will do their best to find out for you.
Michael was the founder of the No.7 Wakefield Branch and built the Black Swan chain of specialist tobacconists into what it is today. Over the last forty years he has opened three shops and taught his sons everything he knows about the trade. Michael mainly oversees the running of the Wakefield shop nowadays but does still help out in the shops from time to time.
June Ford was the first shop assistant to stand behind the counter of The Black Swan Specialist Tobacconists at No.7 in Wakefield. When Michael took over the tobacconist from his father he knew he would need a good shop assistant at some point but he needed someone to do more than just operate the cash drawer - he needed someone who knew the trade and would welcome and look after the customers. After a few years June Ford who had recently left a nearby newsagents offered to help Michael for a few months.
June quickly became a popular introduction to the tobacconist shop. Her welcoming smile and caring nature were well appreciated by the customers as she got to know the majority of them on first name terms. Before most customers stepped over the threshold June ensured their tobacco was already on the counter waiting for them, closely followed by a warm welcome - a touch that is still actively practiced by the Black Swan Team and is a service rarely seen on the high street in the modern day. June's experience and friendly face in the shop enabled the shop to thrive and she became an integral part of the businesses success. Having initially intended to help out for a few months, June's friendly face and personal service was in fact enjoyed by visitors to The Black Swan Shoppe LTD in Wakefield for over quarter of a century.
We get many enquiries as to the welfare of the 'lovely lady' in the Wakefield branch. Sadly June was taken ill in October 2008 and passed away in December 2010. She was extremely well thought of by the regular visitors to the Wakefield branch and she will be greatly missed.
Shirley is currently the Manageress of the original shop at No.7 Silver Street in Wakefield. She has many years of experience in the trade and has developed a good relationship with her regulars who have come to rely on an efficiently run specialist tobacconist. You can be assured a warm welcome especially if you're armed with a bag of goodies or a cream bun (anything but a vanilla slice or Cherry Lips!)
In 1998 Mark Parry followed in his fathers footsteps as he decided further education was not for him and moved over to the coast to help Michael run the shop. His dedication to order enough stock to keep his fathers accounts dry but his customers with a wide selection, along with his daft banter and 9:15 to 4:55 opening hours, which although frowned upon by his father meant there was a queue at the door every morning, has helped to secure Whitby's Tobacconist in the locals hearts. Since Mark acquired the business from his father the shop remains well stocked and welcoming but the opening hours are more consistent with the advertised 9am-5pm.
It took a couple of years longer and a spell at college for Marks twin brother Kris to realise that good hearted banter and a cheeky smile would not get him through education. It did however seem to prove successful in a tobacconist career. Michael and Mark helped Kris open the Scarborough branch in 2001. He adopted the friendly approach and knowledge from his family and the people that know best (his customers).
In 2004 he created an online retail outlet to serve the needs of smokers in rural areas, which has helped secure The Black Swan Tobacconist as one of the UK's leading UK Tobacconists.
In 2009 his knowledge and service to the trade was recognised by the tobacco trade as he was awarded the tobacco retailer of the year.
Sam has been key in developing the shops over the past few years. She is the half sister of Kris and Mark and mainly manages the Whitby Branch alongside Mark. She originally shared her time and worked in both the Whitby and Scarborough Branches but after much debating between Mark and Kris, Mark got his way and the smokers of Scarborough lost a much loved shop assistant.
Linda can be found working full time in the Scarborough shop. She has now worked for many years in the Scarborough branch and has been key in ensuring the shop and mail order is run efficiently. Linda regularly reminds us that she will retire once Kris has got organised and she has taught Kris to keep his desk tidy. Needless to say his desk will remain a complete bomb site for the foreseeable future.
The most recent addition to the Scarborough Branch. As many who have joined the Black Swan team Linda had little experience of the tobacco trade and we can remember the days when she feared that she would never learn where everything was, never mind be able to advise and help customers. She is now a well established member of the team who has the confidence to advise customers on a cigar to suit them. And we are sure that it won't be long before she is teaching Kris the difference between a Cavendish and a Burley, while she stands over and makes him tidy his desk!
Sharon is the most recent addition to the Whitby branch. Sharon had little experience of the tobacco trade before joining the Whitby branch but as always we told her that the knowledge comes over time and that all smokers are a fairly laid back bunch who are more than happy to educate. With on the job training and lots of advice from our customers, she is now a well established member of the team and is much loved by the regulars.
Gail is the newest addition to the Wakefield branch and the newest member of the Black Swan Team to date. She is quickly learning the Black Swan approach to good service and friendly banter and appears to have already been adopted by the regulars of the Wakefield Branch. We hope her welcoming character will be enjoyed by the regular smokers of Wakefield for many years to come.