Picture, if you can, a traditional four-story building with a brick-red and beige facade packed against an enormous modern white office building-turned residential space. If you can picture this, then you have just visualized the brand new Barclay Rex lounge at 126 Pearl Street in the City’s Financial District.
After a year-and- a-half of anticipation and deprivation of a much-needed lounge in the area, I was just one of the countless Barclay fans who anxiously rushed downtown to see if the wait was worth it.
Inside, the tasteful brick wall is mostly fronted by large, dark wood cabinets sporting the finest cufflinks, butane lighters, hats, hand-made pipes, and pipe tobacco. Longtime Barclay hostess Joanna, whom I’ve known since the Broad Street days, approaches from the brand new wood-and- stone counter with a genuine smile and welcomes me to the new location.
She helps me pick my jaw back up off the floor and informs me that the lounge is actually still being worked on; hence the construction equipment outside; The shop’s “members only” lounge, which takes up the entire second floor of the building, is due to be finished in October.
Joanna escorts me beyond the pipe tobacco counter to the store’s brand new walk-in humidor. It’s a magnificent sight to behold; Barclay’s same diverse and fairly-priced selection is there, per the usual, but with fantastic new product displays gilded in beige, precision-cut wood. And, of course, there’s the old familiar sliding ladders that we all know and love. I pick up my smoke and pay for it. Sadly, City Hall no longer permits Barclay to sell coffee, nor does it allow Barclay a liquor license. However, they can still sell sodas and waters; and Joanna kindly hands me a Coke from a brand new high-tech fridge installed into the counter.
Joanna then directs me to the main lounge downstairs. It’s a fresh, stone tile-floored sanctuary, complete with outlets, matching orange and black comfy chairs, cityscape murals on the walls, and two big screen TV’s, with the Olympics on, hung up against a brick wall. I’m quickly joined by a group of regulars. To my relief, the lounge remains tranquil and quiet, with the regulars being unusually careful to maintain a calm atmosphere. Even during conversations, I can still clearly hear “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “You’re the Inspiration” over the speakers. This atmosphere of quiet consideration seals the deal for me; it picks up right where Broad Street left off.
I eventually make my way back up to the main floor to finish my Padrón Series Delicias 46 x 4 ⅞. Barclay owner Vinny Nastri is on location today, and he kindly extends his hand to shake, recognizing me from my previous visits. This new location represents a new chapter in Barclay Rex’s story, 106 years and counting; this is the first time the company has owned an entire building, and Vinny expresses his hopes that this new arrangement will last longer than the other locations did, which was decades at a time. Well, Vinny with a new abundance of smoking space and technology to supplement your family’s traditions of hospitality, affordability, and variety, I think the latest Barclay Rex location is here to stay. Keep up the good smoke!