A hand-blown glass bumblebee pipe stolen from Birdland the Hippie Store on Thanksgiving was worth more than $4,000.
“Queen Bee” was one of 10 pipes stolen from Birdland, a locally owned store in Nob Hill that sells everything from pipes to wigs and ravewear to pot-leaf ice cube trays. The combined value of the stolen pipes is almost $10,000.
“They (the burglars) weren’t here long; they had been in my store before; they knew what they were here for,” said Jay Steinberg, owner of Birdland. “These were pieces that sold anywhere from $3,000 to $400. They had price tags on them and stuff. They realized that there is glass out there that’s not a $20 pipe.”
Steinberg said he posted pictures of the stolen pieces on Facebook, and a few weeks later, someone called saying he had seen one at a party.
Jay Steinberg opened Birdland the Hippie Store in Nob Hill 18 years ago. He had $10,000 worth of glass pipes stolen on Thanksgiving, the first break he has experienced.
Cole Jojola looks at hand-blown glass pipes at Birdland in Nob Hill on Wednesday. The pipes are made by local artists who will spend up to three days making and fusing together the various pieces.
Juli Holian looks at the jewelry and other funky items that Birdland has to offer. Owner Jay Steinberg said glass pipes are a type of art, even though many people think of them just as functional items.
“It surprises me that somebody saw one of the pieces at a party, and he said the guy was bragging about how he traded pot for it,” Steinberg said. “So whoever the idiot who stole it is… they don’t really want the pieces of glass — they want the money that could come from it. Having had a store for 18 years, I know they would have to do more than just show it to a person or two to sell it.”
Steinberg’s most expensive pieces were all stolen, and he prides himself on collecting hand-blown, local glassware. He said he first got interested in high-end glassware in the early 2000s.
“This is one that fits the young community; it’s awesomely cool so I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was this expression of young artists not doing it on canvas — they were doing it through blowing glass.”
Steinberg said he started collecting glassware because the pieces aren’t just functional pipes — they are art pieces. He wanted to create a gallery of pieces.
“Other shops have U.S. blown glass, but I have a personal relationship with the artist,” he said. “These are people trying to make a living: They’re trying to become really good glass artists who compete in competitions where they sell stuff and make a real living.”
The remaining pieces in Steinberg’s collection run up to $1,000 and include a matching set of Cheech-and-Chong pipes and a 12-inch Alice-in-Wonderland pipe.
Most of the stolen pieces were made by Corrales glassblower Lorin Losack, who founded Kasol Glass and has been crafting for nine years.
“With (Steinberg), it’s always been a wonderful thing, because I can just go and make some super artistic piece and go to Jay, and he’s willing to buy it and feature it in his shop, which has always been a great outlet for doing artsy stuff,” Losack said. “I’ve always really appreciated Jay for taking care of all of us glassblowers, so we can step out and do something that people haven’t seen before.”
He said Steinberg helps promote the art form, which still has a stigma because pipes are often used to smoke pot.
“I wish I could say that it’s gone away completely, but of course, a lot of pipe makers especially are looked at not really as artists, and in the art movement, we haven’t really gained leaps and bounds in that movement,” he said.
Steinberg said he gives the artists free range: He doesn’t tell Losack what type of pipes he’s looking for.
“For me to think that I have a concept of what is in his artistic vision is ridiculous,” Steinberg said. “He may make something that did well, and I’ll say, ‘Make something similar to that.’ But when you’re getting into these kinds of things, it’s more their expression. I like to let them do what their art is.”
Losack said he was upset to hear about the theft, but he said it wasn’t all bad.
“I almost feel flattered, in a way,” Losack said. “I don’t believe in thievery, but I was flattered that the art was the nicer stuff to take. I don’t believe in it, but it was cool that they took mine. I believe in karma, too, so people who steal are going to get stolen from or whatnot.”
Steinberg said he’s counting on social media and word of mouth to help him find the culprits.
“The police aren’t going to do anything,” he said. “They will just file it and stick in the other ten thousand reports. They don’t go out looking for it; they’ve got other things to worry about. Nobody got hurt. It’s just stuff to them.”
Steinberg said he isn’t sure how much money he will get from his insurance policy, but either way it will impact his business.
“The insurance company, they’re real tough,” he said. “They hear this kind of money, and it’s like ‘Who smokes a pipe that’s that much money.’ I said to them, ‘That’s not for you to question. I pay for my insurance and it’s for you to solve.’ But it would be nice if we could find some leads.”