Light My Fire: The Matchbook Makes a Cultural Comeback

As the smoke clears from bars and restaurants, matchbooks find new industries -- from fashion to music -- to call home.

The fight for a smoke-free America continues -- 35 states have some form of a smoking ban -- but not everyone can breathe easier. "We've had to reinvent the product, remind people that it's a promotional tool," says Alex Nackman, marketing director of Admatch, a 41-year-old matchbook supplier in New York. "People don't throw matches out like they do business cards." And at approximately 50¢ apiece, they're a cost-effective way to market. Juicy Couture has had original designs created to sell in stores, and music venues and bands have started handing matchbooks out in lieu of pricey T-shirt giveaways. ("Indie musicians," Nackman says. "It hasn't been Coldplay yet.") But aside from affordability, what's the appeal? "Fire speaks so instantly to life," says Yael Alkalay, founder of Red Flower, a New York bath-and-body company. After suffering a stroke more than a decade ago at age 26, Alkalay recovered and started the company with a newfound appreciation for the everyday. Aside from coupling matches with the purchase of candles, Red Flower hands out 50,000 matchbooks to customers each year as mementos of the store. "Matches have a certain charm," she says. "If you've got them, you've got light, you've got warmth."

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