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October,
2004

TRENDS AND TRENDSETTERS IN SPECIALTY TOBACCO RETAILING
Watch City Cigar Scraps Plans for Major Lounge Expansion;
Founder to Close Existing Lounge, Retire


Framingham, MA - In a sudden decision that has taken customers by surprise, Watch City Cigar owner Dan DeCecca has scrapped plans to build an elaborate, 2,500 sq. foot Venetian-style smoking club adjacent to his current tobacco shop and has instead decided to close his existing private lounge and retire.

DeCecca said his 33-year-old son, Jimmy, will take over the day-to-day operations at Watch City Cigar's retail operations, while also managing the neighboring properties the elder DeCecca owns in the mini strip-mall. Space in the mall intended for the new lounge, as well as the current lounge, will be rented to outside tenants.

In explaining the sudden decision, DeCecca says he was facing resistance from local licensing and planning officials over an application to sell liquor in the new lounge, which was well into its planning stages. The hostile anti-smoking business climate in Framingham, Mass., which had passed its own tough anti-smoking regulations several months before Massachusettes implemented a state-wide public smoking ban, culminated years of "harassment" by local officials.

Watch City Cigar's 700-square-foot smoking lounge, the Tomahawk Club, is adjacent to the retail operation, which sells premium cigars, humidors, and related collectibles. Since members, nearly 250 in all, pay annual dues to access the lounge, it is considered private and exempt from the state's anti-smoking laws.

DeCecca founded the Watch City Cigar Co. in the mid-1990s, offering a high-end selection in cigar and pipe paraphernalia from around the world, again in Waltham. It was a specialty business that immediately built up a loyal following, he said. A second shop was opened in Framingham in 1998. DeCecca liquidated all of his businesses in 1999, sold the original Framingham shop, and moved one door down to the current Watch City Cigar location in Framingham.

DeCecca, 60, said he plans to relocate to Florida.


Casa del Habano Montreal Inaugurates New Bar

Montreal - Montreal's Casa del Habano held a grand opening of its new bar to compliment its Cuban cigars and one of Canada's largest cigar smoking lounges.

"We're offering customers a taste of Cuba," said the store's manager, Marc Melanson, speaking of the two-year planning and implementation of the bar. "What else defines Havana more than relaxing to a mojito and cigar?"

Guests were treated to slice of Cuba with live Cuban music accompanied with freshly rolled cigars by 63-year-old master roller Arnaldo Alfonso as well as professional Barman Alejandro Bolivar of the Floridita bar in Havana for the occasion.

Casa del Habano Montreal has been providing customers with the largest selection of Cuban cigars in Canada, as well a "safe haven" to smoke them, since 1997.


Atlantic Cigar Company Named Top U.S. Mail Order and Online Retailer by CigarCyclopedia.com

Los Angeles - Atlantic Cigar Co. has been named the top mail order/online retailer in the U.S. in an exclusive survey by CigarCyclopedia.com.

More than 125 mail order and web-based cigar sellers were reviewed in a comprehensive 10-day effort from July 26-August 4 and 95 were ranked based on two objective criteria: prices of nine preselected cigars and the number of standard brands available for sale.

"We compiled box prices for nine cigars and then ranked each retailer we reviewed against all others who sold that brand and shape," said CigarCyclopedia.com editor Rich Perelman. "Then we averaged each seller's ranking to determine which had the best overall prices."

Against a perfect score of 100, Atlantic scored 96.21 points in the pricing review, best of the survey. In the brand availability review, their total of 163 standard brands ranked sixth and was awarded 95 out of 100 points for an overall, winning total of 191.21 points.

Atlantic headed a list which included familiar names such as Cigars International, Holt's Cigars, JR Cigars, and Mike's Cigars in the top ten, along with lesser-known vendors such as BestCigarPrices.com, Cigar-ette City, and Cigars for Less.

The complete list, with scoring details, is available only to CigarCyclopedia.com subscribers in the "CigarWire" section of the site. CigarCyclopedia.com is an enhanced, online companion to the Perelman's Pocket Cyclopedias of Cigars.

Web: www.cigarcyclopedia.com


BITS & PIECES

  • A new Davidoff of Geneva shop inside the Airside Center of Zurich Airport opened its doors on September 10, the first Davidoff flagship store in the duty-free area of any airport. Dedicated entirely to Davidoff's "The Good Life" philosophy, the shop features a walk-in humidor containing the entire range of Davidoff cigars as other top brands. Davidoff is operating the shop for connoisseurs in conjunction with The Nuance Group, its longtime duty-free partner. Once completed, passengers will be able to smoke in one of two elegant airport lounges.
  • The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's decision to lease space to a tobacco merchant in the toll road's seven new "oases" has been questioned by a member of agency's board of directors, debating the wisdom of "promoting smoking." Executive director Jack Hartman notes that tobacco products are already sold at oasis gas stations, and that the new shops feature "higher-end" products including cigars and lighters, and are "not a discount cigarette warehouse."
  • Allen Yearick, who owned and operated Le Cigar in downtown Sarasota, Fla. from 1997 to 2002, is opening a new Le Cigar cigar bar on Old Main St. in downtown Bradenton, Fla. It will serve beer and wine, sport a pool table and TVs for sporting events, and offer a members-only lounge with humidified cigar lockers and Internet access for a one-time $1,500 fee.
  • Troy and Rochelle Lee are opening a second location of their CoolGrindz Coffee Lounge in downtown Tallahassee. The seven-day-a-week lounge will serve coffee and Cuban espresso drinks, and feature a tea and cigar room, martini lounge, and live entertainment.

SMOKESHOP - October, 2004