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100 Years of Retailing

Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95

(continued from page 2)

And as the cigar business evolves, Levi believes that the popularity of premium, hand-rolled cigars will continue to grow. But in order to succeed, says Levi, one must stay ahead of the trends, which is difficult. "Don't get lost in the shuffle, get so wrapped up in the success of today that you can't plan for tomorrow," he warns. "We are not here to make a killing this month and two or three years from now be out of business."

* * *

L.J. Peretti Company, Inc., Boston
Established 1870

"We try to be a smoker's haven." -Robert Peretti, 74, owner

Boston is known for its landmarks. But one site that is not in the history books is located on Park Square. L.J. Peretti Company, Inc., a family-run operation, has served the Boston community for more than 120 years. Famous smokers such as Edward G. Robinson, Red Auerbach, Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby have purchased goods there.

In 1870, Libero Joseph Peretti, a cigar maker, decided to open a cigar establishment in which he would not only make the smokes, but sell them as well. From its humble beginnings in a loft, Peretti's Cuban Cigar Store eventually expanded to include two more stores. But changes lay ahead.

In 1921, Libero's son, Joseph, took control of the store after the elder Peretti passed on. Joseph had always been interested in cigars but decided to expand the business to include another love of his: blending tobacco. This enabled him to broaden the shop's offerings from solely cigars to cigars and pipes.

The cigar business was booming in the 1920s, and the Perettis had a number of Cuban cigar makers in their shops. They even set up a shop in New York City to help make cigars. But when the Depression hit, business would never be the same.

Robert Peretti, the founder's grandson, became involved in the business after he returned from service in the Second World War. At this time, Peretti's only had two remaining stores. Then, in 1947, Boston ran a turnpike through the store on Boylston Street, and Joseph Peretti retired. Robert was left in charge of the last store.

One of Robert's greatest challenges was surviving the effects of the Cuban embargo. But the business endured. "I think it was a great challenge for the cigar makers both in this country and the Caribbean," Peretti says. "And the transition there [from Cuban tobacco to other sources] was very difficult. This gave a chance for the whole Caribbean area to invest in developing seeds, improving the soil and the way of growing the tobacco. The quality product they are producing now is really superior."

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