100 Years of Retailing
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
(continued from page 2)
"The customers today are exactly the same as the customers from 100 years ago." -Bill Fader, owner
At about the same time that W. Curtis Draper began his business in Washington, D.C., a man named Abraham Fader opened his tobacco shop in nearby Baltimore. It is believed that he wasn't particularly interested in tobacco products, but that he opened the shop in order to survive, according to Bill Fader, the founder's grandson and the present owner of Fader's.
Business was good. In addition to the retail store, Abraham Fader operated a cigar factory where workers made handmade cigars. But in 1904, Baltimore was consumed by a citywide fire that destroyed the downtown area, including Fader's factory and warehouse.
The city was rebuilt almost immediately, and Fader reopened his factory and store. But the factory couldn't last. "The factory continued until the onset of machine-made cigars," Bill Fader says. "Handmade cigars could not compete with machine-made cigars. Our factory operation closed down in the early '20s."
Abraham Fader's son, Ira, joined the business after he returned from service in the First World War, although he was a chemist. The name of the shop was changed from A. Fader to A. Fader & Son. Bill's mother joined the team in 1930, the year that Bill was born. This made it a true family business, but the Faders had to work long hours to ensure the store's success.
"My parents were seldom able to take a vacation together. Having grown up in the business, I was expected to work, doing menial things through my teens," Bill Fader recalls. "My mother and father decided to take their first real vacation [in 1959], and they went to Europe. They went to Lucerne, where my father died unexpectedly." Bill and his father had become partners just days before his parents left for Europe, but upon his father's death, he took over completely, according to Bill.
Bill Fader was an engineer by trade, but he soon learned to love the cigar business. Because of the long hours and hard work, the business thrived, and he opened five branch stores in the next 27 years. But unlike his parents, he and his wife often take vacations.
Fader's offers a wide selection of humidors, cutters and cigar cases and carries 122 cigar brands. Few tobacconists carry more brands than Fader's does, he says. And few tobacconists can claim H.L. Mencken, Douglas MacArthur and Oprah Winfrey as customers.
"This is a business that you learn to love because you are primarily dealing with really nice people," Fader says. "Cigar smokers and pipe smokers are really nice people. You know your customers, and they know you. It is a very personal business."
* * *
Rich's Cigar Store Inc. Portland, Oregon
"If you can't find it somewhere else, Rich's will have it." -Tom Moran, 44, owner
The West Coast has its share of historic smoke shops as well. In 1894, 35 years after Oregon entered the Union, two relatives, Si S. Rich and B.B. Rich, decided to become tobacco merchants. Rich's Cigar Store Inc., sold cigars, pipes, cigarettes and snuff to recent settlers in the West. And the business thrived.
B.B. Rich left shortly after the turn of the century, and Si Rich ran the store until his son Jesse entered the business in 1914, according to Tom Moran, present owner of Rich's Cigar Store Inc. The store even branched out to include six additional stores. But the Riches eventually sold these other stores, and Jesse sold the original store to Moran in 1977.
"Jesse had a minor partner who didn't want to work anymore. And when he wanted out it kind of forced Jesse to make a decision," Moran says. "They had called me to manage the store. I just happened to be here when they wanted out, and I made an offer."
Moran never set out to own a cigar store, but once he started working at Rich's he loved it. It is fast-paced and very interesting, he says. And now he smokes almost anything he can get his hands on. With 168 brands available, he has a lot to choose from.
"We stock most everything, so it is hard to pick one brand over another," Moran says. "All the cigars do well. The sales have increased 25 percent a year in the past few years. We always emphasized cigars."
Many people are buying what Rich's is selling. Some notable customers include Clint Eastwood, Walter Cronkite, Ahmad Rashad and Robert Downey Jr. But regardless of the marquee value of the client's name, all customers are accorded the same respect, according to Moran. And the customer always comes first.
"We offer great service, great selection and variety," he says. "We will change somewhat with whatever changes [occur] in the marketplace, but we will continue doing what we do."
* * *
Rubovits Cigars, Chicago
"I hope the store is still here in 200 years." -David Mohr, 45, owner
Chicago boasts another centenary tobacco shop. In 1894, Louie and Izzie Rubovits established Rubovits Cigar at the board of trade building in Chicago. The Rubovits family owned the store for more than three decades. But in the 1930s, the family sold the store to partner Joe Loeser. His son, Stanley, worked at the shop during the Second World War and eventually took it over in the 1950s. David Mohr, the current owner, acquired the store from the younger Loeser in 1985, at a time when the industry and the store itself were in trouble.
"When I bought it, the store was in jeopardy because he [Stanley] had put in a women's jewelry section, and that was driving cigar smokers away," Mohr says. "When I bought it, that all went, and I went strictly with tobacco only. And that has been my policy; there is nothing in here that isn't tobacco-related."
Mohr is currently enjoying the fruits of his success. His business is up 50 percent from last year alone, he says. And he can't keep the more than 70 cigar brands or cigar-related accessories on the shelves.
Mohr hopes that the current trend toward cigar smoking doesn't diminish anytime soon. But he is skeptical of the people who are currently entering the hot industry solely for a quick buck.
"When I see the new people coming into this business, I wonder what will become of it in 100 years," he says. "I see the love that I have for this business in many of the manufacturers in the Caribbean and Honduras, as well as in many legitimate tobacconists. But I also see the greed in many of the businesses that are in it for a quick million and to take advantage of a current fad."
Current trend or not, the future burns brightly for cigar stores. Given the tendency of the general public to lose interest in a trend when it goes out of fashion, the current popularity in cigars may not continue at its present rate. But there are many avid cigar smokers who love the leaf for the pleasure and relaxation it brings, not for the notoriety. And for these cigar lovers, there will be tobacco shops to serve their needs for the next 100 years.
The Century Club
Demuth's Tobacco Shop (Founded 1770)
114 East King St.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602
Demuth Foundation Museum
Iwan Ries & Co. (Founded 1857)
19 South Wabash Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60603
David P. Ehrlich Co. (Founded 1868)
32 Tremont St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
L.J. Peretti Company, Inc. (Founded 1870)
2 1/2 Park Square
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Straus Tobacconist (Founded 1880)
410-412 Walnut St.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
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