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100 Years of Retailing

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

(continued from page 3)

Peretti's offers smokers more than 100 different cigar brands. Customers can also choose from a wide assortment of humidors, cutters and cigar cases, all of which are hot sellers, according to Peretti. And now that business is booming, with no end in sight, Peretti has other mountains to climb. On June 19, Peretti's celebrated its 125th birthday at the Boston Harbor Hotel. It observed the occasion by introducing a special smoke, the Peretti's Anniversary Cigar. All of this when public intolerance for smokers is on the rise.

"Public opinion has certainly been against smoking. In that sense we have certainly felt pressure," Peretti says. "But the question is: How do you position yourself so that you still maintain the leadership that you have had over the years?" If past history is any indication, Peretti will find a way.

* * *

David P. Ehrlich Co., Boston and Leavitt & Peirce, Cambridge
Established 1868 and 1886

"I think there is a certain allegiance to old-time stores that treat you well." -Paul Macdonald Sr., 64, owner

The Boston area has two additional historic cigar establishments: David P. Ehrlich Co., the third oldest in the nation, and Leavitt & Peirce, a shop overflowing with Harvard memorabilia. Both stores are currently under the management of the Macdonald family, but each has its own rich past.

Ehrlich's is one of the few old cigar stores that was founded by a woman. Fanny Abrahams, a German immigrant and mother of two, left her homeland for Boston to start a tobacco shop with her husband. But fate dealt her a cruel blow when her husband died before leaving Germany to join her in the States. Alone and bereft, the widow nonetheless fulfilled her dream and opened the F. Abrahams tobacco store in 1868 at 1133 Washington Street.

Fate also played a role in the arrival of the Ehrlichs. In 1872, the great fire of Boston destroyed many blocks of the city. David Ehrlich and his father owned a jewelry shop that burned down during this fire, according to owner Paul Macdonald Sr. The younger Ehrlich found work at the Abrahams tobacco shop. Later, he married into the family, and from approximately 1900 on, the shop was known as David P. Ehrlich Co.

Ehrlich had no children himself, and after he passed away in 1946 he left the store to eight of his cousins who were in the glove business. The Macdonalds bought the store in 1978 after the descendants of the Ehrlich family, for lack of interest, decided to sell.

"In 1914, they [the Ehrlich cousins] owned a company called Touraine Gloves," says Macdonald. "They had two young boys working for them, and the story goes they [the boys] always talked about going west and making their fortune. The two young guys turned out to be Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer."

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