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100 Years of Retailing

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

(continued from page 7)

"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."

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