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Making It in a Man's World

Eight Women Have Defied the Odds to Run Their Own Tobacco shops
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 3)

Yet most of the Cvars' customers are a pleasure, and many have developed into friends. "Some of the customers have been coming in for 25 years," she says. "I see their obituaries in the papers and I get tears in my eyes. We have grown and we have been very successful and we have been blessed and we have survived and prospered. And the most rewarding thing has been all the friends that we have made."

The industry has changed a lot through the years, she says. Twenty-five years ago, pipes were bigger than cigars and many people still smoked cigarettes. Then the antismoking lobby gained power. To survive, Cvar had to diversify her business. She incorporated beer steins and nutcrackers into the stores. This helped Cvar maintain the inventory of tobacco products. Because of the resurgence of cigars and now pipes, Cvar devotes more space today to tobacco.

What worries Cvar now more than the antismokers is the escalating price of cigars and the high tobacco taxes. In Utah, the tobacco tax is a whopping 35 percent. She firmly believes that this has hurt the business. "The prices have increased so much that people, instead of smoking 10 cigars a week, will smoke two cigars. Business is still great, but you are seeing some resistance to the price."

Cvar has high hopes for the future. Her daughter, Emily, who has worked at the stores and even at Arnold's Tobacco Shop in New York City, might be the next generation to run the shops, but Joan and Fred won't push her. Their son, Andrew, is not interested.

She has no plans on expanding the business further, believing that she has enough on her plate presently to keep her busy. "I feel to properly run a store you have to be in the store, you have to deal with the customers one on one," she says. "We need to take care of what we have and nurture those customers so they come back."

Cvar also has no regrets on her career choice. "Fred and I talked about what we are going to do in the next few years and we can't see ourselves doing anything else. We just like it and still enjoy it. It has been an interesting 25 years."

Like Cvar, Linda Squires of the Squire Tobacco Shop in Santa Rosa, California, discovered that pipe smoking would play a role in her entry into the tobacco industry. Squires grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, attended college in California and, while working at a record store in a mall in 1970, fell in love with Barney Squires, who happened to be a pipe smoker. They soon married. In 1973, the newlyweds took a trip to Europe, where they decided to visit pipe makers and retailers in Copenhagen, Denmark. The couple was so fascinated with what they encountered that upon their return to the United States, they decided to open a tobacco shop.

Armed with $3,000 and a love for the business, they rented the front foyer of an old Victorian house in Santa Rosa. The Squires only had an antique display case with enough room for about six to eight boxes of cigars. Despite the meager space and limited product availability, the tobacco shop caught on, and after just eight months, the Squires moved to a larger downtown location. Two years later, they relocated into the Coddington Mall. Today, they have an 800-square-foot store at a different location within the same mall. For the past 12 years Linda has operated the store because Barney has worked as a Northwest region salesman for Consolidated Cigar Corp. Linda has never doubted her career choice.

"I think that life is too short to do something that you hate. I love this business, I love cigars, I love the fact that people are coming in and buying something that they take home and enjoy," she says. "They buy cigars for pleasure, for relaxation, for enjoyment--and I think that is just great. You are talking about a product that is handled with such love and care right from the beginning."

Despite the love and the success, the shop wasn't immune to the downturn in the industry that preceded the current boom. While many other tobacco retailers were closing in the late '80s because of lackluster sales, the Squires were diversifying their business, adding men's gifts and accessories and even an espresso bar, when such bars were still a novelty, to the store. Keeping abreast of trends is one of the reasons that the shop has survived, Linda Squires says.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

suman chaniyil — capecoral , florida 33909, usa,  —  June 16, 2012 7:26pm ET

like ur article

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