New York City’s Barclay-Rex Tobacconists have survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban Embargo, the bombing and collapse of the World Trade Center, economic recessions, high tax increases and smoking bans. It’s been 100 years and they are still in business.
“My grandfather opened his shop in 1910 on Barclay and Church St.” said Vince Nastri III, the third-generation owner of this 100-year-old institution. “But he also had a Great Dane named Rex, so he named the shop Barclay-Rex.”
In 1949, the shop moved from its downtown Manhattan location to another spot even further downtown on Maiden Lane. Nastri got into the family business in 1968 and less than 20 years later opened another store on 42nd Street in 1986. Ten years later, he opened an additional Barclay-Rex on Lexington Avenue, with co-proprietor Billy Rella. Nastri later opened a satellite shop in the financial district of the city, right near the World Trade Center, in 1998.
“When the first shop opened in 1910, it dealt primarily in pipes, Cuban cigars and Cuban pipe tobacco,” said Nastri. “But pipes were the main business in the beginning. After the embargo, you saw a lot more brands come out. The industry really started to grow in the late ‘60s.”
By the year 2000, Nastri had moved the Maiden Lane store to Broad Street, essentially keeping it in the same neighborhood, just south of Wall Street. Though the small shop near the World Trade Center closed in 2008, three shops remain, and this 100-year milestone has been commemorated with a unique, Tatuaje brand cigar made especially for this occasion—the Barclay-Rex 100th Anniversary, a pigtailed cigar that measures 6 inches by 52 ring and can only be found at Barclay-Rex locations.