DOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ - To Madelina Acevedo and Paul Curatolo, business partners and owners of Boulevard Cigars, the state's new ban on most indoor smoking could actually be good for business.
The ban exempts cigar bars and tobacco retailers such as Boulevard Cigars, which is across from the East Dover Volunteer Fire Company building at 638 Fischer Blvd.
"We like the idea that there is no smoking in bars and restaurants," said Curatolo, 26. "It helps us out somewhat."
Boulevard Cigars, which has been open for about three months, contains a full selection of cigars, everything from machine-rolled 50-cent Phillies to more expensive Arturo Fuentes, Monte Cristos, Ashtons, Don Diego, Padron and Macanudo cigars.
"We try and cover the entire range," Curatolo, who lives in Seaside Heights, said about the selections available in the store. "Not everybody is going to want to come in and . . . pay $12 for a cigar."
But there are customers who are willing to pay $12 or more for cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Honduras.
"Our typical clientele is pretty much the middle-aged male, the middle-aged guy who wants to come, enjoy a good cigar and get away from everything," Curatolo said. Cigar smokers can relax at one of the tables in Boulevard Cigars, or sit on a leather couch and read cigar magazines.
Cigar smoking has grown in popularity in recent years, with celebrities such as Michael Jordon, Sharon Stone, Alec Baldwin, Andy Garcia and Rudy Giuliani pictured on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine puffing on their favorite stogies.
Cigar consumption in the United States jumped by more than 28 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to a report published in the December 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
But some of Boulevard Cigars' most frequent customers are not smokers, Acevedo said. The store has an espresso machine.
"A lot of people come in for our espresso," said Acevedo, 49, who also lives in Seaside Heights. "It's hard to get a good cup of espresso in this area."
One of the loyal espresso customers is non-smoker Walter Nebel, 49, a Toms River resident who was enjoying a cup while chatting with Acevedo Thursday morning.
"It's got a good atmosphere," Nebel said of the store. "You can come in and drink the espresso, talk and enjoy your coffee. It's a nice relaxing place. They've worked hard to make the place beautiful."
Curatolo, who favors the rich flavor of Dominican cigars, said he has been smoking cigars for about four or five years. He visited the store when it was called Kings and Queens.
Acevedo worked at Kings and Queens for 11 years, gaining invaluable knowledge about cigars.
Curatolo, who works full-time at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Manhattan, learned a lot about different types of cigars from reading magazines and books. Also, since Boulevard Cigars opened, he chats with his customers as they sit in the store enjoying a smoke.
"A lot of our clientele knows a lot about cigars," he said. "They know their tobacco, and I learn a lot from them."
Most customers know what they are looking for, he said.
"A lot of the connoisseurs know exactly what they want, but some of our clientele, especially women, will say they need a mild cigar, and they'll ask for advice. I encourage people to ask questions," Curatolo said.
In addition to a full range of cigars and espresso, which is served with biscotti, the store sells smoking accessories, such as high-end lighters, cigar cutters, and humidors.
The temperature in the store's own humidor is kept at 70 degrees, with 70 percent humidity, to keep the cigars moist, but not too moist. Customers can stroll into the humidor and select their cigars, and then settle on the couch for a smoke.
Curatolo said he encourages customers to bring along a bottle of wine so they can sip a glass while enjoying a cigar.
Monecristo Cigars is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, as well as Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Acevedo said the store will stay open longer if customers are still there at closing time.
"If we have people in here, I don't throw anyone out," she said.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008