The Best Club In Town
By Bill Slocum
The night is quiet on Greenwich Avenue, the air crisp and mild. Past 7pm now, the shopper trade has long given way to restaurant and movie patrons. Across from the police station on Havenmeyer Place, only one store front remains lit up, a trail of blue smoke issuing forth from its open door.
And therein hangs a tale.
Inside the smoke filled store sits a group of men puffing away on cigars, mostly Davidoffs and Griffins. Just about any avenue proprietor would likely chase away these men and there expensive stogies before they could build up much of a smog, but not James Lacerra. The owner of the Tobacconist of Greenwich happens to like his evening company, expecially when they are indulging in some of his choice products.
Its hard to describe exactly what the tobacconist is on a Friday night, after it has exceeded its official business hours but before Mr Lacerra has locked up . Some might call it a social club, others a noisesome nuisance, but to those inside it is something else entirely, a band of brothers whose purpose of being is the enjoyment of what they regard as one of lifes finest pleasures. The business of the Tobacconist during regular hours is the selling of cigars and other tobacco products, but right now it is the smoking of them.
“Its the best club in town, Ill tell you that”, says Ivan Mahoney, a patron of the Tobacconist from its earliest days. “Its a true Victorian salon type of thing, a vestige of days gone by, where gentlemen can relax for an hour and a half and enjoy the company of other gentlemen”.
Another of the stores long time regulars is Bob Appelbaum, overhears a question about what kind of business Tobacconist does on nights like this. He takes quick offence.
“Dont even ask about business” he says, gesturing with his lit Davidoff for emphasis. “This is not about business. This is about integrity and male bonding. Make sure you get that down.”
Just the fact that the Tobacconist is a cigar store is unusual for Greenwich. Other stores may well sell cigars but the Tobacconist is the only place left in town where cigars are the main stock and trade. For 16 years it has existed on the Avenue, first in the former mall where CVS now stands, and for the past 11 years here in Havenmeyer Place surviving countless lean times, sin taxes and surgeon general reports. Mr Lacerra, a retired engineer whose most frequent utterance is “forget about it” has always been in charge. Business, to return to the B word has never been better, Mr Lacerra claims. In the last two years theres been a big upsweep in handmade premium and super premium cigars he says, people are buying.