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Special to Smokeshop

The club atmosphere of the Tobacconist of Greenwich Ltd. Plays to standing room only

Lauded as an excellent host, James G. Lacerras cigar dinners have turned into a subtle but effective marketing tool

By Sharon Donovan
Special to Smokeshop

Down a narrow side street, a stones throw from Greenwich Avenue-the Rodeo Drive equivalent in the affluent city of Greenwich, Conn.-a tobacco shop caters to its rich and famous clientele on the East Coast.
The well-dressed, immaculately groomed owner, James G. Lacerra, runs the Tobacconist of Greenwich Ltd.
Much like a gentlemans club with style and an acerbic wit. That he exchanges cigars and tobacco for cash-or credit cards-is almost incidental. What matters most to him is quality.
His customers? He may drop a few names Jack Paar, Hes a real nice guy. He loves to talk, Lacerra laughs realizing he has coined a pun about the legendary talk show host. Harry Connick Jr., Terry Bradshaw. He calls from Texas to order cigars each month. I love to harass him about not smoking enough.
Most of his customers are residents of Greenwich, but Lacerra declines to identify the Whos Who except to say they pull down six-figure salaries and are names often seen in the business press. They are CEOs, chairmen of boards and in senior management in Fortune 500 companies, he said.
To keep that caliber of clientele coming back, class reigns supreme here. The stores furnishings are plushly upholstered pieces. Signed framed photographs of some celebrity patrons line the walls.

The mahogany-framed store window displays a selection of humidors and smoking accessories.
Of all the celebrity photographs, one of Lacerras favorites shows him standing outside the store with Zino Davidoff, owner of the company bearing his name. For Lacerra, the photograph carries a great importance.
This is the only store Zino Davidoff has been in other than one of his own, he said. And perhaps Davidoffs endorsement by his presence is well earned. Lacerra said his shop is recognized as one of the largest sellers of Davidoff products in the United States.

Whats on the shelves

The shops mainstay is cigars, representing 70 percent of sales. They range in price from $1.70 to $20. With an  inventory Lacerra estimates in the thousands, the cigars
come from a range of manufactures and such countries as Honduras, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Premium cigar brands such as Royal Jamaican,
Partagas, and H. Upmanns are hot sellers. Of the super Premiums, Davidoff is Lacerras number one seller and he believes the Griffin is the finest cigar for the money.
The price of cigars has increased but so has the quality Lacerra said. There are more premium cigars than ever.
While the number of cigars has increased, so has the size of the market. The market is going more and more towards cigars, he said. There are people now smoking cigars who I never dreamed would smoke cigars.
As much as 15 percent of sales is represented by cigar humidors, which start at about $200 and top out at $3,000.
Lacerras inventory of 400 pipes, representing 10 percent in sales, start at $30 and sell as high as $400.