Interview: Bruce Goldstein of Arnold’s Tobacco Shop

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Today we interview Bruce Goldstein of Arnold’s Tobacco Shop located in Plainview, New York. In business  since 1911, Arnold’s remains in the family today, specializing in online sales and boutique selections. You can view the history of Arnold’s and view their wide array of cigars at their website.

Let’s welcome Bruce!

When did you personally get involved in the cigar industry? What events encouraged and interested you about the industry?
I personally got involved full time after college, in 1982. I ran one of our three locations at the time on Madison Avenue and 42nd Street. I also worked during high school on weekends and during the summer in our Midtown location, on 49th Street and 7th Avenue under the direction of my father, Arnold Goldstein.

shop_1920sWhat is it you enjoy most about the cigar industry?
I always enjoyed the tobacco/cigar business even as a child, hearing stories of industry figures and suppliers through the eyes of my father and grandfather who jump started the family business back in 1911.

My grandfather was a discount/cut rate cigar retailer who had seven cigar stores in the NYC area back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. He had a partner at the time and his last name was Goldstein. No relationship but a coincidence. The business was called Goldstein and Goldstein Cigar Specialists.

I always enjoyed the retail business but it certainly had changed over the years. Taxes, regulations, and no smoking policies really made it a challenge, along with escalating rents in Manhattan (much more so than any other city in the country).

What are some of your favorite smokes?
I enjoy Padron (1926 and 1935), Ashton (ESG), Arturo Fuente (Edicion De Don Carlos 30 year), and Davidoff (Millennium). Generally, I like Corona or Robusto shaped cigars. They are more than enough. I just don’t know where you have the time to smoke anything much larger. If the cigar is good, I am more than satisfied.

How many cigars do you smoke a day?
Lately one a day is all I smoke, but in the past it’s been as many as three a day.

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When did you take your retail expertise to the online world? Can you explain how these two have complemented each other?heritage_topL1
In 2004 I was approached by my landlord and was told they were leasing the entire bottom floor of our building and they needed my space. There were approximately seven tenants and I was the last one—my lease was to expire in a few years. I was told they would not renew our lease and we had a choice to either get out now with a payment or finish our lease with nothing.

After consideration I took the payment. Now what to do? I did not like the new asking rents in NYC and I was very concerned about the state of the industry. I decided to go mail order. I would continue to sell to my Madison Avenue customers and try to build a mail order business via the internet. It is coming up on five years and here we are. The retail business as I knew it is over in Manhattan. Rent prices, anti-smoking laws, and ridiculous taxation make it impossible for an independent merchant to be profitable.

What has it been like having a presence in the city of New York for nearly 100 years?
Our customers in Manhattan were quality people. I always enjoyed the conversation. You never knew who would walk in. We had our share of celebrities being in NYC. It was fun. Bill Cosby, Jack Lemmon, George Burns, Gregory Hines, Ed Bradley, Meat Loaf, Matt Dillon, Rush Limbaugh, Mayor Giuliani, Metallica, and loads of sports figures. The list goes on and on.

We always prided ourselves, and still do, on carrying the best and hardest to find cigars. It has always been our niche. Great products along with great service. An easy formula and it’s still working.

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You carry many hard to find cigars but you also have a House Blend. Can you describe this cigar for us?
The Arnold’s House brand was developed by Litto Gomez from La Flor Dominicana back in 1996. We wanted a house brand we could be proud of. We wanted something better than a bundle cigar or two-tier. So after going back and forth with Litto, we decided on this blend. It is full bodied and was suppose to be.

Our customers wanted stronger cigars. The Ecuadorian wrapper, along with Litto’s Nicaraguan binder and Dominican filler, gave this cigar some body. We priced it modestly for what it is. It still is our only house brand cigar and is offered in five sizes: 7×48, 6×44, 6x 50, 5.5×46, and 5×50. It is priced between $5.80 and $6.60 a single and there is a box discount.

Thank you Bruce for taking the time to tell us a little bit about Arnold’s Tobacco Shop.
You are very welcome.

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