CIGARS. A cigar department, if properly managed, generally pays good profits to the grocer. Tobacco in every form has always been sold by grocers in the smaller towns—and there is no good reason why cigars at all events should not take their place among other staples in the larger cities also. The purchase of cigars is not a general household expense, but it often falls to the lot of the housekeeper to supply them, and it is a convenience to her to be able to buy in a store to which she is accustomed and in which she feels confidence.
Further, a clean, up-to-date grocery store selling a good class of wines and liquors and a good line of cigars, quickly attracts a very profitable trade from the men them selves. First one and then another will drop in to order some wine or some spirits sent "up to the house" and if the cigar case is attractive, a purchase follows almost as a matter of course. Proper treatment and first-class goods will mean keeping a large proportion of them as steady customers.
To retain men's trade for the cigar department, a grocer must, however, give it even more careful attention than if he were a cigar dealer exclusively. A man getting a bad cigar at a remilar dealer's, may attribute it to chance or even to himself as be ing off taste—but if he has purchased it from his grocer, he is immediately confirmed in his previous general impression that you "can't expect to get a good cigar in a grocery store." Eternal vigilance is decidedly the requirement for obtaining and keep ing this line of custom—but it is worth it! The merchant adding this line for the first time will do well to avoid the rather general error of putting in too large a stock. The result is liable to be that cigars are held in the show-case longer than is good for them, with a consequent loss either of money invested or of your reputation as a purveyor of good cigars! A small stock of a few well-selected lines of moderate price is the best plan. Cigars improve with age to a certain point in especially equipped establishments—but not in the average retailer's store.
The next essential is to see that the cigars are kept in good condition. The method depends upon circumstances and localities. In summer, for example, the prob lem in coast towns is to keep them from becoming too moist—whereas in inland states it is to prevent them from drying out.
In winter, with artificial heat, artificial moisture is essential nearly everywhere. An open pan of water in the case, with rolls of blotting paper reaching to the top of the case, will answer the purpose if you do not possess one of the several styles of cigar moisteners.
Too much moisture—keeping cigars in a damp place—is as bad as drying them out, for even the best varieties will become heavy, soggy and rank-flavored.
They must also be kept away from any articles of strong odor, such as cheese, fish, spices, coffee, tea, etc.—and place fine cigars in a separate case, as contact with coarser grades will tend to spoil their flavor.
The principal divisions of cigars are into (1) those imported from Cuba, (2) clear Havana cigars manufactured in a climate as nearly as possible like that of Cuba (as Key West, Tampa, etc.), and (3) domestic. To these may be added a growing demand for the Porto Rico and Philippine products.
For commercial purposes, cigars are again divided into three grades of tobacco —dark, medium and light—these including forty or fifty shades grouped under the seven following sub-headings :— Oscuro, very dark.
Colorado maduro, dark brown.
Colorado, medium dark brown.
ColOrado claro, light brown.
Claro, very light colored.
Double claro, or amarillo, lightest of all ( this grade seldom seen ) .
A light-colored wrapper does not necessarily signify a specially "mild" cigar. It is the "filler" which determines the strength—and both light and dark tobacco is liable to be bitter and strong if it has not been properly ripened and cured: There is practically no limit to the number of sizes or shapes in which cigars are made, as any manufacturer may bring out as many styles as he pleases and name them to suit his own particular fancy. The prevalence of Spanish names and terms is due to the fact that for many generations all the best cigars were manufactured in and exported from Cuba and other Spanish-speaking countries.
It is impossible to give any fixed set of rules for judging the quality and value of cigars and tobacco. The best and only conclusive test—that used by manufacturers themselves—is smoking one or two samples to ascertain the virtues or defects of any particular variety. Consequently, unless a merchant is personally a critical smoker and a good judge of cigars, he can be guided only by the reputation of the importer, manufacturer or jobber, and the comments of his customers. The safest plan is to confine orders to houses of long-established and irreproachable reputation. a promising cigar department has dwindled to an ignominous finish in the effort to make bigger profits by purchases of cigars "just as gobd and $10.00 a thousand cheaper" from plausible manufacturers of the opposite tyre.
The merits of color, size and shape as a "selling" proposition must be gauged by the popular and individual tastes of consumers.
( See also article on Tomcco.)