January 10, 2012
Smoke shop opens in former Hollywood Video
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Weston Hoy works inside Smokers Choice on Route 281. The stored opened Dec. 23 and offers an array of tobacco and smoking products.
CORTLANDVILLE — Tobacco lovers have a new option in the Cortland area.
Smokers Choice, a regional chain of smoke shops based in Sullivan County, opened its newest location Dec. 23 in the former Hollywood Video store in the Tops Plaza on Route 281.
Store manager Wes Hoy said the 3,800-square-foot store carries cigars, cigarettes, tobacco accessories, sheesha, hookahs, water pipes, herbal incense, rolling papers and loose tobacco.
For those looking for premium, hard-to-find cigars, the store will even special order a brand if it does not carry it, Hoy said.
The store emphasizes its loose tobacco selection and wide variety of cigarettes.
“We have something for all tobacco enthusiasts,” Hoy said.
This is the third store the rapidly-expanding chain has opened in the last three months.
A Syracuse location opened in October and an Ithaca store opened in early December in the Collegetown section next to Cornell University.
All of the stores are run and owned by Darren Schwartz and Douglas Nolan, of Rock Hill.
Schwartz said the company’s goal is to provide a wide selection of tobacco products at a fair price.
“We cater to tobacco lovers,” he said.
The pair owns 43 stores throughout New York and Pennsylvania, and the company plans to open 10 more in the near future, Schwartz said.
“We’re good at what we do and we’re going to keep doing it till we’re too tired to do it,” he said.
The number of cigarette smokers has declined, prices have risen and selections have declined in stores that traditionally sell cigarettes, Schwartz said.
“They’re locked up in grocery stores, and other retailers jack up the prices to make up for lower demand,” he said. “We have a wide selection and fair prices.”
The store sells loose tobacco in six-ounce and one-pound packages.
Loose tobacco and make-your-own cigarette operations have run into recent controversy in New York because the stores do not charge the same taxes they would for a regular pack of cigarettes, making them far cheaper.
New York State’s $4.35 tax per pack is the highest in the country. For a carton of cigarettes, that tacks on nearly $45.
The same amount of self-rolled cigarettes sells for around $20.
In November, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, filed a lawsuit against two companies that own cigarette-rolling shops for tax evasion.
In those stores, customers rolled their own cigarettes in the store.
Smokers Choice does not have large cigarette rolling machines in the store for customers to use, but does sell machines for personal use.
The advantages of roll-your-own cigarettes are price, convenience and fresh tobacco, Schwartz said.
“When you roll your own, you only get tobacco, you don’t get any of the filler or reconstituted tobacco,” he said.
The store is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
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