It is said that in hard times, people turn to small luxuries and vices. Historically, companies dealing in alcohol, tobacco products, and gaming/gambling have fared quite well during recessions or depressions. There is even a vice fund, VICEX, that invests in so called "sin" stocks. Candy and chocolate manufactures also flourish - many of the household names in candy started during the Depression years: Snickers in 1930; Tootsie Pops in 1931, and Mars Bars and Three Musketeers in 1932.
A close friend who lives out west and visits from time to time is a cigar smoker. Part of his agenda on trips to New York City is always a visit to a cigar shop. On October 10, 2008, I wrote about wonderful retail excursion - read New York Moment here.
On his most recent trip, we visited Barclay Rex on Broad Street in the Financial District, new to both of us. As a non-smoker, these establishments are very foreign to me - going there is entering an alien world. Barclay Rex has been in business in New York City for 100 years. The original founder was Vincent Nastri, a pipe maker from Salerno Italy.
The store was opened on Barclay and Church Street and taking the cue "a dog is man's best friend", Nastri, with his Great Dane Rex in tow, set out to create Barclay-Rex. This partnership was a touching testimonial to Mr. Nastri's character as he was rarely without his faithful companion Rex, who also served as an ingenious way to advertise the store. The Great Dane wore an emblazoned blanket with the name Barclay-Rex and drew the curious and potential customer.
The company has three locations in Manhattan and is owned by Vincent Nastri III. You can read more about Barclay Rex at their website here.
The flagship store at 75 Broad Street is exquisitely done, with a classic, mahogany paneled library and polished cherry oak floors. There is a humidor on site, as well as a smoking lounge.
There is a tradition, history and its own vocabulary in the world of cigars. There is also a greater defiance and rebellious spirit to smoking, in a world which is postured against smoking with increased taxes and a very limited number of environments where one is permitted to smoke.
Good times or bad, when it comes to vices, dollars are found to feed the appetites, whether things are eaten or go up in smoke :)