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13-Jan-2008
Family business refuses to go up in smoke

As he waits to reopen his cigar store, 68-year-old Joel Sherman reflects on the 77-year history of his family business, created by his father Nat Sherman.

"We probably could have moved out of the city and gone somewhere else, but New York has been very loyal to us," said Sherman, who took over the Nat Sherman premium cigar shop in 1989 after his father passed away.

The business, which is now present in 30 countries and 30,000 stores across the globe, doesn't financially depend on a New York City presence, but it's a tradition that the Sherman family doesn't want to end.

"The store itself is a figure head location. In dollars and cents it's not that significant," Sherman said, "but we take great pride in being here."

The decision to relocate arrived earlier this summer amid tensions with a new landlord, said Sherman. Rather than take on the five-year option on their lease at 500 Fifth Ave, Sherman closed the doors at its 16-year location. Six weeks later, he and his two sons, who help run the business, agreed to move inside a new storefront just a few feet away at 12 E.42nd St.

"It came out better than we thought," said Sherman, who bets now the new spot will generate more sales. It's more spacious, with three floors, three humidors, an upstairs conference room and a downstairs lounge. "It was a blessing in disguise." Sherman said.

Sherman developed his instincts at age 16, while assisting his father and running the cigar factory in the 1950s. Back then his business card read simply, "Heir Apparent."

"It was just assumed [that I would take over]," said Sherman.

His secret to the business' longevity? "It's an industry of integrity and honesty … we treat people like family. You end up finding out we have little turnover. That's the value I think that is inherent."

And it goes without saying that Sherman adores his product. "Nothing has the warmth and personality and the extraordinary problems of the tobacco business. You have to love it," Sherman said.

"I have the ability and privilege to choose cigars," he said. "It's a very romantic thing."


Source: amNewYork