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Cigars and golf a perfect mix

YORKTOWN - Golf clubs and cigars may seem like an odd product mix for a store, but Adam DeSiena thinks it makes perfect sense.

DeSiena, 36, owns Doc James Cigars & Golf, a Shrub Oak business he bought in 1993 when he was just out of Pace University and looking for a way to make a living.

With the help of a loan from his father and the mid-1990s boom in the popularity of cigars, DeSiena, despite having no business background when he started, took the business from a part-time operation that was nothing more than a hobby to its previous owner to a popular draw for moneyed, cigar-smoking professionals.

In April 2004, DeSiena moved the store from its small quarters to its current home just up the street at 3703 Old Yorktown Road. Knowing that he needed more product to fill the larger space, DeSiena thought it would make sense to take advantage of wife Heidi's expertise in golfing equipment and apparel. His wife buys merchandise for private country clubs and helps them set up their pro shops.

Adam DeSiena, who is both an avid golfer and cigar smoker, also thought stogies and links went well together. With smoking now prohibited in bars, restaurants and just about every other public indoor space, DeSiena noticed that many of his golfing friends cherished the opportunity to light up without a hassle on the golf course.

"I like to say the golf course is a sanctuary for cigar enthusiasts," he said. "You're outdoors, you're either alone or with your group and nobody is around to bother you about your smoke."

He said he can think of only one other place where cigar smokers can light up.

"It's either on the golf course or in my private lounge," he said, referring to the comfortable area in the back of his store where men gather to talk, smoke and watch the flat-screen television.

The store sells cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. The brands have names like Arturo Fuente, Avo Classic and Ashton. The most expensive cigar in the store goes for about $40.

The store also sells humidors, pipes and pipe tobacco.

DeSiena said the golf items now account for about 10 percent of his sales - not a huge cut, he concedes, but he points out that that's all revenue he would not have otherwise.

The expansion into golf items is an example of the kind of resourcefulness any small business needs to prosper.

Mark Stevens, who runs MSCO, a Rye Brook-based business consulting and marketing company, said a small-business owner has to be opportunistic to survive.

"You're thinking all the time about 'How can I leverage what I have? If I already have the real estate, the store, why don't I try to cross-sell people when they come in?' "

The inability of people who inherit businesses to exercise that kind of foresight is why their businesses often fail, he said.

"Just because somebody is the son or daughter of a business owner doesn't mean that they have the mind of a business owner," he said. "The resourcefulness goes away and the ability to be opportunistic goes away. That's why businesses hardly ever make it past the second generation."

Stevens gave as an example a client he has in Georgia who has a contract with the state to make sure vehicle emissions meet environmental standards. Stevens told the owner it made sense to sell other products and services related to emissions and transportation.

The man now sells a product called Smart Auto Management, or SAM, which scans a vehicle to detect problems with the brakes, air bags, transmission system and other parts. Stevens said he also persuaded the client to sell AAA Automobile Club memberships.

It's the kind of business acumen DeSiena knew he had when he bought the store. He walked out of Pace with a psychology degree, a degree he felt would not do him much good unless he followed it with graduate school.

His father, a Doc James customer and printer who produced the store's brochures, found out the owner was selling. He offered to loan Adam $30,000 to buy the business and Adam, figuring it was a low-risk venture, accepted.

He said that for the first couple of years he was barely able to pay the expenses of running the business. Fortunately, he lived with his father, so most of his personal expenses were covered.

Source: The Journal News /