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Brooklyn cigar shop hopes to finds its niche

BROOKLYN -- Walter Olecki walked out of Moses and Moses Tobacconists shop Friday with a prize.

The North Grosvenordale resident didn't exactly win anything, but in Olecki's hands was an assortment of premium cigars he normally would have had to drive more than one hour to Norton, Mass., to buy. Olecki is a true cigar aficionado, splurging on and enjoying a cigar a day, he said.

"I've smoked cigars all my life, and I'm not after the junk -- I'm after the good stuff," Olecki said, showing his assortment of Dominican Republic and domestic cigars.

Moses and Moses owners and local residents Henry Moses, his nephew Michael Moses and their wives opened the premium cigar, tobacco and general goods store to cater to customers like Olecki: People who want "the good stuff," but don't want to drive too far to get it.

The Moses' have stocked the one-month old business with more than 90 cigar varieties, but the unique draw among the rows of compressed tobacco rolls are not the $20-per-piece Cohibas. The owners' claim to fame is the store's own American war-themed Battleground line, an array of about 25 specialty Connecticut-grown tobacco leaf cigars. The cigars range from $6 to $9 each.

Some of the Battleground cigars are manufactured in-state and feature 100 percent Connecticut River Valley tobacco, while others use Dominican Republic filling with Connecticut leaf wrapping.

"I didn't want to compete with my neighbors," Henry Moses said of offering custom instead of mass-produced cigars. "I wanted to fill a niche and a need."

In July, the store will debut an exclusive Israel Putnam cigar, made in Connecticut, to commemorate the town's historical resident who brought the first Cuban cigars to Brooklyn more than 200 years ago.

The store is decorated with a country feel, to evoke the slower-paced neighborly days of small-town Brooklyn, the owners said. The local aspect of the store's products extends to the non-smoke items, and half the store contains vintage housewares, gifts, and natural food products manufactured or found in the region, such as the line of Hosmer beverages from Willimantic.

"We feel like everything moves so fast, and when you are in a town like this, we wanted to have a business that echoed what the town does," Michael Moses said.

The Moses' are banking the store's success on a recent cigar-smoking renaissance, citing the recreational smoking trend propelled by younger enthusiasts. They also happen to be located the Route 169 and Route 6 junction, a busy intersection that sees 20,000 cars a day.

Economic Development Commission Chairman Greg Shimer said the tobacco shop and general store is the type of business the commission encourages, a business with local roots owned by residents looking to give back to the community.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them succeed, and succeed wildly," Shimer said. "Their concept with the custom, hand-rolled cigars with their Israel Putnam product is going to put their store on the map."

Source: Norwich Bulletin