From our eXtension community, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, welcome to Small Business Week+. Extension supports small businesses and their development as a part of our land grant mission. For the next few days, we are going to highlight small businesses that have been a part of this partnership.
Guest Blogger: Richard Proffer, Business Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
Fumatore di Sigaro, Cape Girardeau – http://www.fumatoredisigaro.com/
Scott Pietreface, owner and proprietor of Fumatore di Sigaro Premier Lounge and Cigar Shoppe, Cape Girardeau, knows and loves good cigars.
But knowledge and passion, as every small business owner knows, aren’t enough to succeed in business.
So Pietreface called on Richard Proffer, business development specialist, Cape Girardeau County MU Extension Center SBTDC, to help develop a viable business plan.
“Anyone who has ever met me knows I am extremely passionate about cigars,” Pietreface says. “The challenge was to try to turn an idea to success. Richard understood my passion and helped turn my dream into reality.”
Pietreface says he and Proffer spent two and a half years crafting the plan and researching such vital stats as area population growth, number of visitors to the Cape Girardeau region (about 1.5 million a year), income, age, race, gender and economics of smokers. They added what percentage of those individuals smoke hand-rolled cigars in the city, county and surrounding communities, across the river in Illinois and all the way up to St. Louis.
“So from all that, I knew there was a need,” Pietreface says. “And I knew that from that need I could create a demand.”
Pietreface learned about cigars at an early age. He says he clearly remembers his father back in northeast Pennsylvania doing yard work or tinkering with his truck, puffing on cigars. As Pietreface grew, so did his expertise in and appreciation of cigars, carrying him through a career that saw him land at Procter & Gamble in Cape Girardeau in 1999 and leave the health products titan during the depths of the recession in 2008.
“Those were bad times, he says. “Finding work was difficult. So I decided it was the right time to take a shot at opening my own business.”
Pietreface had visited countless cigar shops and lounges all across the country, carefully noted what he liked and disliked, what attracted customers and what left them cold and set to work with Proffer.
“Scott and I started working together in April 2009,” says Proffer. “I knew immediately I wanted to work with him because of his enthusiasm, business sense and ability to communicate his desires. We talked about his idea for a cigar store/lounge and I was somewhat skeptical, but being somewhat of a cigar smoker and being around other regulars, I understood the concept. I also knew several cigar smokers in the area who often spoke about wanting such a place. He even understood pricing strategy, which reinforced my initial, positive thoughts.”
Pietreface also scored high on the five Cs of credit — character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions — which, coupled with his business background at P&G, gave him an edge.
After working together for about three years, Scott was able to open Fumatore di Sigaro, Italian for “cigar smoker.” Pietreface jokes he is one of four Italians in Cape Girardeau.
He has not looked back.
Pietreface has created two jobs, his and that of a sales associate who shares his passion for cigars, and sales were well above projections the first year. Like most start-ups, he had to invest his own assets to get the inventory, humidor and lounge furniture in place; acquiring a bank loan helped build the patio.
Today he greets all his customers by name and shakes their hand, urging them to stop, shop and linger in his 240-square-foot, Spanish-cedar lined humidor; his lounge complete with plush leather chairs and jumbo high-definition televisions, a 50-inch poker table and custom mahogany bar; and soon, weather permitting, out on the patio.
The business has two components, a traditional retail and a membership-based operation. As a customer, smokers can buy anything in the store and enjoy a cigar in the lounge. He wants to entice folks to join the cigar club and enjoy all of the benefits of the membership. As a member, patrons have access to the lounge, BYOB bar, their own personal humidor, 10 percent off all purchases and such members-only events as live entertainment on the patio. Other stores sells cigars; Pietreface sells a lifestyle and an introduction to the joys of cigar smoking with classes on wine pairings, smoking events or instructions on just plain how to smoke one correctly.
It’s all part of delivering what he calls the “affordable luxury” of cigar smoking to the area. Fumatore di Sigaro offers established brands, but what makes the business unique is its line of boutique cigars, some crafted in Missouri.
What Fumatore di Sigaro really offers, Pietreface says, is that most precious of commodity: time.
“It [smoking a cigar] is a moment of time you enjoy and look forward to, 20 minutes to an hour and a half that’s all yours. No one can take from you … I get a lot of younger men, aged 18-25. Theirs is a very fast paced life. They approach me to get into the world of cigars, and I say cigars teach you to slow down. Sit down, roll over the thoughts in your head, enjoy your time, enjoy your cigar.”