Talking shop with Scott Pietreface, Fumatore di Sigaro
Monday, April 9, 2012
Scott Pietreface, owner of Fumatore di Sigaro Premier Lounge and Cigar Shoppe, opened his business to share his passion for hand-rolled cigars with others. After gathering ideas from other cigar lounges around the country, he decided to operate one in Cape Girardeau complete with Spanish cedar and mahogany cabinets, leather sofas, big-screen televisions and a poker table. His retail store sells cigars from around the world as well as accessories.
Q: How were you first introduced to cigars?
A: My father was a cigar smoker. He always had one while doing yardwork or working on his truck. Still think of those days every time I smell a cigar. I started smoking in my early 20s and gravitated to quality hand-rolled cigars versus the machine-made ones my father smoked. I actually introduced him to the cigars that I was smoking.
Q: What inspired you to start your own business?
A. I have had so many jobs that I have lost count. Many years in the construction industry and many more working in manufacturing. Three years ago I started working with the Small Business Association to develop a business plan. I had wanted to open my own shop for a long time and seized the opportunity once it arose. My passion for cigars and gift of gab made opening my cigar shop an easy decision. I have visited many cigar lounges around the country and quickly realized what I liked about them as well as what I didn't like. My decision to open my own was based on how I thought one should be.
Q: What kind of research and planning did you do before opening your business?
A: I spent almost three years developing a business plan, business model, and trying to secure financing. I needed to research everything from population growth to tobacco industry growth. The number of visitors to Cape Girardeau region, to population, age, race, sex and economics of smokers and what percent of those smoke hand-rolled cigars. Demographics are a good starting point for any business, but the key is to follow the money. Who advertises in your business field is a good indicator to predict success. I could not overlook bad press from anti-smoking campaigns, but grassroots support from Cigar Rights of America and International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers is really gaining ground against liberals.
Q: Describe some of the products available at Fumatore di Sigaro.
A: We offer three tiers of hand-rolled cigars that are individualized by price. We carry 40-plus different brands and can offer an awesome cigar for the novice, the enthusiast and the aficionado.
We carry a line of cutters and lighters that have a lifetime warranty. We offer humidification, humidors for home and travel, and some logo items including coffee mugs and golf shirts.
Q: About how many members does your Cigar Club have and what kinds of activities do you do together?
A: The cigar club offers our members a premier atmosphere to enjoy their cigar in as well as the opportunity to create something special. We currently have 29 members that have become a close-knit group. We golf together, play poker together, shoot guns together, but most importantly we share our time together. Folks that share a common passion for cigars that also have many other likes in common.
I always say that it is fortunate that we have met here at the lounge or our paths may never have crossed. I am truly blessed to have met so many great people from our area.
Q: How do you feel about recent public smoking ban efforts in Cape Girardeau, statewide and in other cities across the country?
A: There is nothing more intrusive then when people try to tell you how you should act or behave, what you should think or how you should run your business. I realize that smoking is offensive to many people, but that doesn't mean that their viewpoint is correct. I support any business that decides to operate in a smoke-free environment. I actually prefer a smoke-free restaurant. But no one should be able to tell a bar owner or cigar shop owner that they may not allow smoking. I point out again that grassroots organizations are gaining momentum across the country to regain their privileges and rights as honest, taxpaying, voting American smoking citizens.
Q: What do you love most about your job and what do you find most challenging?
A: I have been open for six months now and have the pleasure of meeting someone new every single day. I have met folks from all walks of life and offered a friendly hello and a handshake to every single one of them and received one in return from them. Having return customers tell me that they appreciate my help and expertise really makes my day. I really enjoy talking with all of my customers. I spend an awful lot of time here. I work a minimum of 84 hours per week. I am on my own here until the business can support and warrant the hiring of someone who I can mentor to operate my business at the level that I do. I really cannot complain, though. Every day brings new challenges and new people.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business?
A: The best advice that I could give is to work with the SBA. They can help you build a plan and develop financial projections, but you only get out of it what you are willing to put in. No one will do it for you, and no one is going to hand you money.