Company: J.T. Tobacconists Inc.
Year Started: 1995
Start-Up Costs: $10,000 plus
1997 Projections: $2.2 million
As jeff haugen and Tim Cady peered into the window of a vacant store in Minnetonka, Minnesota, they saw more than just the hardwood floors, the tin ceiling and the antique detailing. They saw their future.
"We knew it would be the perfect place [to sell] retail cigars and accessories," says Haugen.
Not only were they in the right place-they were there at the right time. "We got [in the market] before all the cigar manufacturers cut off new accounts," says Haugen. "That enabled us to solidify relationships with those manufacturers and have more purchasing power."
Consequently, Haugen and Cady own what many consider the dream business of the '90s: a cigar establishment complete with deluxe indoor smoking lounges, cigar vaults for rent and walk-in humidors. But lest you accuse them of being trendy, Haugen claims, "We were cigar smokers at a young age."
Previously, Cady worked for an accounting firm and Haugen managed a hardware store; yet their most important qualification, says Haugen, is that they're true tobacco men. "We're searching for new products all the time," he says. "We're constantly doing taste tests. It's very important [that we] know the product inside out, and that's why we've tried everything that's been placed on our shelves."
Next on the agenda are three more retail stores, scheduled to open by year-end, and national distribution through their mail order catalog, J.T. Cullen. In the meantime, Haugen and Cady continue to enjoy their success. "Yes, there is time at the end of a long day when we will sit down and have a cognac and enjoy a fine cigar," says Cady, "just as we always have."