|Posted by Anne Siren on January 29, 2013 at 12:45 AM|
By Phyllis J. Neuberger
As a former smoker who chokes on smoke, this Pelican writer was not eager to write a story about a tobacco business.
But sitting down with one of the owners of Tobacco Row at 334 McNab Rd. in Pompano Beach changed my attitude. This interview took place before the store opened. At the suggestion of Angela Lowe, one of the owners, it took place just outside the door where the air was fresh.
Lowe’s sensitivity to anti-smoke folks and her amazing knowledge of her subject was engaging and quickly brought about an attitude adjustment.
“We’re a family owned and operated business,” she said firmly. My sister and partner, Kathy Libonati-Dressel lives in New Jersey, but she visits often and communicates with me daily to stay tuned to what’s happening here. My husband and other family siblings help out, but Kathy and I are the owners. We opened last June and combined it with self defense supplies which my husband and I have been selling for the past seven years at the Swap Shop.”
There’s a back story. Angela says, “Kathy is also my angel. I have a lot of health problems. I was just sort of hanging around, depressed by all the doctors, the tests and my health. I had given up on an active life. Since opening this store everything has changed. I feel useful, happy, much healthier, productive and my goal is to repay Kathy for making me an active participant in the business world.”
She continues, “I love my store and my customers. We’re all on a first name basis. I know their life stories. We’ve built a good customer base, and they are as loyal to us as we are to them.”
The store stocks four types of tobacco in addition to tubes and machines. Angela says, “We sell machines in different price ranges. There’s a hand roller at $10 and a top of the line is a $75 electric machine. Our best sellers are Powermatic 1 and 2. No. 1 is manual and No. 2 is electric. They are our best sellers because they make the process simple.”
Cigars are available from 69 cents to their most popular $9 hand-rolled Romeo and Julieta.
Pipe smokers seem to be declining, but the shop still stocks pipes from $10 to $20.
Hookah, glass containers filled with flavored tobacca, or shisha, are also available.
The user smokes tobacco through a hose. Angela explains that it is often used by smokers who want both flavor and tobacco. She shows just one of many flavors available-- a 100-gram can of white grape and blueberry shisha which sells for $10. Hookahs range from $15 to $52 and, according to this owner, there are a lot of hookah smokers who mainly smoke in their homes.
Denise has been a customer from day one. “I love Angela,” she says. ”She’s like a step-mom to me. She’s dependable, reliable and responsible. I buy tobacco, and I bought a roll-your-own manual machine. I save a huge amount over the price of commercial cigarettes. I visit Tobacco Row about twice a week, and after I get what I need, I stay to visit with Angela.”
Another customer, Nunzio, says, “Angela is not only a sweet lady, but she also treats her customers with respect. Until I get smart enough to quit, buying my own tobacco, tubes and manual roll-your-own machine is a good thing to do. It’s convenient and I save at least 60 percent since I switched from commercial cigarettes. Now I spend $30 on the equivalent amount of cigarettes that used to cost me $70 a carton.”
Although smoking has a bad reputation, it has not affected the two owners of this shop. Business is good. They both smoke despite Angela’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] Asked why she continues when it is wrecking her health, she says, “It’s too hard to quit. I hate that I smoke, but at least when I make my own cigarettes I know they are filled with only natural tobacco and not the harmful chemicals found in commercial cigarettes.”
Tobacco Row sells loose all natural tobacco to men and women who roll their own which is a big money saver for smokers.
Self Defense Supplies
Angela stresses, “We don’t promote violence; we promote safety. Everything we sell is legal and we make sure our customers know how to use these items only to defend themselves. Some of our customers are knife collectors or hunting enthusiasts. No firearms are sold here. I will never use a gun. To me, guns are to kill and I will never put myself in that position. I fully believe you can defend yourself in better ways without killing.”
The store stocks Stun guns, Numchucks, and Pepper Spray.
The Spring Assist is a pocket knife with a thousand uses like opening boxes, cleaning fish etc.
On the counter of this well run business by this well informed woman is a stack of a print outs of the Florida “Dangerous Weapon” Laws for every customer to take home and read. Angela translates it in simple terms. “If you are going to carry a concealed weapon (including knives) you must have a concealed weapons permit. If you do not have that permit, your weapon must show.”
For further information, call 954-781-3413.
Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 11 to 6. Delivery available locally.