Smokin’ Gentleman fills the need for men’s retail in Port Jefferson Village
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The owner of a new cigar and men’s accessories store in Port Jefferson said he wanted to fill a void in the village by offering men their own store.
Earlier this year, Michael Lavopa took over at 308 Main St., quickly renovating the space and opening The Smokin’ Gentleman on March 1.
Unlike its former occupant, Lavopa’s new boutique is not limited to cigars, although a significant portion of the space is still dedicated to the storage, purchase and consumption of cigars.
It has updated the smoking room in the back, and up front it offers a number of premium cigars as well as popular favorites. He carries box cutters, lighters and ashtrays, and has also added men’s accessories to the mix, including a variety of hats, leather-bound journals, umbrellas, canes and steps with intricately carved handles.
“I’ve been a cigar smoker for a long time and I enjoy them, but I also like men’s hats and other accessories,” he told GreaterPortJefferson.
Lavopa is a cigar connoisseur for sure, but he admitted that it’s hard to survive just by selling cigars, especially in a high-rent neighborhood like Port Jefferson’s Main Street.
“You really have to sell a lot of cigars to make it,” he said, emphasizing his motivation to expand his offering.
With a dearth of stores catering specifically to men, Lavopa seems to have found its niche.
Tabu Boutique has a small men’s section on East Main Street and you might consider the Port Jefferson motorcycle shop leaning towards the masculine in their selection of items for sale, but none exclusively market their wares to men like The Smokin’ Gentleman.
For men, Port Jefferson is a fashion wasteland.
“You’re lucky to find a belt or a tie,” Lavopa said.
Hats have been his bestsellers since opening and he plans to double down on his storefront, which already features a slew of styles like fedoras, panamas, tophats, stetsons and newsboy caps.
There is a church and state separation between cigar and paraphernalia outlets in the store. Lavopa even has two variations of its logo on its business card, one with the pictured gentleman pulling a cigar and the other not. The idea is to help non-smoking customers not feel excluded from buying anything other than cigar-related merchandise there.
“I try to keep the retail portion smoke-free,” he said. “The men’s accessories store has everything guys love.”
Other store owners acknowledged the lack of male-only outlets. Kristen Hoffman, owner of Tabu Boutique and Tabu Shoes, told GreaterPortJefferson that she considered opening a men’s boutique in the village, but put the idea on hold when she learned that Lavopa already had a similar establishment in preparation.
When it comes to cigars, in addition to a humidor that takes up a significant portion of a wall in a room that acts as an airlock between the retail store and the smoking room, The Smokin’ Gentleman offers a subscription allowing people to smoke whenever the store is open. .
Lavopa did not disclose membership fees as it offers different plans, but it said that with a locker members get a 10% discount on everything in the store and without a locker the discount is 5%. The club is also BYOB, although it does offer espresso.
Members are not the only ones who can drop by for a cigarette. Non-members can pay $10 when buying a cigar from his shop to enjoy the lounge.
He is working on an outdoor seating area which will be ideal for those hot summer nights. Lavopa said he wanted to appeal to the after-dinner crowd who want to chill and smoke. The tourist season hasn’t even started yet, but it’s had quite a boom and got a taste of what’s to come after a few hot weekends.
Right now, Tuesdays and Thursdays are his busiest nights, but he expects that to change as the season begins.
It also offers high-end cigar smoking accessories such as ST Dupont cigar cutters and lighters, some of which cost up to $200. It also sells Lotus, a medium-sized brand of cutters and lighters.
Many cigar shop customers who previously occupied the space returned to become members. He already has more than 40 people signed up, which he attributes to pent-up demand after the old venue closed for more than a year following the outbreak of COVID.
“It’s been a cigar lounge for 18 years,” he noted.
Lavopa, who lives in Sound Beach, is a self-proclaimed COVID orphan himself. In his former life, he sold professional AV services to companies for large events and conferences. During the pandemic, travel was restricted, although demand for AV equipment remained predominant as people moved away and still needed to communicate.
“Video conferencing has exploded,” he said.
He said he was spoiled for not having to travel thousands of miles every year, and when the world started to open up again, he just couldn’t imagine having to make the dreaded Long Island Expressway trip again. So after 30 years of play, he pivoted.
At the start of the season, Lavopa said it would expand its men-targeted products to include scotch goggles, ties, belts, socks and grooming supplies.
And he’s running a Father’s Day campaign with advertising planned.
“It will be our first major vacation,” he said.
A remnant of the old tobacco shop is the wooden Indian cigar shop that stands on the sidewalk in front. It remains a very popular attraction, according to Lavopa.
“If I charged five dollars for each person who took a picture with him, I could pay my rent for the month!” he joked.
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