If you are a smoker, you might end up saving money by buying the material for cigarettes in bulk after a visit to Brand Cigars on South Main Street.
Gee Islam, who opened Brand Cigars in Plaza South last week, said he will show anyone how simple it is to make their own cigarettes at a tremendous savings over the usual retail cost, which includes a high percentage of state and federal taxes.
Although the store specializes in cigars costing from $1 to $50 each, it also markets a full range of tobacco products for pipes, chewing and cigarettes.
Brand Cigars is among several stores in Newtown specializing in premium cigars and smoking materials. Other shops include , on Church Hill Road at Queen Street; Butthead’s Tobacco Emporium, in Ricky’s Shopping Center; and , on Hawleyville Road, boasting a stock of 300 different cigars and a lounge in which to enjoy them.
Though Brand Cigars is open to the public, Islam said it will take another few weeks to create a smoking lounge, finish paneling and shelves in the humidor room, and completely assemble and display the stock. When the work is done, the store will celebrate with a grand opening.
“Cigarettes, with the latest state tax hike included, now cost about $90 a carton, retail,” Islam said. “But I can show you how you can make your own cigarettes for as little as $15 to $20 per carton, depending on the quality of tobacco you use.”
He explained that patrons of his store may buy what is marketed as “pipe tobacco,” which customers can use to make their own cigarettes with a hand crank machine selling for $45.
Unlike past years when rolling paper was needed, people can buy enough paper tubes for $5 to make 200 cigarettes, equivalent to a carton. Simply put loose tobacco and a tube into the machine and turn the handle to create a perfect cigarette in less than a second.
“Of the $9 that smokers in Connecticut typically pay per pack for brand name cigarettes, $6.50 of that cost is state and federal tax,” Islam said. “The tax is even greater in New York City, where cigarettes are now $14 to $16 per pack.”
Meanwhile, Islam has been working on creating a large display of cigars — many made with Connecticut shade-grown tobacco wrappers — in a large humidor room on the side of his store.
“The room has a machine in it to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees and a humidity of 70 percent to keep the cigars in perfect condition,” he said.
Included in the display are cigars of all sizes and types along with miniature ones in decorative metal cases that fit easily in a pocket or purse. The more expensive cigars have been aged for years to improve aroma and flavor.
Although cigars are usually a man’s smoking treat, Islam said he has some dedicated women customers who also enjoy them.
The store sells wooden humidor boxes and a special metal carrying case to keep cigars fresh. It offers an array of scented candles to eliminate smoke odors and flavored chewing gum to freshen breath after smoking.
Islam, who manages the store owned by his brother, Evan Islam, said the Newtown store is an outgrowth of a store owned by his family also called Brand Cigars on Main Street in Monroe.
“Our father, who came to this country 10 years ago from Bangladesh, works for Sam’s Smoke Junction, a chain of several stores," said Gee Islam. "He learned the tobacco trade and taught us.” Sam’s has stores in Oxford, Derby, Stratford and other locations.
Once the Newtown store is established and develops a clientele, Evan Islam said he intends to open a third store for his family in a location to be determined.
Correction: Gee Islam's last name was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.