mulberry elgin Avanti Cigar hopes to shift lost CVS sales to web
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CVS/Caremark’s decision to end tobacco sales in its stores will take a toll on a local business, Avanti Cigars, whose products were carried in most of the chain’s 7,600 stores, where they shared shelves with global giants.
CVS was among the largest accounts for the privately owned company that recently relocated from North Scranton to Dunmore, said Dominic Keating, Avanti Cigars president.
Changes in how cigars are purchased and distributed will help Avanti close the gap, Mr. Keating said.
Avanti produces and markets machine rolled, 100 percent tobacco cigars under brands including Parodi, De Nobili and Ram Rod.
“If this happened 25 years ago, I would have reacted by getting a bottle of Maker’s Mark,” joked Mr. Keating. Eventually, Mr. Keating would like to include a retail locator that would direct customers to the nearest outlet for Avanti products.
The Avanti logo also got a makeover, borrowing the image of the trained seal long featured on Parodi cigar packaging. The story holds that Parodi’s Italian founders, attempting to incorporate in the United States more than 100 years ago, misunderstood the requirement to have a “corporate seal,” saying, “It’s an odd tradition, but we’ll do it.”
Mr. Keating’s grandfather and two uncles later bought Parodi out of bankruptcy in 1925 and moved it to Scranton. Avanti also added a new product called Estilo Cafe Mocha, an infused cigar.
Mr. Keating understands CVS’s decision.
As the drug store chain expanded health care services available in stores, tobacco products seem more out of place. CVS was a small, New England drug store chain when it placed its first Avanti order in 1982. As CVS grew, the account grew, and CVS gave the small company’s products space alongside global tobacco giants. Serving CVS greatly expanded Avanti’s customer base, Mr. Keating said.
“I don’t begrudge CVS,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity they have given our small company to reach more consumers.”
CVS won’t remove tobacco products until October, giving Avanti time to adjust. Some customers have contacted the company, asking for alternative outlets for Avanti.
“Our job is to make sure our customers can continue to buy our products either through direct sales or other distributors,” Mr. Keating said.