The changes at JR Cigar keep coming.
While the company, which is part of Imperial Tobacco Group—parent of Altadis USA—has spent much of the last 12 months updating its online and catalog business, it’s now undertaking an ambitious plan to revamp its brick and mortar locations. The work began late last year in New Jersey when the company finished updating its Paramus store, but the big changes are taking place in North Carolina.
In October, JR announced that it would be closing its Statesville store and opening up a new location in Mooresville, N.C.—which is roughly in between Statesville and downtown Charlotte. That store is following a new model for JR’s North Carolina stores—tobacco-only.
While customers of JR in New Jersey and Washington D.C. are used to it being essentially a tobacconist, the North Carolina stores sold everything from cigars to dolls. There was apparel, perfume, blankets, books, even Christmas trees for sale, but that’s no more. Rob Maneson, retail strategy director, told halfwheel that the focus is on tobacco whether that be cigars or e-cigarettes.
Well tobacco, and alcohol.
JR’s new 5,714-square-foot Mooresville store will feature a craft beer bar with six-10 taps as well as bottles. Its Whippany, N.J. store will undergo a remodel and will continue to serve alcohol at its bar and sell bottles of wine. Any new stores going forward are likely to follow the larger “cigar bar” model so long as the laws allow.
According to schematics provided to halfwheel, there will be two outdoor areas with fire pits and an 1,800-square-foot walk-in humidor at the center of the store. That’s in addition to the regular amenities you would expect: lounge seating, a private meting room and a vintage room within the humidor. The new design features a variety of modern accents, both in the furniture and the physical structure, something that should be a welcome change compared to JR’s current look in North Carolina, which elicits words like warehouse, flea market and vintage.
According to the Statesville Record & Landmark, the Statesville store will close “around Feb. 23” once the Mooresville store is ready to be opened. All but the cigar shop has already been moved out of the massive Statesville location, meaning it’s only selling tobacco-related products. The company is planning a large grand opening party for mid-March, which will include heads of a variety of cigar companies.
All of this follows a plan laid out to us by JR head Rob Norris in November. At the time of the interview, he told halfwheel the physical JR brick and mortar locations accounted for roughly one-quarter of the company’s sales. As for what’s next, the retailer is remaining tight-lipped, but further expansion seems likely.
JR currently operates the aforementioned stores in New Jersey, three stores in North Carolina, and single stores in Washington D.C. and Detroit.
(Renderings via JR Cigar)
Update (June 6, 2015) — Added clarification regarding the relationship between Altadis USA, Imperial Tobacco Group and JR Cigar.