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|| News Item: Posted 2003-05-31

The Count on Cigars: The closing of Dunhill
By Eric Risberg

Photo by
One of the best unobtrusive, tucked-away smoking places in San Francisco is targeted to be snuffed out later this summer.

Alfred Dunhill, the venerable tobacconist and gentleman's shop, is closing all of its stores in the U.S. except for its New York City store on Fifth Avenue. In addition to closing its San Francisco store, Dunhill will shut down shops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Honolulu and Houston. Recently closed stores include Miami and Las Vegas. Some 158 other stores worldwide will not be affected.

A favorite spot for people ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Bill Cosby, Dunhill in San Francisco has been the sight of many gatherings for Bay Area photographers for more than a decade. Begun in the early 1960s on the corner of Post and Stockton (now the location of the ubiquitous NikeTown), Dunhill relocated in the mid-1990s to 250 Post, site of the old Gump's store.

The Dunhill humidor, with its big leather chairs, ample reading material and attentive staff, has been an ideal hideaway and place to unwind after a long day. A trip to the private "back room" has always been a special privilege, especially with a glass of scotch provided by a customer with a personal stash or by the staff.

Photo by Eric Risberg AP

Photo by Eric Risberg AP

The humidor at Dunhill in San Francisco.
Most at Dunhill have declined comment, but in a published interview with a men's fashion daily, the chief executive officer said it was part of a restructuring that would focus more of the company's attention on its accessory wholesale business and on its partnership with a company that distributes Dunhill products in the U.S.

Personally, I think the company lost its focus a few years back right before the crash when it came out with a new line of clothing targeting much younger individuals. Abandoning a target group of 35 and older, the company shifted its appeal to the 21-40 demographic. The company also scaled back its cigar business, focusing more on accessories.

Dunhill in San Francisco was often "ground zero" during the cigar boom. Under the leadership of longtime manager Michael Pelusi, the store had classes for women on how to smoke cigars as well as launch parties for the Partagas 150, the LeRoy Neiman Playboy series and the David Linley humidors.

Photo by Eric Risberg / AP

Photo by Eric Risberg / AP

Karen Wiese, an administrator in a San Francisco law firm, puffs on a Dunhill Valverdes cigar while attending a "smoker" session, at the Alfred Dunhill store in San Francisco, Thursday June 22, 1995.
Before the summer is out, you should take a moment to visit and experience one of the few remaining Dunhill humidors before they are sadly gone.

The 5,800 square-foot New York store, which will retain its walk-in humidor and smoking lounge, is being renovated and will manage and service all of Dunhill's cigar and humidor clients from around the country.

(The Count, Eric Risberg, is a staff photographer with the Associated Press based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes regularly for the Sports Shooter Newsletter on food, wine and cigars. He teams with Alan Greth, the Director of Photography of the Contra Costa Times, to lead a breakout at the upcoming Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau on "Editing Your Own Work and Assembling That Killer Portfolio." )

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