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Cigarette Shop Finds New Home in Covington After Chipotle Plans Forced a Move

One of Covington's more prominent tobacco shops, The Smilin' Smoker, has relocated a block north and they want their customers to know that they're still in business.

“We're getting a lot of the regulars that are coming in,” said manager Chris Ervin. “It's just getting people to understand that we did relocate one block north. Our customer base is very loyal, so they're happy we're open.”

It took about six weeks to complete the relocation from Philadelphia Street, where its former home sits on property that will be be developed to house a Chipotle and Wendy's, to a block down in the building adjacent to the Waffle House. It took long hours to transfer the inventory and prepare the new spot for its opening, but now that they are settled in, the staff is enjoying the new digs.

The business is under new ownership after the move, purchased by Hayden Retail Group. The new owners decided to keep the same name due to recognition that the tobacco shop had established at its previous location. 

“We did have a solid customer base at the former place,” Ervin said. “I'm seeing the same faces, but I am also seeing new faces.”

Ervin says that a single block makes a huge difference in terms of the draw the business gets from neighboring business.

“It's only a block but it might as well be on the other side of the country” said Ervin of the new location. “We have Skyline Chili, Riverfront, and Waffle House, and there's nothing wrong with Frisch's who used to be next us, but it's a different draw with three separate businesses here.”

There are some significant changes in terms of the features of the business. Gone is the drive through that customers enjoyed at the former place. Ervin says some people have complained about its absence but they get out of their cars nonetheless.

“I don't think it really matters if we have one or not,” Ervin said.

Also gone is any alcohol which Ervin says may return, but if it does, it will only be beer for sale and not wine or spirits like the previous ownership sold at the other location.

There are now more tobacco products at the new location under the new ownership, though, especially e-cigarettes and vapor products with lower prices than previously placed on the store's items.

Many customers are learning about the business for the first time thanks to the new location. Despite the fact that The Smilin' Smoker was on Philadelphia for eight years, simply being in a new building has peaked the interest of new customers.

“The new customers have given us new product contacts that we didn't have before,” he said.

The staff at the Smilin' Smoker also said that old customers are relieved when they see the familiar faces from the previous store and feel more comfortable continuing to patronize the shop.

“It helps with the same name and with the faces they know,” said Ervin. “They come in and see us and say, 'Oh, it's you guys!'”

Story & photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor