Being a retailer is not just about selling products to our customers. We are also agony aunts, counsellors, psychiatrists, doctors, vets, weather forecasters etc. the list seems endless. We thought it would be nice for us to share our experiences and stories of being a retailer, be it good, bad, happy or sad. Even the problems we have had over the years regarding legislation (trying to explain that to our customers can be challenge in itself). This is a chance for us to vent our frustrations, reminisce, or just have a good giggle by sharing stories that we can all relate to, and be thankful that “It’s not just me “ or “I have the same problem.” I am going to start us off and I will also be writing a piece in each newsletter. I realise you don’t know who I am, I’m Shelley and I own P Browells Tobacconist in Stirchley, Birmingham with my father Michael. The business has been in our family now for 96 years, so we have many stories to share. Cake with your Coronas? I will begin with this Christmas, where we acquired a few new customers (or victims as I like to call them). This one chap came in not knowing too much about hand rolling so we spent some time educating him, he then decided he would like to buy some tobacco but needed to visit the cashpoint first. 10mins later he returned holding a plate with a piece of carrot cake on it with a fork. Our first reaction was “we didn’t know the cashpoint has started handing out cake” (just imagine that). He had actually visited the coffee shop a few doors down and bought us this cake because he was very grateful for our help (how kind). He bought his tobacco then left and 5 minutes later returned again with yet another piece of cake on a plate with a fork as he wanted us to have one each and that we were both wonderful. Either we are both wonderful, or he was a bit merry (we preferred the former). It was gladly received, and much appreciated, but very much a first for us. My only concern is if he comes back in the future what on earth might he bring us next time! Then comes the matter of returning the plates. The coffee shop, as I said, is only a few doors away, but it poured down with rain all day. I’m not sure how I managed it, but I inadvertently talked a customer into returning them for me! Forgotten Friends How long is it since Cocktail and Black Russian were discontinued? It’s easy to lose track, but a few years at least. Well we are still being asked for them and the disappointment on people’s faces when we say, “no sorry”, it’s such a shame. Then again after so long it’s not as if they are regular smokers of this product, so they’re not really missing out that much. It’s still sad to see the good times go. My Father has been telling me that during the 50’s and 60’s especially during the Christmas period cigarettes including Woodbine, Park Drive, Player’s, Senior Service and Perfecto No3 (I’d never heard of that one) that these would all sell in boxes of 50. John Player came in a drum of 50 and Churchill No1 in a tin of 50 (we actually have an empty tin here). He also remembers unusual ones including, Passing Cloud 20’s (one of the only oval shaped cigarettes), Blue Book 10’s (mixed cigarettes), Spanish Shaw 24’s (these were scented) and Joy Sticks 10’s (long cigarettes). Cigars included Wills Whiff, Manikin, William11 in a glass jar, Schimmelpenninck and Henri Wintermans Senoritas (demand outstripped supply). Grandee was another popular cigar, theses came in outers of 5 x 10. My Grandfather would buy in stock of 10 – 12 outers for the Christmas period and he would always sell out. Unfortunately one year he only sold one outer and it took the rest of the year to move them. Stock control you can never get it right, but that’s a discussion for another time. I do hope you enjoyed our new column, and if you have any stories you would like to share for our future newsletters please email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you all.