|Headquarters||12 E 42nd St
New York, New York,
|Key people||Joel Sherman
|Products||Cigars, cigarettes, gifts and accessories|
Nat Sherman is the brand name for a line of handmade cigars and "luxury cigarettes." The company, which began as a retail tobacconist, continues to operate a flagship retail shop now located on 42nd Street, off of Fifth Avenue, in New York City. Corporate offices are now located at the foot of the George Washington Bridge in the borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Nat Sherman the brand began with Nat Sherman, the man. Sherman made his fortune running a prominent speakeasy in New York City during the 1920s, a time when Prohibition made such a business extremely lucrative, albeit risky. Perhaps as the result of settlement of a gambling debt, his son later speculated, Sherman wound up as half owner of Traub Brothers and Bear, makers of the Epoca cigar brand, which introduced the nightclub proprietor into the world of tobacco manufacturing. Sherman subsequently bought out his partner to become sole owner of the Epoca brand, which was made in Havana, Cuba and Tampa, Florida.
Later a prominent New York real estate developer named Abe Gubertz had cash-flow difficulties during the construction of a 38 story building located at 1400 Broadway, on Broadway in Manhattan. Sherman provided the struggling developer with a loan, taking retail space located in the lobby as partial payment. The shop sold cigarettes and cigars in substantial quantities to those who worked in the building and proved a means of distributing its own cigars, including Epoca and Nat Sherman-branded product. The company also was the exclusive importer and distributor of the Cuban-made Bolivar brand in the United States.
In the 1950s, an adjoining retail space was obtained on the street, which initially was used as a candy store. The wall between the two establishments was later broken down, paving the way for an expansion of the tobacco shop, which catered to an elite customer base, which included leaders in the fashion industry, theatre, and politicians. Prominent members of organized crime "families" also frequented the shop, which was regarded as "neutral ground."
Joel Sherman, the son of Nat Sherman and company president and CEO into the 21st Century, later recalled of the shop's most dangerous customers:
"These people drank the best liquor, drove the most expensive cars, had the most beautiful women, and they smoked the best cigars. You'd find people from opposing crime families meeting in the store. They'd buy each other cigars while their bodyguards stood outside."
In 1950, Sherman introduced the plastic-tipped cigar to the industry, called "Sherman's #25." The cigar was produced in Tampa for Sherman by Carl Cuesta, an American manufacturer of cigars for Partagas. The company applied for a patent for its cigar tip, which was never granted. Nevertheless, for 32 years the company successfully bluffed away rivals by marking its packaging with the words "patent pending" and by threatening legal action.
Sherman was also a pioneer in the manufacture of cigarettes which made use of cigar tobacco, launching a product called "Havana Ovals #149" early in the 1950s. According to company lore, the move to specialty small cigars and cigarettes was made at the request of an irate customer who had been unable to smoke a cigar on an airplane and who had specifically requested a cigarette which tasted like a cigar.
During the 1960s, the Sherman shop expanded its wares to include pipes. Over 1,000 pipes were offered for sale in a 40-foot (12 m) long case hung along the wall of the store. The company also began to sell pipe tobacco under the "Nat Sherman" brand name. At the time of its expansion, the company's pipe department was perhaps the largest in New York City and the United States.
In the 1960s, a move was made to expand both the wholesale operations of the company and its cigarette manufacturing arm. The company's previous manufacturing facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was shuttered and a move made to a new and larger facility in Englewood, New Jersey.
In the Fall of 1976, founder and patriarch Nat Sherman decided to open a shop on New York's tony Fifth Avenue as a means of bolstering his tobacco brand's status even more, and a new location was opened at 711 Fifth Avenue, near the illustrious Plaza Hotel and across the street from Tiffany & Company. After a period of serious differences with his father, son Joel Sherman left the business for about a decade, returning to the company in 1990, the year after his father's death. Joel Sherman assumed the role of company president and CEO, terminated many of the existing management staff, and once again set the company on the course of developing unique, elite, high-end products.
The company lost its lease at 711 Fifth Avenue and moved to a new 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) location located on 42nd Street, around the corner from the New York Public Library. A total of $1.5 million were spent on the development of the new store, which boasts an inventory of about 500,000 cigars and a second floor walk-in humidor and smoking room adorned with leather-backed chairs.
Sherman's "Metropolitan" cigar line has been manufactured since the 1990s by MATASA in the Dominican Republic. Its Gotham 1400 and Omerta products are manufactured and distributed by Santa Clara, Inc.. The company's cigarette manufacturing is conducted in its own facility in Greensboro, North Carolina.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nat Sherman.|
- Ronald Margulis, "Nat Sherman's Long March to Success," Cigar Magazine, vol. 3, no. 4 (Winter 2006), pp. 70-85.
- Joel Sherman, "An Interview with Joel Sherman of Nat Sherman," Pipes Magazine.com/ November 25, 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2011.