Cigar shop planned for 110-year-old house

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — A cigar store will open in a 110-year-old Victorian cottage in downtown Salisbury, thanks to a $41,000 grant from the state.
Gov. Bev Perdue announced Thursday Salisbury will receive a Main Street Solutions Fund grant to help pay for the $124,000 rehabilitation of the house at 213 S. Lee St. near the Norvell Theater, behind City Hall.
Darren Moody, a Catawba College graduate who lives in Salisbury, plans to open The Perfect Smoke in six to nine months. Downtown Salisbury Inc., which owns the house, is looking for a buyer to renovate the property to Moody’s specifications.
Moody will rent the building.
“I was delighted,” Moody said after learning about the state grant. “It’s going to be great for Salisbury. The city has been trying to revitalize it, and from a historical point of view, it’s great to preserve the history of the area.”
Moody was an investor in Salisbury’s first cigar lounge, Havana Knights, but pulled out after disagreements about the direction of the business, now located on East Innes Street.
Unlike Havana Knights, The Perfect Smoke will sell only cigars and cigar-related accessories, not alcohol or other products, Moody said.
The store will feature hand-rolled cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua. Four lounges will have different themes: hunting, fishing, golf and a study with built-in bookcases. The humidor measures more than 100 square feet, he said.
With the grant in hand and a quality tenant lined up, Randy Hemann said he’s confident he can sell the 1,800-square-foot house.
“With the $41,000 grant that we have that goes to the renovation, it’s an attractive project now,” said Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury.
The new owner will pay the balance of the project, Hemann said.
Downtown Salisbury bought the house and its next-door neighbor at 209 S. Lee St. in 2008 to protect the area, he said.
“We didn’t have a really good exit strategy, and this gives us a great business to go into one of those houses,” Hemann said.
The Salisbury Community Development Corp. owns the other home, which is vacant and for sale.
The grant was awarded because The Perfect Smoke will create two full-time jobs and the rehabilitation is in the Fisher Street Entertainment District, which will compliment and strengthen existing businesses.
The announcement came on the heels of another windfall for Lee Street and downtown Salisbury.
On Monday, Salisbury learned the state will pick up the $290,000 tab to replace crumbling, narrow sidewalks along the 300 block of North Lee Street.
The long-awaited project in part of an area known as the Railwalk district will include wider sidewalks, street lights, trees, crosswalks and more.
“That these projects are coming to fruition at the same time is an added benefit,” Hemann said. “We have good plans for both areas, and we are making a lot of progress.”
Improvements at both ends Lee Street could boost economic development downtown.
“This helps us shore up the edges of downtown,” Hemann said.
Lenoir also received a Main Street Solutions Fund grants for $200,000.
The two awards will leverage an additional $521,084 in public and private investments, Perdue said in a statement, and create or retain at least 20 permanent full-time and 12 part-time jobs.
“Main Streets are the heart of small town North Carolina. We must continue to support the revitalization of these areas, while helping local small businesses to grow and create jobs,” Perdue said. “These grants will provide the spark that can ignite growth and economic recovery.”
The Main Street Solutions Fund was created by Perdue and is administered by the Community Development Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce.
This is the second and final round of grants. In April, grants were awarded to seven communities: Benson, Kinston, Goldsboro, Burnsville, Highlands, Sylva and Newton.

Architect says Perfect Smoke cottage in decent shape
Considering the house is more than a century old, it’s in pretty good shape, architect Gray Stout says.
Stout’s renovation plan for the Victorian cottage at 213 S. Lee St. will turn the center hallway into the cigar humidor and add an outdoor patio in back. The kitchen will become two handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
The front room will serve as a lobby and retail area, while other rooms will become cigar lounges with different themes.
Original beadboard is still in place, and the house has 11-foot ceilings.
Stout’s plans await approval from Rowan County to secure a building permit. No rezoning is required.
The house, along with another vacant property next door, are highly visible behind City Hall.
“We need to fix them up,” Stout said. “It’s like the gateway to the back of City Hall.”
Stout and his wife, Heather St. Aubin Stout, renovated a nearby duplex in 2007 in an effort to improve the area.
“This is another piece in the puzzle,” he said.

Other downtown development
• Randy Hemann said he’s still working on the Empire Hotel project and has someone who’s interested.  “It’s still premature to say much about it, but there is potential,” he said.
• Two businesses are considering leasing a vacant storefront on the Square in the Plaza — one sells women’s clothing and the other specializes in outdoor products.
• A women’s dress shop called Adella has opened at 105 B N. Main St., next to Stringfellows.
• An upscale purse shop will open at 205 S. Main St. in the former Hot Junk location.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.