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Monday, 26 May 2008

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Jim Shand grinned last week as he told Geoffrey Ranck about the latest allotment of Fuente Opus X cigars to arrive at Demuth's Tobacco Shop. One of the first customers to hear of the shipment immediately started calling other customers to alert them. The shop rations the prized Dominican brand, selling no more than three of the cigars to any given customer a day.

Even at that rate, Shand said, the five boxes would be gone by the end of the week. "They'll be happy campers," Ranck said.

Shand, who once ran Watt & Shand department store just down King Street from Demuth's, joined Ranck in the shop's ownership and took over its management April 1 as the new majority owner. "It's a perfect sort of second life for me," Shand said. "It marries so many of my interests - retailing, cigars, the financial aspects of business. … And I love downtown. I think what is happening downtown right now is amazing." The alliance of Shand and Ranck in Demuth's is heavily permeated with the aroma of history as well as tobacco. Demuth's, which was founded in 1770, is the country's oldest continuously operated tobacco shop as well as the oldest business in Lancaster city and second-oldest in the county (behind Bachman Funeral Home in Strasburg), Shand said.

Although still in its original building at 114 E. King St., Demuth's Tobacco Shop was remodeled in 1917 with famed architect C. Emlen Urban designing the facade and interior cabinetry. Urban also designed the facade for the Watt & Shand building, preserved as part of the Lancaster County Convention Center.

Ranck, president of Domestic Tobacco Co., 830 N. Prince St., manufactures a number of the house brands sold by Demuth's and bought the shop itself in 2003 from the Demuth Museum, which continues as the landlord and owner of the shop's fixtures.

The museum promotes the art of painter Charles Demuth (1883-1935), a descendent of tobacco shop founder Christopher Demuth. The artist lived most of his life in the complex of buildings that includes the shop, and his father, Ferdinand, was one of the shop's proprietors.

Domestic Tobacco
Domestic Tobacco traces its own roots to 1755, when A.K. Mann started growing tobacco near Millersville. The Mann family later set up a plant to cure and cut its tobacco, Ranck said. Ranck's grandfather, Milton H. Ranck, was also a tobacco dealer. His great-aunt married into the Mann family, and a great-uncle worked in the Manns' business before Ranck did. The Manns had three tobacco companies - A.K. Mann, Mann Tobacco Co. and Domestic Tobacco Co. - which Ranck eventually merged and ran for the family before buying the business.Demuth's Tobacco Shop Lancaster PA

Ranck traces his association with Demuth's back about 30 years when his company took over Demuth's smokeless brands and started manufacturing its chewing tobacco. "All the burnable products stayed with Demuth," Ranck said. When the opportunity came along in 2003 to put the entire business back together by buying the shop and the rest of the trademarks, Ranck took it. Domestic still manufactures Demuth's brand chewing tobacco and some of the Demuth's brand cigars, and contracts for the manufacture of its other brands and pipe tobacco blends. "We have some of the Demuth cigars handmade in Honduras, some here," Ranck said. Pennsylvania tobacco is part of the blend in all the chewing tobacco and in Demuth's 1770 Series Cigars, he said.

Domestic Tobacco manufactures other brands, too, and is federally licensed and bonded to manufacture, import and re-export tobacco products. Ranck also bought the brand name years ago for Demuth's snuff, which Demuth's itself used to manufacture in a building behind the shop. The snuff is no longer made, but Ranck hints that might not always be the case. "We're working on developing the snuff," he said.

The Shands
"Geoff's family and my family have been friends forever," Shand said, explaining his association with Ranck. Shand's great-grandfather, James Shand, was one of the founding partners in Watt & Shand back in 1878, along with fellow Scottish immigrants Peter Watt and Gilbert Thompson. Thompson died a short time later, and a few years after that the name of the partners' "New York store" was shortened to Watt & Shand. Shand's grandfather was treasurer of the company and his father was president before him. All share the name James. Shand didn't go to work in the family business right away. Instead, after graduating from Princeton University, he worked for Bay Banks in Massachusetts for 11 years, he said, becoming the company's youngest executive vice president at age 30.

"My dad had run Watt & Shand ... for 30 years, only owning 5 percent of the business," Shand said. "He put together a small group of investors — me, my brother [Douglas, chief executive officer of Amerigreen Biofuels] and father - and bought out the other 80 owners in 1985," Shand said. "I was president from 1989 to 1992." The business had $35 million in sales and employed 800 people when its two stores (one at Park City) were sold in 1992 to Bon-Ton, Shand said.

Around downtown
Since the sale, Shand has kept busy overseeing the two surface parking lots he and his brother own downtown off Prince and King streets, and serving as a wealth management adviser for a number of local individuals and families. It was his love of downtown and the opportunity to become a part of another of its historic businesses that attracted him to Demuth's, Shand said. "Restaurants are opening right and left. The convention center is going to be opening," he said. "I think downtown Lancaster is just happening. It's on fire."

Shand said when he and Ranck started talking about him taking over Demuth's, it seemed it would be a good fit for him. "It worked out for me with my background in merchandising," he said. "And I love cigars." Now, he's also learning about pipe tobacco and the people who roll their own cigarettes. "It's so cool to be able to keep going the oldest tobacco shop in America," Shand said.




Comments 

 
0 # DE MUTHCLARK DE MUTH 2010-10-21 22:53
I LIKE A MILD CIGAR AND A VERY MILD PIPE TABACCO. BACK IN 1999 I STOPPED IN AT THE DEMUTH STORE TO CHECK IT OUT AND FOUND THAT NO ONE WAS SURE IF MY SIDE OF THE DE MUTH CLAN WAS KEN FOLK OF THE DEMUTH's . OUR SIDE SETTLED IN TIFFIN ,OHIO AND WAS IN THE BAR AND LOUNGE BUSINESS FOR OVER 55 YEARS. WE SOLD OUT IN 1977 BUT THE BUSINESS IS STILL THERE UNDER ANOTHER NAME. I HAVE A SON DANA DE MUTH WHO IS A UMPIRE IN MLB FOR PAST 33 YEARS, HIS NUMBER IS 32 :-) . THANK YOU.

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