Written by Staff

Friday, 24 October 2008

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special eventssports
tampa devil rays boost cigar business

Brandon, Florida - Walk into the Tobacco Depot store in Brandon, and amid the fragrant cigars and aged wood, you'll smell something else: profits.

Santiago Carrasco, the smoke-swirling shopkeeper here, says he's seen cigar sales wafting upward almost exactly in line with the Rays' success this season.

His newest customers? "Mostly Rays fans ... proud to say," Carrasco confirmed.

A few days before a big Rays series, Carrasco says customers start coming in to stock up. They're shopping for cigars to puff on during the games, and more expensive ones to light up and celebrate a Rays victory.

Carrasco says his shop's smoking room also fills up more now than in any October before, as people come in to watch the games at his store.

When serious fans stroll in, looking for a World Series victory smoke, they spend more money, following his serious recommendation: "You want to make that cigar not just one to smoke, but one that you're really going to be committing to memory," he said.

And just down the road, another adults-only business is booming. Anheuser-Busch distributors say beer sales are up across the Bay area.

Tom McEntee at Fine Wine and Spirits Warehouse in Tampa says the bar side of the business has been jammed, especially when the first several Rays playoff games were shown only on cable. And in their wine and liquor store, beer sales have steadily climbed since the Rays had a series of winning streaks in August.

"We have seen a noticeable bump up... [in] the postseason," McEntee said.

None of the companies we talked to were willing to give out actual sales numbers. But Pepin Distributing in Tampa, which supplies Budweiser products to restaurants and stores all across Hillsborough County, says the Rays-driven trend is clearly real. A company spokesman says they've been making steady deliveries to sports bars and supermarkets, and they feel strong sales are helping the Bay area's entire economy.

Only one slice of their business has not seen a move upward since the Rays got on a roll. Casual dining restaurants aren't seeing much of an increase in alcohol sales, perhaps because customers crave a wall of TVs along with their gametime food and drink.

Great Bay Distributing in Largo handles Pinellas County, and they're sending trucks constantly to Tropicana Field, along with daily deliveries to Ferg's Sports Bar on Central Avenue in St. Pete.

The other good news is that the Devil Rays have really hot fans.

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