LOGAN SQUARE — A neighborhood cigar and smoke shop that opened in the summer is pivoting to try and better serve the community through food.
Havana Cigar and convenience store at 2947 W. Armitage Ave., formerly called Ray’s Smoke and Vape, opened across the street from popular restaurant Parson’s Chicken & Fish in late summer. In October, it was sold and got its new name, but sales have been low, said the owner, Sam, who did not want to give his last name.
To attract customers and up sales, the owner began expanding the shop at the beginning of the month and decided to pair the shop’s signature tobacco and smoke-related items with groceries and convenient home goods. Complete with new fridges, shelves and a bright sign, Sam said he hopes to grow while supporting the neighborhood.
“I hope expanding will help [sales] and the business will help the neighborhood to get discounted food,” Sam said.
The convenience shop now offers basic groceries, frozen and to-go meals, drinks, desserts and home goods, in addition to blankets, incense, knickknacks, souvenirs and everything you’d find in a typical smoke shop.
The mini grocery store sells frozen foods and pizza under $7, milk and creamer under $4, eggs for $2 and cereal under $3 — simple items people need and like, the owner said.
He prides himself on listening to his customers’ needs and said he’s created a trusted network of regulars since taking over the shop in October. But, he said people still don’t know about his expansion and he wants neighbors to check out what he’s adding into the store.
He said he’s taking requests if people want specific grocery items at an affordable price, which is why some of the shelves are still empty.
“I am getting [more groceries] slowly, but I am waiting to see what the neighborhood wants and likes,” he said. “I am doing this for my neighborhood, so I need to know what they need.”
The storefront had been empty since 2016, when a hair salon closed after nearly a decade. Ray’s Smoke and Vape opened in late summer but didn’t last long, and the corporation’s business license was terminated earlier this week, state records show.
The owner, who lives in the south suburbs, has had similar convenient stores in the past but wants Havana Cigar to stand out. He said he’s trying to buy from local vendors if possible.
For many small businesses, the pandemic has been a blow to sales and has quieted neighborhood shopping strips. Many have had to pivot to stay afloat.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.