Historic Jeanie’s Smoke Shop reopens

Jeanie’s Smoke Shop is back in business.

The popular downtown Salt Lake City tobacco store that closed its doors in mid-2010 has reopened under new owners Luay Alawi and Raad Alkamel, who vow to maintain the same look and feel of the historic Utah establishment that dated back to the 1940s.

“We started thinking about reopening Jeanie’s as soon as we saw the ‘for lease’ sign on the building,” said Alkamel, who, along with his partner, owns the nearby Smoke Break Hooka Outlet. “Jeanie’s had been a part of downtown for many, many years, and we didn’t want to see it go away.”

Raad Alkamel is one of the new owners of Jeanie's Smoke Shop.

Raad Alkamel is one of the new owners of Jeanie's Smoke Shop.

Longtime owner Gary Klc (pronounced Kelch) closed Jeanie’s on June 30, the day before a state tobacco tax hike went into effect. Klc said he couldn’t come up with $125,000 on July 1 to cover the higher tax on his existing inventory, which he described as the largest of any tobacco retailer in the state.

Klc’s late father launched the family business in the 1940s when he bought out the old United Cigars store on State Street. The tobacco store changed its name several times throughout the years — finally to Jeanie’s, in honor of Gary Klc’s mother.

Alawi said he and his partner have a verbal agreement with Klc that allows them to use the Jeanie’s Smoke Shop name for one year. “After that, it will be up to Gary on whether we will be allowed to continue to use it,” he said.

Klc couldn’t be reached for comment.

The store’s new owners said they are working hard to set up the shop the way customers remember.

“Everything is in the same place as it was — the loose tobacco, the cigars and the pipes,” Alawi said. “And when Jeanie’s longtime customers come in, we are asking them what products they want us to carry in the store.”

At least one thing will be different, though.

Arley Curtz of Curtz Handmade Pipes and Pipe Repair, who worked at Jeanie’s for years, said the new store’s owners approached him about setting up there again. “I bought all the equipment I was using from Gary, and I’m now working out of my home. So that is something I don’t think I’m going to do.”

Alawi conceded that successfully operating Jeanie’s will be a challenge, particularly since the recent increase in the state’s tobacco tax seems to be leading many Utah smokers to venture out of state to purchase their cigarettes and cigars.

Jeanie’s customer Dennis Lemons, who was waiting for a bus outside the store at 156 S. State Street, said it was a sad day when the shop closed. “It is nice to see that it has reopened. Downtown Salt Lake City can certainly use all the help it can get.”

Alkamel said like many of Jeanie’s longtime customers, he and his partner looked upon the store with fondness and a sense of nostalgia.

“When I came to Salt Lake City in 1994, I bought my first pack of cigarettes at Jeanie’s,” he said.

source: sltrib.com

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