Smokers Paradise lost: City's oldest cigar shop shuts its doors

 
Oliver Gill
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Calling time: City workers won't be able to get their cigars from the Royal Exchange anymore (Source: Mukesh Gaglani )

One of the City's oldest cigar shops has shut its doors after serving the great and the good of the Square Mile for almost 200 years.

Smokers Paradise, a shop which was based in the iconic Royal Exchange at the heart of London's financial district, has sold its final Montecristo after rising rent costs made it impossible for the owners to continue.

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Ups and downs

After taking over ownership of the store in 1974, Mukesh Gaglani was devastated to shut the store over the New Year. “I feel sad after all these years," he told City A.M.. "We have seen ups and downs but we’ve always seen a demand for cigars here, especially in the area we are located."


A long history: Cigars were originally rolled in-house (Source: Mukesh Gaglani)

And, he said, he isn't the only one that is disappointed.

“People are sad to see it. I told my customers and they asked: ‘Why? This is like an institution'," he said.

Uneconomic

According to Gaglani, Royal Exchange landlord Oxford Properties would only allow him to sign a new lease on his premises on terms that were wholly uneconomic.

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Gaglani speculated the landlord was being put under pressure by other shop tenants that felt a tobacconist no longer fitted in with the Royal Exchange aesthetic. The landlord was under pressure to try and replace his shop with a different tenant, he said.

City A.M. contacted Toronto-based Oxford Properties but have not had any response from requests to comment on Gaglani's claims.


The Royal Exchange itself was opened in 1844 by Queen Victoria (Source: Mukesh Gaglani)

Eddie George

With the end of his flagship store, Gaglani can still reminisce about days when he served the likes of the governor of the Bank of England and sold the cigars for England cricket captain Alastair Cook's wedding:

Eddie George, the governor of the Bank of England, used to come to our shop quite regularly. He was a very friendly guy. He used to stand in the queue and talk to us and chat.

Gaglani has moved premises to the slightly less ornate surroundings of Fenchurch Street where he is carving out a good trade.

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Cigar importers Hunter & Frankau reviewed the shop. On its website it said: "They [Smokers Paradise] are known for their expertise and knowledge about the vast varieties of cigars they stock and offer excellent customer services with a friendly atmosphere."


Gaglani remains positive about his trading prospects (Source: Mukesh Gaglani)

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