“There have been a lot of other things I’ve done in the meantime, but I always came back,” longtime Edward’s Smoke Shop employee Tom Young says of his stretch of service at the classic Denver cigar, pipe and tobacco store that began over 50 years ago.
Edward’s, like the Oriental Theater, was once a nationwide chain, but its locations went independent after a few decades. Tom has worked at Edward’s in Denver since its original Brookridge Shopping Center location opened in 1969.
At 36, current owner and manager Nick Perry seems young enough to be Tom’s grandson, though Tom won’t reveal his age.
“Old enough to know better but don’t,” Tom quips.
Nick, a Lakewood native, has owned and operated Edward’s since the summer of 2020 at the 3441 South Broadway location the shop moved to 15 years ago. The venture seems like a “hail Mary” for a guy who previously worked in the oil and gas business and “never worked a retail job in my life until I bought one,” but Nick says the shop’s continued success is partly due to his knowledge of Edward’s, and mostly because of its longtime, loyal customers.
Nick says that cigars have experienced record sales since the COVID-19 pandemic began. People young and old suddenly “had a little more time to explore new ways to relax,” he says.
Asked what’s kept him working at Edward’s for five decades, Tom simply says he “needed a job, I guess.” But he lit up—no pun intended—when asked why the shop thrives while so many others come and go.
“Retail is hard work,” he says. “You gotta enjoy staying on your feet 12 hours a day, and what gives you that joy is making your customers happy.”
And what keeps Edward’s customers happy? “Whatever they want, as long as it’s legal. We are a traditional shop.”
Nick says that he was around cigars as a kid and they always had a “mystique, kind of an allure”—one he thinks might have made a comeback recently due in part to footage of Michael Jordan smoking cigars in the popular 2020 documentary The Last Dance.
“A lot of hipster, younger people are getting into pipes, too,” Nick says, and he stresses that Edward’s has not been affected by the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“We haven’t dabbled into that market,” he says. “It’s definitely different clientele that we cater to, certainly. We’ve got a lot of older regulars, but the cigar business is through the roof. We’ve had a lot of young people coming in, getting interested in it.”
Nick believes that Edward’s has the lowest prices in Denver and “probably close to the biggest selection of cigars in the state.” It also boasts two complimentary smoking lounges that are open to the public, unlike some shops that charge to smoke in their rooms.
“The emphasis has always been on the happiness of the customer,” Tom says.