Head Case Curios in Portsmouth thanks cigars for its survival during Covid lockdown

AN ECLECTIC curiosity shop might not have made it through lockdown without the sales of its premium cigars, its owner has said.

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Thursday, 16th September 2021, 5:13 pm

Head Case Curios in Albert Road, Southsea, is known for its collection of weird and wonderful objects but started selling cigars just before the pandemic.

Although the cigars are sold as a luxury, specialist item, they are ‘just another curiosity that fits in the shop’.

When the first lockdown hit and the shop had to shut, owner Tony Duke, 57, from Copnor, said the business wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for the cigars, as they were their only source of revenue.

Owner of Head Case Curios, Anthony Duke. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He said: ‘In the short periods we were allowed to open, the cigar sales actually saved the business, which we didn’t predict at all.

‘All of a sudden word got out that we stocked fine cigars and when we started doing the maths, if we hadn't had the cigars, it might’ve been touch and go.’

The shop offered click and collect services for customers, and at one point offered free delivery with Tony hand delivering the cigars himself.

The ever-growing collection currently stocks 39 different types, with cigars from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico.

Head Case Curios in Albert Road, Southsea. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Tony said the collection has grown so quickly because customers looking for premium, high quality rolled cigars know what they want, so if they are looking for a specific type that isn’t in stock, he is happy to source it for them.

The current collection caters for all budgets, with prices ranging from £10 up to £50. The premium quality is also reflected through the handmade menu which lists the full selection and details such as price, origin, flavour and the aroma of cigars.

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In order to provide a customer service that matches the quality of the cigars, Tony took lockdown as an opportunity to become a cigar aficionado, and will be attending his first cigar conference in two weeks time.

Owner of Head Case Curios, Anthony Duke. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He is keen to help customers find the best product to suit them and their needs, and teaches cigar etiquette to help out first-timers.

He said: ‘We’re all about return sales, we’re here for the long run so we care about our customers and their experience. We don’t want to sell what you’d find in a corner shop, we’re about premium quality and sell to customers who want a treat or a cigar for a special occasion.’

The shop has already supplied cigars for weddings, corporate events and is planning to start attending wedding fayres to increase their supply for special events.

Tony said Head Case Curios is the only specialist cigar stockist in Portsmouth, and the only premium rolled cigar seller between Fareham, Chichester and Alton. He said that due to UK cigar sales increasing by a third in the past two years, the demand is growing and the clientele is changing.

Owner of Head Case Curios, Antony Duke. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Two of his customers, Morgan Knights, 24, from Drayton and his younger brother Zachary, 18, claim that it is the ‘best place in Portsmouth to get cigars’.

Zachary said: ‘The customer service is amazing, Tony is amazing, this is the best shop in Portsmouth. I was odd for years but now I’ve finally found my home in Head Case Curios.’

Due to the success of cigar sales, Head Case Curios is planning to start selling gift boxes, where customers can customise their own selection, either for themselves or as a gift for a loved one. Additionally, Tony is investing in larger cabinets to create a designated space in the shop just for cigars.

Having discovered a community of fellow cigar lovers, Tony started a private Facebook group Portsmouth Cigar Club, where members can share photos, experiences and reviews of different cigars.

Head Case Curios can be found online at headcasecurios.com or by calling 07825 322725.

Story by Sophie Murray

Head Case Curios in Albert Road, Southsea. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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