Anthony Renzulli creates an escape for South Philadelphia.
Inside the Twin Shoppe smoke shop at 10th and Tasker streets, shelves that were once stocked with chocolates and greeting cards are now filled with boxes of cigars and pipe tobacco.
In 1950, when the Twin brothers owned the shop, the space served as a variety store, selling greeting cards, candy, cigars and ice cream. Fifty years later, store owner Anthony Renzulli bought the establishment and transformed it into the smoke shop it is today.
“We’re family-oriented, down-to-earth, everyday people. [Customers] are out of that hustle bustle when they come here. It’s just relaxing and enjoyable,” Renzulli said. “That’s what puts us aside from the rest of the companies.”
Before Renzulli delved into the cigar-shop business, he worked on Ninth Street in the Italian Market, where he owned a water-ice store, a produce store and a luncheonette. Renzulli said there’s nothing he loves more than to work with people.
“I always worked outside, I always worked with people and I just love being in service to the people,” he said. “People is my business.”
Clouded with cigar smoke, the store’s rear smoke room is filled with the humorous chit-chat of high-spirited men candidly shooting the breeze and harmlessly cracking jokes at each other’s expense. The homey smoke lounge offers patrons a place to simply unwind.
Complete with a comfortable leather couch, a jukebox, a poker table, movie memorabilia, a poster of a naked woman, a plasma-screen television and a funnel-cake machine, the hideaway allows neighborhood customers an escape from their everyday lives.
“We have a lot of regulars, and we became one family,” Renzulli said. “We got all walks of life – we got judges, to everyday street people. Nobody talks about their personal lives. We just talk about politics and games and cigars. That’s it.”
Despite common belief that cigars and cigarettes are very similar, Renzulli said enjoying a cigar is about more than just the physical aspect of smoking it. To Renzulli, cigars provide both relaxation and a social experience, he said.
“They’re not habit-forming,” he added. “They’re not addictive. It’s just [for] total relaxation and enjoyment.”
Although the Twin Shoppe already serves as a second home to many residents who live nearby the store’s South Philadelphia location, Renzulli said his “family” can always use more members.
Bob Kaplan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.