Make us your home page

Facing crossroads, Smokers Paradise owner in Clearwater followed a pipe dream

Thirty-four years ago, Alfio Nucifora was at a crossroads.

Out of work, married with one child and another on the way, Nucifora wondered, "What am I going to do?"

The native of Sicily grew up in the family tailoring business. He came to the United States in 1967 at age 24 to visit his two sisters and ended up staying.

He worked for the prestigious G. Fox & Co. Department Store in Hartford, Conn., and moved here in 1975 for the weather, he said.

But he couldn't find work.

Area department stores were hiring women tailors, he said, who were going to work at lower salaries.

What to do? The answer to his question came one afternoon.

"I was smoking a pipe," he said, "and I thought, 'When people are happy, they smoke. When they're nervous, they smoke.' I'm going to open a business for smokers."

He opened Smokers Paradise in 1976 at Sunshine Mall in Clearwater. Pipe smoking was in style then and the shop became popular with local smokers.

In addition to cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and accessories, the store featured top-of-the-line pipes: the hand-carved dark Briarwood and the white Meerschaum carved from the fossilized shells of sea creatures. A lifelong smoker, Nucifora blended the shop's pipe tobacco using his own formulas.

Twenty years later, when the mall was closing, Nucifora moved the business across the street to Clearwater Plaza.

As the pipe fad faded, cigars took over. Among his cigar stock are the Arturo Fuente OpusX cigars, one of the highest-rated brands.

Since July, when the cigarette tax went sky high, Nucifora said, smokers have been buying loose tobacco and making their own cigarettes.

A carton of the better brand cigarettes now costs $54.95, he said.

"If you buy half a pound of tobacco for $28, you can make two cartons of cigarettes," he said. "It's a good deal and it's a better tobacco — pure tobacco with no additives."

Maggie Pack of Clearwater recently came to the shop to learn how to make her own cigarettes.

She has been a smoker for 20 years, she said, and "I like all-natural cigarettes."

Nucifora showed her how to stuff the tobacco in a small, $9.95 hand-operated machine, place the cigarette form on the end and slide a handle that shoves the tobacco into the cigarette. Then she tried it herself.

Before leaving, Pack bought tobacco, cigarette forms, a cigarette maker and a fancy case that can hold a dozen cigarettes.

Although Nucifora, 66, said he has thought about retiring, he's not ready yet.

"I love my store," he said, smiling. "I meet so many wonderful people."


Smokers Paradise

Where: 1251 Missouri Ave., Clearwater.

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

For information: Call (727) 446-2231.

Facing crossroads, Smokers Paradise owner in Clearwater followed a pipe dream 02/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  2. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]
  3. Precinct Pizza to cover new neighborhood


    NEW TAMPA — In 2006, husband and wife, Rick and Jessica Drury opened up Precinct Pizza in Channelside.

    Precinct Pizza looks to gain greater popularity in New Tampa with its Bambino Bleu Cheese piazza. Photo courtesy of Precinct Pizza.
  4. Da Burger Joint's menu goes beyond 'da burger'


    OLDSMAR — After owning and operating restaurants in four different states, Danny Falcone recently opened his ninth restaurant in Oldsmar.

    The old-fashioned onion burger is a favorite at the Da Burger Joint in Oldsmar. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  5. Vegan kitchen comes to Downtown Tampa


    Charles Rumph and Tim Fedorko's first attempt at launching a vegan restaurant concept in Tampa "was a disaster."

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.