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Cigars, bidets, flasks: Interesting stuff consumers bought in the pandemic

Instead of hoarding toilet paper, maybe we bought things to feel better in the time of coronavirus.
Some consumers decided the pandemic was a good time for a long smoke. And perhaps a bidet.
Some consumers decided the pandemic was a good time for a long smoke. And perhaps a bidet. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 21

By now, we consumers have seen what the pandemic did to certain goods and services that once seemed (weirdly) important.

High heels and neck ties. (Not so much.) Make-up. (What for?) Crowded restaurants. (Rain check.)

But the health crisis that turned everything upside down also brought some shopping surprises — products that have done well, not in spite of the past ten months, but because of them.

Here’s a local favorite I didn’t see coming: Cigars. And big cigars, apparently.

“The guy that typically picks up two or three is now picking up six to 10,” said Trey Morris, who has worked for a decade at Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco in Tampa — a town nicknamed Cigar City for its rich history of hand-rolled smokes.

Some cigar brand representatives have told Alex Weghorn, general manager at Central Cigars in downtown St. Petersburg, that these have been “some of the busiest times they’ve had in a long time.”

Morris said he’s also noticed people buying bigger cigars — like a Churchill that might take two hours to properly enjoy.

“I think a lot of this really has to do with the extra time people have being stuck at home,” he said.

Weghorn sees a mental health aspect, particularly now.

“There’s a meditation. It’s cathartic,” he said. “It’s something people do to unwind.”

Speaking of unwinding: Flasks.

The New York Times recently reported an increase in sales of what the newspaper called “a Prohibition-era accessory” used to discreetly carry around a personal supply of hooch. This makes sense, what with consumers gone bar-shy, but notably also drinking more since COVID-19 hit, according to studies.

They’re also going outside a lot since, well, there’s pretty much nowhere else to go.

Outdoor drinking. (LARA CERRI   |   Times)
Outdoor drinking. (LARA CERRI | Times)

Other items reported to have seen a jump in the After Times: jigsaw puzzles, inflatable pools, bikes. In fact, anything outdoorsy.

And this especially indoorsy item: the bidet.

Though they’ve long been a thing in European bathrooms, in America, not so much. But bidets caught our attention early in the pandemic.

Since a bidet is a bathroom fixture that uses water to cleanse one’s nether regions, some say the early toilet paper panic caused by the coronavirus was probably the initial attraction.

The Great American Home Improvement Project that has us renovating, replacing furniture and generally fixing up where we live because that’s where we spend our time may also be a reason for that uptick in bidet interest.

Speaking of home improvement, maybe you’ve experienced long waits for appliances because of how the crisis disrupted supply chains. But darn it, we wanted our outdoor kitchens anyway.

Nancy Braamse, owner of Olde World Cabinetry, Plumbing & Hardware in Pinellas Park, said lots of people have been installing grills, sinks, ice makers and under-the-counter refrigerators for kitchens to be used in the great outdoors, also known as the back yard.

“They’re cocooning, basically, and what better place to cocoon that outdoors in Florida?” she said. “I think people are doing what they can to make their house resort-like.”

And these days, doing what we can is pretty much the theme.