COARSEGOLD — The Cigarette Shack has closed its doors as of Sept. 30, after nearly 18 years in business. The little red and white building with the friendly twin gals inside has had its last day selling smokes and accessories.
People stopped by to visit, make some last-day purchases or share hugs and memories as Julie and Jean continued the process of saying, not good-bye, just see-you-around.
Owners Julie Hoetker and her twin Jean Field have decided to cease operations in order to “semi-retire” and spend time with family. That’s what it’s all about for the sisters, who are as well known for keeping the business running as they are for running a friendly business where there are hardly any customers, just a whole lot of friends.
“The best thing has been our customers,” Julie says with a smile. “Getting to know them personally and having them become involved in our lives has been really special, and that’s one thing we’re going to miss a lot.”
Something they won’t miss? Government rules, regulations and taxes pertaining to cigarette sales.
“What the government in California is doing with tobacco is wrong,” asserts Julie. “They are creating a black market by taxing a product that can no longer be taxed because the public can’t afford it. A pack of cigarettes costs between 5-6 dollars a pack. And there’s going to be another tax increase coming before the end of the year.”
The price of cigarettes in California has risen considerably since the business opened in 1996. Julie expects the current price of a pack to rise another one or two dollars. Those rising fees translate to higher insurance costs, she says, as The Cigarette Shack was considered a “high risk” business due to the potential for burglary or robbery.
Combine the increase in cigarette price due to California state taxes with the easy local availability of tax-free cigarettes from nearby Chukchansi, Inc.-owned Willow Glen Smoke Shop and the result is that The Cigarette Shack was one difficult business to sustain.
“It’s time. We’ve been in this industry for a long time and it’s time for a change,” says Julie, a Coarsegold resident for about 22 years. “Too many rules, regulations, taxes… it’s a hard business.”
One thing the twins never had trouble with in business was each other. The best thing for Jean, she says, has been working with Julie.
“That’s the whole reason I came up here,” Jean offers, “was to be with her.”
Despite being pressed for juicy details of sibling rivalry, neither twin could recall a time when they fought or argued over work-related matters. Perhaps that’s because there’s a clear division of responsibility, what with Julie being older than Jean. “She’s seven minutes older: she’s always right,” stresses Jean.
“It’s true, I am seven minutes older, what I say goes,” confirms Julie. What the two really want is for people to know is how much the community has meant to them over time.
“I want to make sure they know how much Jeannie and I have appreciated their business all these years and that we are going to greatly miss them,” says Julie. “We will be here for the next week, just shutting down the building and wrapping things up. So folks can still come in and say goodbye.”