A note from our Founder...
At age 46 I found myself out of a job with two kids in college, a big mortgage, and a worried wife and dogs. I had enough socked away to survive for a while but certainly not in the lifestyle to which we had been accustomed. A customer from my previous employer suggested we partner up and start a "chain of cigarette/tobacco stores up and down the valley.” Since I wasn’t presently employed and I was the guy with the cigarette/tobacco knowledge and connections it was pretty much "my baby" from the get-go.
The research and development period showed us that it would probably work, and we conceived a company that we could possibly grow up to 10 stores. After putting together a business plan with all the market analysis, projections and other "bs" that goes with every business plan, we were able to convince some "not so bright" bankers to loan us $100,000 to get started.
On July 7, 1997, we opened our first store in Parkersburg and the first day's total sales were just over $200. The next day's sales were a whopping $100, and I thought to myself (of course) "what have I gotten myself into?” But the next day, sales jumped to over $300 and the next $500. We were on our way. The second store opened six months later and the third in another five months. We were opening stores at the rate of four to five per year.
I recently thought about how we did it but the answer is that we just kept going and didn’t look back. It was a lot of travel and a lot of hours worked but it was also a lot of fun. Some of the people who helped us get the business started are still with us today and I hope enjoying the fruits of their labor a little more than in the early days. After 23 stores were opened, we bought some stores from competitors and continued to grow the business either through acquisition or start-ups.
We now have 43 stores operating and as opportunities present themselves, the business will continue to grow.
Norman’s kids both work at the company and are part owners (pictured below). Daughter Regan Bartley is Marketing Director; son Ryan Norman is Operations Manager. Under their leadership, Smoker Friendly has branched out into selling alcohol in over 30 of their existing locations, 13 of which are Smoker Friendly’s Liquor Plus stores. The company has also diversified by expanding into alternative categories such as CBD, Hemp, E Cigs and Vaping products.
A passion for customer service backed up by providing a clean, friendly and pleasant atmosphere in every store has been the foundation on which the company was built and the very name "Smoker Friendly" says it all!
Regan Bartley &