David Gomi and business partner Adam Chen saw a world of potential in Rocky Mount as a location for their new business, Tobacco Direct.
The business at 1240 Home Depot Plaza has machines that allow customers to roll 200 smokes in eight minutes from tobacco grown locally.
In the down economy with businesses closing locally, people are looking for reasonably priced smokes, Gomi said. And the machine price of $19.95 for 200 rolled smokes is less than half that of premanufactured cigarettes, he said.
Gomi, who owns a Subway restaurant on N.C. 97, and business Chen, who owns the Rainbow Garden Chinese Restaurant next door, saw the machines being used in Virginia and were sure that Rocky Mount was the place to open such a business.
“We found out about these machines through Adam’s relatives, and then we went to Virginia to look at them,” Gomi said. “There was a person in Virginia that has opened up five of these stores. We just looked at the machines, and saw customers using machines, and we were so enthralled.”
The rolled smokes do not have nearly as many chemicals and additives as regular premanufactured cigarettes, Gomi said.
There are couches and a television inside of Tobacco Direct for people to sit down and relax. Under the law, people can’t smoke the cigarettes inside, but can go outside and take and a drag. There’s an ashtray for them.
“We are trying to maintain that ambiance or environment for smokers, because tobacco has such a history in North Carolina,” Gomi said. “There are going to be people probably strongly opposed to or in support of smoking tobacco, but you cannot deny the strong history of smoking in North Carolina.”
Q: What products or services do you provide?
A: Freshly rolled smokes. There is a difference between cigarettes that are premanufactured and rolled smokes. The tobacco we sell is from Wilson and is locally grown. They are better than premanufactured cigarettes. I cannot say the (rolled cigarettes) are chemical-free, because there may have been some fertilizer or some kind of chemical used (when the tobacco was grown). But the rolled cigarettes don’t have ammonia and other chemicals (in premanufactured cigarettes.) If you saw a list of all the chemicals that go into those cigarettes, it would astonish you. Ninety-nine percent of (the chemicals) is not in (the rolled smokes). We’ve had customers come in here and said that after smoking the rolled cigarettes, the burning (sensation) is not there. It’s clean. We offer freshly rolled smokes without all the chemicals and at an affordable price.
Q: Who are your key leaders?
A: Owners David Gomi and Adam Chen.
Q: How many people do you employ?
A: Just us for now.
Q: What is your business philosophy?
A: To make sure we offer the best smokes at an affordable price in a nice, clean environment, and in an ambiance that caters to smokers.
Q: When were you established?
A: Last week.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: This machine rolls 200 smokes in eight minutes. There is no other machine that does that. And the quality of the tobacco. There are very little chemicals inside (the rolled smokes). The price (of the smokes makes the business unique), and the fact that the tobacco is locally grown.
Q: What changes do you expect for your company in coming years?
A: We’re going to follow our business philosophy of offering the best products at the best prices available, with the service, and hopefully, reach more people, not just in the Rocky Mount area, but throughout the area, including Wilson and Zebulon. This is our first one.”
Q: Q: Why did you choose Rocky Mount as a place to do business?
A: Both Adam and I own businesses here.