Malls are generally considered to be bastions of national brands and chain stores, but tucked in the lower level of Augusta Mall is TobaccoLand, a local business that has been there since 1978.
TobaccoLand owner Josephine Tilley said she has seen a lot changes at the mall since it opened in August 1978.
She and her ex-husband started their store on Broad Street in 1970 when he couldn’t find his favorite cigars in the city, and they maintained the downtown location until seven years ago.
“When the mall was coming to Augusta, they came and introduced themselves and we decided it was a good idea” to open there, she said.
The mall concept was sweeping the U.S. in the 1970s, and Tilley said the entire community was excited.
“It was very beautiful, very rich,” she said. “It was very new to Augusta, and new to everywhere.”
Tilley and her ex-husband were also approached by Regency Mall. The choice to go with Augusta Mall paid off when Regency Mall was forced to close.
“They were just the ones we felt good about,” Tilley said. “It was a lucky decision.”
TobaccoLand sells a variety of cigars, tobacco and pipes along with standard cigarette brands.
There are three special blends of tobacco that Tilley makes herself. Though not a smoker, she reads magazines, books and journals to stay abreast of new brands and trends.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry was not easy at first, but she said her regular customers have grown to trust her knowledge and new customers
are often impressed by her ability to answer their questions.
“People used to think I didn’t know what I was talking about, but I just
read a lot and learned by asking my own questions,” she said.
In her mid-seventies, Tilley plans to retire soon and close TobaccoLand.
Daniel Clairmonte has come by the store almost every day for five years to buy pipe tobacco or cigarettes. He said he shops exclusively at TobaccoLand because of Tilley’s knowledge,
customer service and selection.
“Every time I come in, it’s the best selection and the best customer service,” he said. “I will be very sad when she’s gone.”
TobaccoLand has been a good investment, Tilley said, but she is looking forward to having free time
to spend with her family and friends.
“I’m not getting any younger,” she said with a laugh.
The only thing she’s concerned about is running out of ways to keep busy.
“I’ve always been so independent, never in debt, never bounced a check, never
late on rent,” she said. “I guess that’s why I’m still here.”