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Discount tobacco chain chooses downtown Erwin

Location. Location. Location. In the world of business, it can make or break you.
Allen and Carolyn Hampton considered Bristol, Kingsport and Greeneville before finally settling on Erwin for the latest location in their growing chain of discount tobacco stores.
Judging by Tri-City Wholesale Tobacco’s initial success in Erwin, the Hamptons apparently made the right decision.
“We feel like we have already met and gone above our goals in opening up the store here,” Allen said. “We’re two or three months ahead of where we needed to be in terms of success.”
Finding the right location in Erwin, though, proved difficult. Allen said he considered several properties before choosing the former Crystal Cleaners building at 224 N. Main Ave.
“We chose this location because we felt we could benefit from being more toward downtown,” he said. “We really felt it would be better for us, but it took us about four months to find the right place.
“We felt like the retail here would support more competition here and that a discount store was needed.”
The Hamptons also operate three other discount tobacco stores in the area – in Johnson City and Jonesborough.
The store offers a variety of traditional convenience store items – ice cream, chips, colas, beer and newspapers, for example – but, as its name implies, the main focus of the business is the sale of tobacco products at discounted prices. In fact, he said the sale of cigarettes accounts for 90 percent of his overall sales.
“We run the lowest price the state will allow,” Allen said, noting that the sale of cigarettes falls under fair trade laws and must be monitored on a daily basis.
While Allen has been working at the Erwin store since it opened in May, eventually Carolyn will take over the day-to-day management of the store.
But, for now, Allen said he’s enjoyed a return, of sorts, to Erwin.
Years ago, he was a supervisor for Pic-Qik and Publix stores, both of which had Erwin locations many years ago but have long since closed.
“I was here in Erwin for my job back then,” Allen said, “and I always enjoyed Erwin. It’s a good town, and it’s changed a lot. There’s a Walgreens up on the corner, and there seems to be more selection and businesses here. We’re happy to be one of them.”