Steve Zengel founded Beach House Cigars a purveyor of fine cigars in Wall, New Jersey. Steve took some time to tell us a little about his experience of brick and mortar business building.

1. How did you get started in retail?

I always enjoyed relating with people, ever since selling candy door-to-door back in the 70s for my youth sports program fundraising.

I recently took work at a well-respected cigar shop in Virginia because I enjoyed smoking cigars and interacting with people. When I moved back home to New Jersey, I decided to follow the dream and open a small cigar shop. It seemed to offer the perfect marriage of my passions and my skill sets.

2. What was the best/hardest part about starting up?

Not having enough capital to hire skilled laborers was the biggest difficulty. It meant I had to put a lot of sweat equity into this business to get it up and running.

There were times when I found myself on my hands and knees until well past four in the morning trying to get grout off all the tiles.  I had a goal in mind to be open in time for the holiday parade so it just had to get done. It would have been nice to pay someone to do that for me, thus saving me time and letting me focus on the business side of things more.

3. If you could share one bit of wisdom with a new retailer just starting out, what would it be?

Be very careful in who you hire to build your business with you!

I moved too fast. Now, referring to the old adage, I measure at least two or three times before I cut. It saves time in the long run.

4. What’s the best bit of technology, (other than ShopKeep!) that helps you run your business?

I know you joke, but ShopKeep has been the best tool. I opened my business in Seaside Heights, NJ, in March, 2012, the day of the famed St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I did okay, But, I used a simple $100 dollar register I purchased at Staples and all my record keeping was done on a separate PC or in a notebook. Keeping inventory of every individual cigar on-hand was difficult, at best. Then, Hurricane Sandy wiped me out only 7 short months later. I was 500 feet off the beach from where the roller coaster fell into the ocean, the photo of which was used in every major telecast. When I relocated 12 miles north this spring, I knew I would need to operate differently than I had done in Seaside. I found ShopKeep and I couldn’t be more pleased.

5. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in business and what did you learn from it?

I moved too fast. Now, referring to the old adage, I measure at least two or three times before I cut. It saves time in the long run.

If you’d like to be featured as a ShopKeep POS Merchant of the Month, simply email us at and tell us a little about you and your store!


Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate who uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.