Albert DeSisto is not one to pick a fight.
He is a stoop-dweller, as new to Yale as freshmen, and for the past week he has sat on Wall Street, smoking Camels and watching his customers return from summer vacation.
He is also a gap-toothed welcome mat, one by one turning students away from his store, Paesano’s, right next to Naples Pizza and Restaurant.
“Ten, 20 people a day come here looking for cigarettes,” he said, “but you have to say ‘no.’ I bought this place knowing I couldn’t sell tobacco products. It’s in the lease, there’s nothing I can do.”
Rather than reluctant Nos, Yalies nic-fitting across campus met with more abject rebuff when they got back to school this week: frosted windows, padlocked doors and a vacant awning that once read “Krauszer’s.”
This summer, University Properties declined to renew the lease for Krauszer’s, the most central cigarette vendor for students. Without the York Street store, students are having to look farther outside the campus to find smokes.
Caught between a habit and a landlord, Yale’s smokers are walking longer distances but are not quite out of breath, particularly when it comes to eulogizing about Krauszer’s.
“I feel like an old man now,” said Arnoldo Fabela ’02 outside an empty Krauszer’s yesterday, “because now I tell people, ‘I remember when I used to come buy cigarettes at Krauszer’s.’ It used to be I just felt old because I remember Store 24.”
It seems a sentimental, carbon-monoxide breeze has drifted through campus, carrying a number of smoker’s cigarette ashes to the York Street pavement.
“I liked Krauszer’s for other reasons too,” Stergious Athanassoglou ’02 said. “It was so central, and the guys who worked there were so nice. It’s a sad sight to see them leave.”
Athanassoglou, who came into town this week from Greece, found a temporary solution — duty free. He bought two cartons of cigarettes, what he said is the legal limit, before coming back to school in anticipation of Krauszer’s closing.
He said he smokes two packs a day now, but plans on cutting back because of the inconvenience.
Freshmen, some of whom were closeted smokers driving to town with their parents, didn’t necessarily have the luxury of hoarding cartons. A few made lonely pilgrimages from Old Campus to the News Stand on Chapel Street or the gas stations past Broadway.
One student from Los Angeles said he has bought four packs since getting to school on the 25th and doesn’t mind the walk. Another, from the Midwest, said she preferred to bum them rather than make the trek.
Those two students requested anonymity, but there are also those whose outrage supercedes any desire for secrecy.
“I have to walk a three more blocks to get cigarettes,” said Bernie Staggers, photographer for Yale Media Services, smoking opposite Skull and Bones on his lunch break. “But I need to learn to exercise control. They say it’s a health hazard and it’s my choice, my vice.”
Others were less introspective.
Andrew Levine ’04 said he blames the Yale Corporation.
“What right does Yale have to say we can’t buy something that’s legal,” he said.
And then there are those like DeSisto himself who are pragmatic about youth and commerce.
“If kids want to smoke, they’re going to smoke,” DeSisto said. “They will find a place, and they will buy cigarettes anyway.”