Three days later, in an 11½-hour surgery, a UVA Health surgeon removed a 5x5x3-centimeter tumor from Mincer’s brain. The surgeon, who had been hoping to take out at least 75% of the mass, removed 95% of it – so the surgery was considered a success.
Still, the prognosis isn’t good. Doctors told Mincer that 50% of patients with his condition can live 14 months, while the other 50% don’t make it that long.
Remarkably, the Mincer family has managed to maintain a positive attitude.
“We’re lucky that we live here in Charlottesville and we have such excellent health care at UVA,” Tara Mincer said. “One of the things we don’t worry about is whether we’re getting good enough care. That’s been huge. Our team is excellent, his doctors are excellent. From the moment we arrived at UVA, we’ve been really happy with how well his health care has gone.
“And we have an amazing support group, which has been huge. We’re lucky that we don’t have a lot of the worries that a lot of cancer patients do have.”
Following the surgery, Mincer underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Since then, he’s been able to exercise, going on daily walks with friends, family, business associates and lacrosse players he used to coach in middle school, at Monticello High School and at the YMCA. He logged 113 miles last month, and has helped resume operating the Mincer’s locations on the Corner and at The Shops at Stonefield remotely.
“Initially, it was awful news, devastating,” said Cal, Mincer’s eldest child, “but basically every turn since then has been good. For a bad thing, he’s been doing great.”
Amid a din of cicadas, Mark Mincer sat on the back deck of his home in Keswick recently and discussed the past, present and future of Mincer’s.
“Somebody told me that 95% of family businesses don’t make it to the third generation, and now we’re well on our way to our fourth generation,” Mincer said. “I’m proud that we have been able to keep that going.”
Mincer’s grandfather, Robert W. Mincer, started the business just after World War II ended. A large supply of military-issued smoking pipes had made its way back to the United States. That lessened the demand for them and led to him being laid off from his job as a foreman at a pipe factory in Long Island, New York.
At the suggestion of colleagues who believed students in a college town would be able to afford pipes, Mincer decided to open his own smoke shop. He considered doing so in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Lexington, Virginia, before deciding Charlottesville would be the perfect spot for Mincer’s Humidor.
Robert Mincer and his wife, Clara, came to Charlottesville in the summer of 1948, leasing a roughly 100-square-foot, ground-floor space, while living in an upstairs expanse – and renting spare bedrooms to students – that would later become Michael’s Bistro.
In the summer of 1954, they moved the shop to its current location on The Corner, at the corner of University and Elliewood avenues.
The transition to selling non-smoking-related products happened gradually over time and was based on customer demand, according to Mincer.