Cigar Shop Review: Naperville, Illinois – Bull and Bear Tobacco Shop

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Cigar Shop Review: Naperville, Illinois – Bull and Bear Tobacco Shop

This review comes courtesy of Ray (debo0775) on the Stogie Review Fan Forums.
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Name of Shop: Bull and Bear Tobacco Shop
Date Visited: 12/20/08
Street Address: 22 E. Chicago Ave., Suite 107
City: Naperville
State: Illinois
Zip: 60540
Phone Number: 630-428-2888
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Website: http://www.bullandbear.us

Location: Above Average
Located in the heart of downtown Naperville, Illinois, Bull and Bear sits in a prime retail location. While the majority of the surrounding area is caught up in the chaos that is south-suburban Chicago, Bull and Bear is an oasis of sorts for Chicagoland smokers. Downtown Naperville is truly a ‘blast from the past’ as many of the buildings in the area and on the historic Riverwalk have been refurbished to preserve their early 20th century look and feel. The only thing keeping Bull and Bear’s rating from being ‘Excellent’ in this category is the fact that out of all of the historic buildings in the area, they chose to settle in a modern strip mall next to a Chipotle restaurant.

Staff: Average
The staff working at Bull and Bear is (to my knowledge) a father/son business. Having previously owned a cigar shop in southern Illinois, the owner uprooted his business and settled in Naperville. Also a fine woodworker, the owner designed and built the nine walk-in humidors at the shop. Every time I’ve come into the store, he was pleasant to talk to and shared stories of ‘the good ol’ days’ when he was my age. He holds a burning passion for cigars and cigar lore and has been an incredibly helpful resource along the way. It was from him that I first learnt about hookahs and its various flavours. The besthookahsguide.com is definitely a great platform to learn and choose hookahs suitably, but this good old man has a plethora of knowledge about hookahs that one cannot ignore. I cannot speak as highly for his son, however. He is in control of the business aspect of the store and is always an abrasive figure to speak with. I assume he feels that my buddy and I are meddling young men (at 19 and 20 respectively) who are looking to steal and take advantage of him. I can understand some of his concerns while we are inspecting cigars pre-purchase as any owner would be concered, but he goes overboard as he hovers around the walk-in we stand in and glares at us until we are so uncomfortable we just leave the store. It’s shocking that there is such a personality difference between those two, and because of the son, I cannot rank the staff any higher than average. If he were the least bit courteous towards us, the ranking would be above average and possibly exceptional.

Stock: Below Average
For this section, I’m going to separate into categories of brands, pricing, and condition. Starting with the brands, Bull and Bear is average to above average. They carry the expected cigars while also holding some boutiques for the aficionado to gawk at. A semi-complete listing of their brands can be found at their website. I don’t remember who blends their house blend, but the blend is a decent medium bodied smoke. With regards to pricing, Bull and Bear is average. Illinois has relatively high tobacco taxes, and Naperville’s sales tax is also relatively high. Other than that, the prices are as to be expected and are comparable with many shops. Moving on to the condition of cigars, I’ll be as polite as possible here. This category receives a poor rating, and I would rank it lower if possible. Seven of the nine walk-ins had serious mold issues upon my last visit. The humidification devices are common large home humidifiers placed directly underneath a large section of stock. The humidity in the rooms is probably above 75% (an educated guess as no hygrometer could be found), and in the seven walk-ins, mold covered at least 10% and as much as 50% of the stock. On my last visit, there were a good number of cigars I wanted to try but did not purchase as they were engulfed in mold. To me, this is completely unacceptable as an owner and am shocked that such a serious outbreak has been allowed to grow. In addition to cigars, Bull and Bear also sells humidors and accessories, pipes and pipe tobacco, and as of recently, hookah tobaccos. In all, I’m severely disappointed due to the condition of the cigars, and if that could be avoided, they have a solid stock all around.

Lounge: Above Average
The lounge at Bull and Bear has 9 leather loungers for customers to enjoy. There is a decent selection of cigar related magazines, and ventilation above the area keeps the surrounding atmosphere relatively smoke-free. My only complaint is that the arrangement of seats makes for a distant feel when lounging. Outside of that, the lounge area is incredibly comfortable and inviting for the casual smoker.

Overall Opinion: Above Average
A great location, knowledgeable yet occasionally off-putting staff, and comfortable lounge define Bull and Bear. Given that the mold issue can be resolved by turning down the humidifiers in the walk-ins, I’ve overlooked that aspect in the overall rating of the shop. For anyone who’s visiting the Chicagoland, Bull and Bear is a must-visit.



enjoying cigars since 2005

12 thoughts on “Cigar Shop Review: Naperville, Illinois – Bull and Bear Tobacco Shop

  1. Man, the kid who wrote that review is GOOD!…lol

    I haven’t been on the main site in a while (I’ve been lurking the forums and studying my ass off for finals this week), so seeing my review on the main page was a pleasant sight!

    Just as an aside, I really like these types of articles on the site, guys. Your review index is pretty damn impressive, so throwing the proverbial wrench into the mix in the form of shop reviews/guest reviews definitely helps to keep interest in the site, in my opinion.

    As always, keep up the good work!

  2. Nice review. The mold is a problem. If the Father of the team is that nice and friendly, I’d tell him about the mold in case he is blind, unable to smell.

  3. I love Bull and Bear! I used to go there all the time when I live in IL. I did frequent the Geneva store more than Naperville, but they were both nice places to go.

  4. Hmmmm.
    After reading the reviews by Ray and Walt, I was quite disappointed – I almost think they have a grudge against the establishment….as they didn’t describe the store that I am familiar with. I can only suspect that they don’t frequent the shop very often, or they would know Max and Hal are not “father and son”.

    On the subject of “mold” – what they saw is most likely “bloom” or “plume” – something that occurs if the humidity is a little high (and some cigars are more prone to it than others even if humidity levels are not abnormal). Mold is green/blue in color, not the whitish spots that come with “bloom”. Big difference!!! I’ve been to the Naperville cigar shop often enough to know they do not have real mold issues with their cigar inventory as has been suggested by Walt and Ray.

    Sorry, but I think these two guys are blasting a nice retail shop needlessly. If they happen to not like Hal, that’s one thing, but to blast his store on a review site is not right either.

    Any retailer is apt to watch customers milling around inside the humidors and fondling merchandise (theft is an issue in many shops) ….so if you don’t like that, go buy some dried-out cigars on the internet where you don’t have a lot of customer service options if things go wrong….and you don’t have to deal with people you don’t like.

  5. Z. Harmon,
    I have nothing against the shop, having a grudge against them would require me to have been to the store at least once. This review was provided by a guest in our cigar shop review section of the forum.

    This review is an opinion of the author, if you feel that it misrepresents the shop, I suggest that you create a review of your own. More information on doing so can be found on our forums.

    I will agree to disagree with you in regards to your statement that mold only comes in shades of green and blue.

    Thanks for the comment
    -Walt

  6. I live near the shop in question and I believe the review is spot on, and extreeeeamly accurate. And no it’s not b/plume…..

  7. Z. Harmon,

    I realize this is way after you posted, but I just got around to catching up on some of the videos on this site. I have nothing against the place and I rather like it. My apologies for not knowing they weren’t father and son – my buddy and I were mislead on one of our visits by another customer apparently. Regardless, the older gentleman is a treat to talk to and if treated politely, we’d have nothing with the both of them. We have not been yet, and I’m not wanting to give up on the place as it’s somewhat convenient and has a much larger stock than our normal stomping grounds.

    And no offense intended, but that is most definitely not plume. I may be a younger, more inexperienced cigar smoker, but I’m learning a ton along the way and can differentiate between plume and mold. Plume is much more crystalline in texture than what is seen at B&B, and given that you can trace the ‘substance’ back to the humidifier and it strengthens as you get closer, odds are pretty damn good that it’s mold. I’m not going to say that none of the cigars have plume as some very well could, but most do not from what I’ve seen.

    And again, I’m doing nothing to blast the shop and if Hal were polite to me ONCE, I’d gladly alter my review. I love their stock, I love the location, I love the lounge, and I can’t argue much with their pricing. It’s a really solid shop and the owners are knowledgable. I’ve been greeted ONCE by Hal in the shop, and numerous times I’ve sat in the lounge with my buddy and Hal completely avoided us. A buddy of his walks in, and he chats it up with him and sternly tells us to turn off the television (which is fine since it’s his shop, but he has no problem with it until he’s having conversation…mildly annoying).

    Yes, I understand why he observes us in the humidor, but to the extent he does, it’s off-putting. Other shops I’ve gone to an equal or greater time have stopped hounding me as they know I’m not there to steal their stock. I would’ve expected him to have done the same by now.

    And I do buy cigars online that are at a proper humidity level (vs. buying at B&B and often having to dry box to bring them down) and their customer service has been outstanding so far. I like the place and I enjoy going there, but customer service has always been an issue for me. Perhaps you’re in better standing with Hal. I have no idea. My opinion is mine (and a fair number of others’ as well…) to share, and you’re welcome to disagree. It’d be great to talk to Hal in a civilized manner as he probably knows a lot about cigars and I could learn a ton. Hopefully I get that chance in the near future.

    -Ray

    1. Ray,

      When was the last time you were in a store and the owner or workers would not SHUT UP! I’m there for peace of mind. If you want to talk with Hal…then talk to him. Otherwise he will leave you alone unless he knows you, or is adked to enter your conversation.

      If you want to go to a grown up store, then expect to be treated like and adult.

      Don’t take cheap shots on the web, stop in without the TUDE DUDE!

  8. A review is a review…its subjective from the point of the reviewer.

    I have been going to Bull and Bear for 3 years, so my review is subjective and biased.
    I truly enjoy the place. The owners are non father/son, Max worked at the old Bull and Bear
    that was located down by the Trader Joes. This Bull and Bear no longer is associated with
    the one in St Charles.

    Parking is sometimes a pain, but its downtown Naperville….there are parking structures you can
    go to.

    The lounge is pretty nice. Granted there are no plasma/lcd screens, and there doesn’t really need to
    one or two..or three. Most people go there to smoke…talk..gather…did I mention smoke? They have 8 leather chairs in a square that foster a bit of socialization. Lots of places eat down here, 5 Guys, Chipotle, Quiznos in the immediate strip mall. A lot of patrons stop to smoke after eating lunch or while waiting for their loved ones to finish shopping.

    The inventory is pretty extensive. They try to keep products that people like to smoke, that taste good and ultimately sell well. Downtown Naperville isn’t low rent district and yes I can get cigars cheaper, but I like to also make sure my local B&M stay in business. They have had issues with mold before, certain walk-ins especially, but I believe as of q4 2009, they have that under control. They do keep their humidors a bit over where i would keep my RH, but you have to understand that the doors get constantly open and left open and that leads to loss of RH. They have something for everyone and if something doesn’t sell, then it gets replaced. A lot of times, its replaced by boutique brands that get discovered all the time ie Kristoff. Their house brand was rolled by one of the majors. I can’t remember who.

    As for the staff, there is the owners (and their wives) and Max. Hal can be abrasive at first, but it doesn’t take anything more than a ‘How ya doin’?’ to spark a decent humane conversation with him. Hey…no one is perfect.

    I have not been to the newest Burning Leaf and from some people who are ‘members’ and from
    those who are not, it is what you make of the place. But this is not a comment for Burning Leaf.

    Just go wherever you like to go and relax and have a smoke.

  9. This place was just newly renovated and had a Grand-Re-Opening March of 2013. Some new investors came forward and insto facto renovated the place from what I hear. Also a new cigar selection, new lounge, and… new humidors. No more mold. Same Bull and Bear of the ‘ol days’ but it pretty much got a face lift. Worth checking out again!

  10. Great store! Have gone many times and have for the most part loved it. The only thing I have to say as a negative was the service. The man working seemed generally un-interested in helping me choose a cigar (being a newbie) and seemed aggravated with my questions. Since it was just him and I in the store at the time I found it odd that he was so un-willing to help me. But besides that the place is great! Lounge is amazing, the selection seemed pretty good to me (I lack the knowledge to notice a poor selection being a new cigar smoker) and the location is perfect! Overall great time. Highly recommended!

  11. Place is great . First of all it’s under new owners since 2/2013 sec the old guy was an employee and it was owned by two partners . It’s very clean looks great and very friendly.
    It’s the best cigar store in Chicago area by far

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