Over the past year, online cigar sales have been booming. As a result, some local cigar shops are experiencing a downturn in sales. In addition to tough times at the cash register, the popularity of discount online retailers have kept many would-be customers from ever visiting a local shop in the first place.
Due to lack of experience, many people find themselves intimidated by the thought of heading out to their local cigar shop. The objective of this article is give you a basic rundown of what you can expect to find at your local shop. It will also cover a few practices which may or may not be taboo in your local establishment.
Before getting into what you should and shouldn’t do inside a cigar shop, lets first talk about what you can expect to find at a cigar shop. After all, you have probably stumbled onto this article because you haven’t been to one before and you are looking for a little information on what you can expect.
What will I find at my local cigar shop
As you may have already guessed, a cigar shop is a store which sells cigars. Many of these stores may be branded as a Tobacconist and may also carry specialty tobacco products such as imported cigarettes and pipe tobacco. In addition to having the product itself, these shops will typically have accessories to go along with any purchase you may make.
Depending on your city or state laws, there may be a smoking ban in affect. Some bans are so restrictive that you may not be able to smoke in the establishment. Fortunately, this is not the case in every state across the country. As a result, chances are good that you will find some type of lounge within the shop. Lounges vary from simple seating areas within the retail space to members only spaces with leather furniture and big screen televisions.
Depending on the caliber of the shop, it may also have a variety of amenities available to you as a customer. These amenities may include things like free usage of the store wifi connection, access to sports packages on television, free soft drinks and or free coffee.
Your first visit
Before you burst out the door with your travel coffee mug and laptop, you should either call the cigar shop to see what is available to customers, or plan on making a quick trip just to scope out the shop. In the case that you want to check out the shop before calling it your home away from home, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to look around in the humidor. I find that I spend an excessive amount of time just browsing when I visit a new shop. You don’t want to feel rushed during your first visit, after all, cigars are supposed to be relaxing.
During your first visit, you should not feel pressured to buy anything. In the event that the cigars appear to be in poor condition, or the proprietor doesn’t seem knowledgeable about the product, it is okay to leave without making a purchase. In the event that the stock looks to be in good shape and the staff is polite, I would suggest picking up a single even if you are just stopping in to look around.
In the event that you have some free time, look around for a seat or make conversation with the staff and light up your cigar (just be sure there isn’t a smoking ban in effect before you do this). If you are invited to use the lounge, take advantage of it. Often times you will find at least one other person in attendance to converse with. Most times you will be greeted with a hello and drawn right into the conversation like you were one of the guys. There are, however, times when you will be reminded of high school and everyone will clam up due to the presence of a stranger. Fortunately, in the my experience, the latter is unlikely among a crowd of cigar smokers.
Once you are in the lounge and sharing in the conversation, the hard part is over. As people become more comfortable in a local shop, they can sometimes take for granted some of the things that they are given. Just because the shop gives you a place to smoke, it doesn’t mean its always okay to bring in cigars from home to enjoy while in the lounge.
Some shops don’t allow you to bring your own, it is important that you respect this rule and follow it. While it may seem strange, if you are smoking something that is not normally carried and it catches the eye of another customer, you are effectively advertising that this person shop elsewhere to find this cigar you seem to be enjoying so much. Some shops do not mind you bringing your own cigars, as long as you make a purchase before using the lounge and any amenities that go along with it.
I think that by now you should have a pretty good grasp on what you will find going on at a cigar shop and what to keep in mind when visiting for the first time. In the effort of making this article a little more diverse, I have included a few general questions that you may be asking yourself, as well as my thoughts on the subject. The questions were supplied by our friends on Twitter.
From Mike (KnightRid): Is there a cover charge?
In some circumstances you will stumble onto a cigar shop that charges a cutting fee to use their lounge. Often times this fee is in place for the individuals that bring their own cigars and do not make a purchase from the shop itself. You may also see a cover charge in a shop that has a members only lounge. In that case, your cover charge is actually a day pass to access the lounge and its amenities.
From Bob McDuffy (CigarRadio): Will the staff offer advice on what cigar to choose?
Absolutely, I wouldn’t suggest going to a shop which employed those that could not help you make a decision. Because taste is such a subjective thing, the staff may ask you a few questions to help narrow down the selection. These questions will often include past smoking experience as well as what types of food you prefer.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that is or is not suggested to you. Be on the lookout for the occasional cigar shop that is looking for nothing more than to make the most profit as possible. Be aware that it is extremely unlikely that you are going to find “Legal Cubans” in your neighborhood cigar shop.
From Carol Wingert (carolwingert): Should I buy a variety of cigars my first time out or just one?
Once again, taste is a very subjective thing. By purchasing a few cigars, you will increase your odds on finding something that you like. Even if your local cigar shop employee is thorough in his helping you select a stick, it is still a gamble. By purchasing three to five cigars, it allows you to pepper a certain flavor and body range, increasing the odds that you will find something that you will come back to.
From Mike (KnightRid): Are the darker ones stronger than the lighter ones?
This question is a massive cigar misconception. Many new cigar smokers, I used to do this myself, shy away from Maduro cigars because they look intimidating. While the wrapper does play a large part in the flavor profile delivered by the cigar, the filler and binder play a part as well. By placing a dark and oily Maduro wrapper on a very mild blend, you get a mild cigar with the flavors of Maduro.
The opposite is true as well. If you place a blonde Connecticut Shade on a blend that is made out of entirely Ligero, you’ve got yourself a Connecticut Shade wrapped power bomb. For this reason, you can not judge a cigar by its wrapper, without knowing what the remainder of the cigar is comprised of. Your local tobacconist will help guide you in this area so that you don’t find yourself puffing on something that will ultimately make you feel ill.
This article was intended to give you a basic understanding of what you may find at your local cigar shop. You will find that shops vary greatly from one to another, making them unique and fun to visit. In these tough times for local tobacconists, I hope that this inspires you to drop in and visit a cigar shop sometime.