Over the years, I’ve always found the holidays to be a strange time for Cigar Blogs. I would come across blog posts outlining After-Turkey Cigars at Thanksgiving, Gift Ideas for the Cigar Lover at Christmas, and the ever popular Green Cigars for St Patty’s Day.
So, when I sat down to write this article on Thanksgiving – I wondered what I could say that would be heartfelt and genuine. The last thing I wanted to imagine was some guy sitting down with a cigar, after his Thanksgiving Feast, grabbing his phone, and rolling his eyes as he thought to himself “Oh look, Walt is thankful for Cigars on Thanksgiving – how original…”
So before I get to the corny punchline – please gather round for a little story as I try and win the hearts and minds of our dear readers.
Have you been to Sir Stogies?
Sometime back around 2010, Stogie Review was booming. Things were going great here on the blog and it was an exciting time for me. I was meeting Cigar Reps, Cigar Manufacturers, and doing my best to try and visit as many local shops as I could.
At this point in time, I was spending a lot of time smoking cigars with my father. Cigars, Beer, and a game of Pool made for a fantastic evening. On one of those evenings, my Dad asked me if I had heard about this new shop over in Gilbertsville called Sir Stogies.
The shop was about a half hour away and it had a lot of buzz for a small local shop. The owner was supposed to be a really nice guy, passionate about cigars, and just so happened to be hosting an event in the coming weeks. That was all I needed to hear – we made plans to check it out.
My Dad and I stopped in and wound up spending a few hours in the store. There was a Kristoff event going on and the rep seemed a bit surprised that I knew Glen Case and his the relatively small (at the time) brand. We had a great time and I knew that this was a shop that I would have to visit more often.
The Fall of Kensington Tobacconist
Not terribly long after my first visit to Sir Stogies – Kensginton Tobacconist was falling on hard times. Kensington was my home away from home – I spent hours in the store talking with the owner, Kurt, over cigars.
Kurt was the type of guy that was a little tough to get along with. He spoke his mind, had what many would consider to be a very limited filter, but was a guy that I was happy to call a friend. When the store closed its doors for the last time, I was sad. I was heartbroken when I drove past a few months later and saw that it had become a Subway Sandwich Shop.
With Kensington Tobacconist closed, I felt a bit lost. Many of the regulars were driving across town to Suburban Tavern. While it was a good shop – I couldn’t bring myself to hang out and buy cigars from “The Competition”.
I found myself making more and more trips out to Gilbertsville to visit Tim at Sir Stogies. We developed the same sort of friendship that I had with Kurt and I found myself spending hours at a time in the lounge – talking over cigars.
Moving to Gilbertsville
A few years ago, my wife and I found ourselves in a predicament. Our home was purchased during the housing bubble, was worth far less than we had paid for it, and had become quite the money pit. We caught a break and had the opportunity to get out of the house that was causing a severe strain in our marriage.
We jumped at the opportunity and moved to Gilbertsville, a small town with a fantastic Cigar Shop close by.
I began spending my spare time at the cigar shop and absolutely loved it. Tim and I became better friends, I got to know most of the regulars, and the shop really felt like home. I was proud to call Sir Stogies my Home Shop.
Over the years, I got to know people from all walks of life. We (the regulars) were taking it upon ourselves to put on Pool Tournaments, Card Games, and Pig Roasts to help bring in more business. We didn’t do it for favors or to get in Tim’s good graces – we did it because we loved the shop and genuinely wanted to see it flourish.
The Decline of Sir Stogies
About a year and a half ago, the dynamic of Sir Stogies began to change. The stock wasn’t being replenished as quickly as it had in the past and the variety of product began to decline. Events became a thing of the past and visits from Reps were far less frequent.
Visitors to the shop began to take notice of the empty boxes and the buzz around the shop slowly faded. Tim and his wife Sandy had mentioned wanting to retire – maybe it was closer to a reality than we had all thought?
On Tim’s day off, I stopped by the shop to have a cigar and coffee with one of the regulars (who happened to work on the weekends). He casually mentioned that the shop had been put up for sale. I was shocked and a bit insulted – with my many marathon sessions in the shop, why was I getting this information second hand?
Over time, word had spread about the sale and it seemed to suck the mood right out of the shop. The Family Atmosphere quickly dissipated and Sir Stogies was going from the place where we went to hang out with friends over a cigar and was becoming just a place to buy cigars.
When one of the regulars passed away and no one told me about the services – my view of the shop changed entirely. I stopped my frequent visits and preferred to spend my downtime at home, out on the deck, with a cigar.
With the atmosphere completely changed and my visits few and far between, I got word that the Sir Stogies was close to being sold. The potential new owner was a Manufacturer in the cigar business and had plans for keeping the shop alive and well.
They planned on keeping the shop, using the 2nd Floor of the huge building as warehouse space and would live in the apartment on the 3rd Floor. It seemed like a great scenario for everyone that knew and loved the shop. Unfortunately, financing fell through and the shop remained up for sale.
During my infrequent trips to the shop, I learned of potential new buyers. None of them excited me – especially those that owned and operated shops elsewhere. The shop was still open, yet I couldn’t help but feel the same way I did when I learned that Kensington was closing up shop for good.
Then, just a couple short weeks ago, I found myself in Sir Stogies. I was leaning against the counter in the lounge, flicking through my Facebook Feed, when Tim came over. He leaned against the counter, turned to me, and told me that he had sold the shop.
I was happy for them – Tim and Sandy had been working hard all of their lives and deserved this. I congratulated him, shook his hand, and just before I could ask the question I had been dreading, he told me what was to come.
“I really wanted you guys to have a shop to call home and I found someone that wanted to keep it going. I sold the building to Chris from Miami Cigar”.
The Birth of Gilbertsville Cigar Factory
When Tim told me that Chris Lenzo had purchased the shop, a wave of relief washed over me. I had known Chris for many years – in fact, he is the only Miami Cigar Rep (for this region) that I have ever known. I met him more than a decade ago at Kensington Tobacconist and have talked with him on countless occasions over the years.
Chris is a soft-spoken guy that is well versed in cigars and has experience both as a sales rep and working in a shop. Plainly said – Chris offered the very best of what we could have asked for as consumers.
The day before the shop changed hands, I visited to shake Tim’s hand and say goodbye. The shop was buzzing with people and there was a strange vibe in the air. Speaking for myself, I was sad to see Tim and Sandy go but, at the same time, I was excited to see what was to come.
Less than 24 hours later, I walked into Gilbertsville Cigar Factory through the Member’s Entrance. It was strange.
In the Member’s Lounge, the floor lamps and kitchenette lights were off. Tim never forgot to turn on those lights…
In the Public Lounge, the floor lamp hadn’t been lit and the air purifier was off. Another thing Tim never forgot to do…
I came around the corner and there stood Chris, behind a mountain of new cigars, talking with two of the regulars. The shop itself was very much the same but all of the empty boxes in the walk-in humidor had been removed. The stock was rearranged and, despite all the extra space, it somehow looked fuller than it had in years.
Over the next few days, I visited as frequently as I could. Each time I stopped in, new cigars were finding their way into the humidor. In an incredibly short time, excitement had come roaring back to life in the old shop.
This Thanksgiving – I’m Thankful for Cigars
I feel terrible for what I’m about to say and I care a great deal about Tim and Sandy. With that said –
Chris and Amber buying the shop is the best thing that has happened to this place in quite some time.
I’m thankful that I have a local Brick & Mortar Shop that I’m proud to call home. I’m thankful that the vibe in the shop is back to being about friendship over cigars. More than anything, I’m thankful that in this time of demonizing tobacco – another cigar shop will keep its doors open.