Recently, both online and offline, I’ve been involved in discussions about cigar lounges. The online discussion was basically “what would you like to see in a cigar lounge”, while the in person discussion compared local shops against each other.
Looking back on these discussions, I started to think about my personal set of specifications for an ideal cigar shop. What would a shop need to have to keep me coming back time and again?
I decided on two broad categories, each with a subset of features:
Good ventilation – Granted, if people are smoking inside a cigar shop, there is going to be a certain amount of smoke. But, I dislike walking into a store and all you see is a hazy cloud of soon to be stale smoke. If I sit in a lounge and my eyes start to burn within a few minutes, then it’s time for me to go.
Fortunately, most shops do a good job with ventilation / filtration and smoke only begins to be an issue at the larger, more popular events that attract a lot of people.
Good selection – I like to see a good mix of boutique cigars along with larger more established brands. That way, there should always be something new for me to try at any given time.
Personable / knowledgeable staff – A cigar shop is a relationship business. It’s always nice to be greeted with a smile and a hello when you walk into the store. It’s also good to have knowledgeable, experienced answers for people’s questions. Also, I appreciate staff that doesn’t hover when you are in a walk-in humidor.
Comfortable surroundings – Well made, comfortable furniture is always appreciated. A mix of lounge chairs and sofas work well along with plenty of table space and ash trays. Recliners might be cool but perhaps too many people would fall asleep in them. I like seeing the furniture arranged so that it encourages conversation among the patrons.
Coffee, water, soft drinks – Most times I’m in a shop, I also get a bottle of water. Although, coffee and soda are good to have on hand as options.
TV’s – news, sports, specials, movies … TV’s are good to have when the shop is quiet.
Outdoor seating – Perhaps, I consider outdoor seating as part of the basics because I live in Florida. Other than the really hot days in the middle of summer, sitting outdoors is a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Also, outdoor seating is a great option for those huge events that fill a shop with too much smoke.
Nice to haves
Premium channels, Sports packages – Lots of shops in the area have the NFL ticket, etc. I’m sure it’s a good draw for some people, I’m just not sure it’s 100 percent necessary.
Beer, wine, spirits where allowed – A full liquor bar inside a cigar shop is rare and a nice bonus. Beer and wine bars are more prevalent and offer good pairings to go with cigars.
WiFi – I put this as a nice to have only because so many people already have internet access of some form that WiFi is almost not necessary.
Lockers – for someone who does not humidors at home or just does not want to deal with storage of cigars, a locker at your local shop is a nice alternative.
Loyalty program – If people patronize a shop consistently, than some sort of discount or rewards program is a great way to retain customers.
Events – I enjoy meeting the people behind a cigar brand and store events are one of the best ways to do that. Some of the local shops put out some big spreads of food and beverages while others are smaller affairs. Either way, they are great ways to meet people and try new cigars.
So there you have it! What are your thoughts on cigar shops? I’d love to hear about them.