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Cigar Lounges: A Smoker's Last Refuge

Cigar shops are among the few places that a cigar smoker can call home
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Richard Branson, Sept/Oct 2007

(continued from page 2)

Corona centers around a vibrant bar and lounge area. A couple dozen wines and beers are available, as well as a variety of coffees. The bar proper has a dozen stools and several tables, and nearby is an "L" of wooden chairs arranged around a big-screen TV.

Midday on a Tuesday there's about 20 people in the lounge, some drinking beer, others eating Cuban sandwiches, most watching ESPN on one of the three big TVs. Everyone is smoking. "Burn your fingers," one man jokes to another, who has removed the cigar band from his robusto and is in danger of setting fire to his silver mustache.

The shop proper has five long aisles of cigars and seems to stock just about everything made in the premium cigar world today, big names and small names alike, from bargain brands to some pricey rarities.

"Cut that for you?" asks a man behind the counter, ringing up cigars. "Straight cut? Wedge cut?"

The Corona staff is hospitable and inviting. The clients are a mix of locals and tourists: one man is here with his wife, visiting from North Carolina. They used to come to Orlando to take the kids to the amusement parks. Now they come to Corona for the smoker-friendly atmosphere and for its proximity to a nearby bar, which makes killer Martinis. It's the golden years, and time to take care of themselves.

Owner Jeff Borysiewicz started Corona as a mail-order catalog, then realized he couldn't compete against big discounters. "I said, 'I want to build the best cigar store, and differentiate myself from anyone else,'" says Borysiewicz. "The typical cigar store had a country club feel, or the look of a pipe-smoking den. It wasn't really my style." He opted to make his smoking lounge look like a room from Nicaragua, Cuba or the Dominican Republic, with lively Latin music playing in the background.

A second Corona location in Orlando has an Avo cigar lounge, opened in partnership with Avo brand owner Davidoff of Geneva. "It's Avo themed and Avo branded," says Avo brand manager Matthew Kern of the lounge. "In addition to your typical cigar lounge, it has an element of music. We're trying to combine Avo's passion of music and cigars." Avo Uvezian, creator of Avo cigars, recently moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando. His home is just two minutes from the shop, meaning he is a frequent visitor.

A new Avo Lounge opened this summer at the Burns Tobacconist located in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Burns is the brainchild of Philip Windham, a mustachioed, cigar-chomping pool lover who runs the gorgeous and spacious Chattanooga Billiard Clubs, where one can smoke virtually everywhere. Windham calls his two clubs "dream rooms," 20,000-square-foot entertainment centers with pool and billiard tables, dart boards, bar service and banquet rooms—virtually everything for the cigar smoker.

The Burns Tobacconist shops—a second one is located in the eastern suburb of Brainerd—cater to those who wish to linger and set fire to a purchase. "We have barber's chairs right in the shop where people can smoke, we have a beer garden outside, and you can smoke anywhere in the billiard parlor," Windham says about the East location. The Avo Lounge is a separate room from the cigar shop in his downtown shop, which is part of a three-story building. The top floor will be a cigar club mirroring the one in his East location.

In California, a pioneer of smoking bans, cigar shops are among the only places in which to smoke. "This is a little oasis," says Brian Telford, who co-owns Telford's Pipe and Cigar Inc. in Mill Valley, with his wife, Susan. "Where can you go indoors in California that isn't your home or your car and enjoy tobacco?"

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