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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 5)

"I'm a health nut," says Glynna, who sports the toned, tanned and muscular arms of someone who rarely misses a day in the gym. Statues from her bodybuilding victories sit across from the cash register at Hudson Valley Cigars. "I can't stand to be around cigarettes for two minutes—I said, 'How can I take cigars?'"

Her misgivings were put to rest after a trip to a trade show and some pointers on cigar smoking she received from a few manufacturers. The Schlesingers opened Hudson Valley Cigars in 1996, at which time no cigar bar stood between it and the steak house—not even a building. "In the winter, people would have dinner, run to the cigar store, and Neil and I said, 'Let's marry the two with a cigar bar.'"

The couple decided to build a cigar bar connecting the two landmark buildings. The one that's home to the steak house was built in 1762. It has a huge stone hearth from the original construction with a small opening for baking bread, and exposed beams show the rough marks of an axe or adze, signs of Revolutionary-era construction techniques. The building housing the cigar store was erected in 1862. The Schlesingers had to take care so the construction didn't damage the old buildings. The stone walls of each are visible from inside the cigar bar.

The cigar bar proper is a combination of red meat, booze and cigars: a cigar lover's paradise. There's a large bar, which has removable wooden trays that fit on the rail to make it easier on diners, plus several tables, sofas and chairs and a pair of flat-screen televisions. The place draws quite the crowd, and it has made the shop hard to compete against.

"There were three cigar stores in the area when I started out," says Glynna. She says hers is the only survivor. "On Thursday nights, you can't move in here."

For the American cigar smoker, the cigar-shop lounge appears to be the future of indoor cigar smoking. As work spaces, restaurants, bars and in some extreme cases even city parks, beaches and sidewalks become off-limits to the cigar smoker, the local cigar shop is becoming more and more like the age-old smoking club.

"In the older days, they would have gone to restaurants or bars and had their cigars," says Seferian of Ambassador Fine Cigars. "Now that they can't have that, they're going to come here."

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