Cigar Aficionado

Dropping In On An Old Friend

Yesterday afternoon I drove to Garden City, Long Island, to catch up with an old friend of mine, George Brightman. George worked at Cigar Aficionado for 10 years, right from the very beginning of the magazine. His official title was director of business development, but his unofficial moniker was cigar guru. He knew just about everything about cigars and taught me a great deal about the business.

Before George worked at Cigar Aficionado, he sold cigars, and he’s returned to the retail business. I was in Garden City to see the new shop he’s running: J Barbera Tobacconist.

When I pulled up to 990 Franklin Ave. I had to dial the shop on the phone, because I couldn’t find it. It’s so new the signs aren't up yet. But it’s open for business, and it’s loaded with cigars. I think George has every Fuente they make in stock (would you like natural or maduro wrap on that Hemingway Best Seller?) plus humidors loaded with everything from Litto Gomez, Manuel Quesada, all the Gurkhas…you get the point.

George is a walking encyclopedia of cigars. As I fired up an Arturo Fuente Royal Salute (Sun Grown Wrapper), he torched a La Flor Dominicana Cameroon Cabinet and we talked cigars. We talked about smoking bans, tasting notes, cigar makers on the rise…a little bit of everything. We also spoke about how shops like this one, which has a huge smoking lounge, are becoming the last refuges of American cigar smokers. And one of the last places where you can truly interact with those from your community.

“I defy you to find an institution,” said George, punctuating his point with his half-smoked cigar, “that fosters and encourages that remarkable intersection of people as does the cigar business.”

He’s right. Get out to your local store, fire up a great cigar and talk politics, sports or whatever is on your mind with your fellow cigar smokers. And if you’re in Garden City, drop in on George and say hello.

"My one problem with this shop is you need to be a Member of the lounge to smoke there. It's long island, not park avenue. My purchase of a cigar should be my right to smoke there. I went there once, bought 150.00 worth of cigars but was told I wasn't allowed to smoke in the lounge since I was not a member. I will never shop here again. " —January 29, 2011 18:36 PM
"Thanks for the feedback. Dave, I'm glad you liked the store. Frank, I'm sure George will be happy to see you. Don't miss the pizza place next door." —June 19, 2007 13:22 PM
"Thanks once more for the heads up, Mr. Savona. I will have to check out J Barbera's one evening soon, as it is on my way home (as are a large number of communities between Wilton, CT and Holtsville, LI). Sounds like the perfect place for taking refuge from the eastbound evening traffic swells. I shall look forward to meeting and talking cigars with Mr. Brightman. Maybe I will even have the good fortune to meet up with my friend Mr. Wagner there at some point. Two of the best things about being a cigar aficionado are the ever present opportunity to try something new, and meeting new people to share the fraternal experience of cigars with. Looking forward to it. I'll tell 'em Savona sent me. Big Smoke Rings.....ooo0000OOOOO" —June 19, 2007 11:44 AM
"I dropped in and saw George today. (Thanks for the heads-up Dave. I was expecting the lack of signage and I found it right away.)This store is for serious cigar smokers. What an impressive layout. It's a beautiful, spacious store with class (without being stuffy and unapproachable). We discussed a little business and I felt right at home. I'll be denting the leather chairs when I'm in the Garden City area for certain.Thanks again for introducing this tobacconist." —June 18, 2007 21:00 PM
"As u suggested i went and checked out J. barbera. WOW what a fabulous store. there isnt an equal on long island & i've been to all the stores. not only is the store magnificent and comfortable but The owners are true tobacconists. It is so nice for a cigar store owner to be more knowledgeable about cigars than me (a rarity these days). I cant wait to go abck and hang-out again talk cigars and smoke another opusx. Thanks again for the heads up about the store. If you live on long island it is worth a trip over to J. Barbera" —July 13, 2007 20:31 PM