Get lost, pal. I mean get lost in the immense humidor that you see when you enter this legacy cigar store and lounge in California's San Fernando Valley. Go past the pipe display case and try your best to pick a smoke from more than 100 different choices.
"The major brands sell really well," explained owner Saiid Karroum. "We're not heavily into the boutique stuff."
Maybe choose an Illusione Epernay? Sort of boutique-y. The humidor offers pretty much every Ashton brand as well as a lot of the Fuente and Padrón labels, including the newer Padrón Dámaso and the Family Reserve 50 Years. There was even one humidor full of the 50 Years awaiting pickup. Cigar Aficionado's 2015 Cigar of the Year, the My Father Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo Box-Pressed, was readily available.
"Our customers don't rush in to buy based on reviews," Karroum explained. "They know what they like, and they will try different cigars."
After choosing your smoke, take a seat in a plush leather club chair and zone out to whatever game is on television.
Cigar Warehouse, a store that has been serving the greater Los Angeles cigar community for more than 35 years, does not have what real estate types call "great curb appeal." The old and worn sign faces a section of Ventura Boulevard, not generally known for selective zoning, which is densely populated with retail stores and restaurants. Fortunately, right across the street from Cigar Warehouse is a very good pizza parlor whose pies can be brought in for dinner while you're lounging. There's also a well-known coffee place nearby.
On this afternoon, everyone is joking with Karroum about making coffee. He said he made coffee in the morning. Everyone complains it's not good.
"How much coffee are you supposed to put in?" asks Karroum, who does not drink coffee, as he scoops the fresh grind.
Karroum and his brother bought the store in 2012, the fourth shop in their company, and proceeded to remodel in a deliberate fashion. The job was finished at the end of 2015. Almost. There are still a couple of rooms in the 3,600-square-foot space that await assignment. What has been beautifully redone is the main room. The painted walls were sandblasted to reveal red brick, now adorned with cigar posters and three televisions.
The room offers a chess board on one of the tables. Two guests are playing, enjoying large cigars. During a regular-season football game, there are usually 30 to 40 people inside watching. For big occasions like the Super Bowl, it's standing room only. Tickets will be sold, and the price includes food and "a cigar or two." Cigar Warehouse is also a great room for private events.
I like to map out the different places in and around Los Angeles where I can stop to take a break from the incessant traffic. Cigar Warehouse rests just off the intersection of arguably the worst road congestion in the nation, the crossroads of Interstate 405 and the 101 freeway. It's hell. Cigar Warehouse is now on the list of cigar oases.
Put on the hockey game and get my pepperoni pizza ready. And find me a smoke.
15141 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.