Linda Squires, the proprietor of Squire Cigars, is a force of nature. She began her career in 1974 when she opened, with her husband, Barney, The Pipe Squire in the mall in Santa Rosa, the county seat of Sonoma County, California. Back then, Squires remembers, "the business was 95 percent pipes."
"The biggest customers in the seventies were psychiatrists who smoked pipes while listening to patients and lawyers who tamped and lit their pipes in the courtroom," Linda Squires explains. The store operated in the mall for 16 years, but smoking wasn't allowed during the last eight as the store had moved indoors.
In the current location, now named Squire Cigars, sitting in a comfortable leather chair and enjoying a cigar while Linda shares her encyclopedic knowledge of the business is a treat, especially on a rainy day in wine country. Linda served as president of the Tobacconists' Association of America from 1989 to 1991 and as president of the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America (known now as the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers) from 2003 to 2005. And she went to high school in New Haven, Connecticut, with Marvin Shanken—so stories abound.
Linda counts Fuente, Padrón and Ashton as her most popular brands, but says that La Palina, Illusione and Tatuaje also sell very well. A Nat Sherman Panamerican Belicoso Fino is the choice this day. You're also more likely to be able to get those hard-to-find smokes here. A box of Davidoff's 2012 Year of the Dragon limited-edition release was being shown off the day I visited.
Squire Cigars is definitely a popular local destination for cigar lovers. Linda greets each customer who walks in by name. The store feels homey, with a humidor wall that allows customers to look at what they might want to light up. There are several leather chairs, a round table and one television. Squire Cigars also offers wine storage for up to 12 cases for $30 a month. Very convenient in this part of the country.
The store is in Vineyard Square, a small center that also houses three wineries, a barbershop and a brewpub. There's a pizza place, too, but Squires says the best slice in the county is in the town of Sonoma, about 30 minutes away, because the pizza maker is from New Haven. Linda naturally elicits the question, "Sally's or Pepe's?" Her eyes widen, appreciative of the recognition of the battle of pizzerias in New Haven.
"Oh, Sally's all the way," Linda answers. After all, she dated one of Sally's (Salvatore's) sons back in the day. Then, showing knowledge about all the important things, she launches into a tale about why the coal-fired, charred pie is called "apizza" in the Elm City. But that's a whole other story.
1305 G Cleveland Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Open Monday through Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 4 p.m.