Well, B&M; Bricks and Mortar. There truly is no substitute for the atmosphere, service, and camaraderie of a good, real-life cigar shop. Sure, there are deals to be had from some of the increasingly prolific online vendors; but as we get further and further from the cigar shop we lose more and more of what this hobby (…lifestyle, passion) is all about. Man’s interaction with tobacco has always been firmly centered in a tribal context. Tobacco has been used for millennia by man to welcome friends, resolve conflicts, and commune with higher powers. For over five hundred years it has been a part of our western society (you all know the rhyme: “in 1492 Columbus found cigars for you”). It’s in our blood. When you walk into your local cigar shop and see a couple of guys standing around the counter, cigars in hand, shooting the proverbial breeze; you’re peering through a window in time, a facsimile of our collective past- that circle around a campfire that’s been recreated a thousand times for a thousand years. Some of the guys in the cigar shop may even look like they just came out of the jungle, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.
There’s something for us in the cigar shop that can never be reproduced by an online vendor. Familiar faces, friendly conversation, a convivial atmosphere; these things are only available in real life. They’re not coming to your doorstep in a FedEx box. The human element of the brick and mortar cigar shop is irreplaceably important. A few words could also be said about the cigars themselves. When you buy cigars in real life, you can actually feel them and smell them and really see what you’re getting. Clicking on a link and adding a fiver of 8-5-8s to your online “shopping cart” may save you a few pennies as well as the hassle of having to emerge from your miserable cave of seclusion into the searing light of day; but you’re not getting the true experience. Let’s take a quick walk-through and remember what we’re missing.
You stroll down the street approaching your favorite cigar shop. It’s a beautiful day- sunny, 70 degrees with a gentle breeze. That same breeze that swirls leaves in and out of your path as you walk also carries with it the pungent aroma of a quality cigar. On your way in you smile and nod at a couple of guys just outside the door who are having a “lively” discussion about yesterday’s game. As you pull open the door, the muffled sounds of laughter erupt into an absolute cacophony of riotous mirth. Entering, you’re greeted by a few friends- guys you met here and see here on a regular basis. You take a quick once-around the shop deciding what you want to smoke today. Having made your decision, you slide open one of the glass doors of the humidor that contains your cigar. Picking it up, you roll it in your fingers. Firm, but not rock hard, and silky smooth, not moist. Perfect. You walk up to the counter and snip the cap off of the cigar. As you apply the torch to the cigar’s foot, the owner of the shop leans across the counter to ask you how you’re doing. You are now experiencing the quintessence of the cigar shop and it can never be duplicated.
In the spirit honoring these most important edifices of cigardom, I’d like to talk about two of the best brick and mortar cigar shops on the face of the planet. Hometown Heroes of CigarsEveryday, if you will. As we continue to build our enterprise, we’ll include reviews and stories about cigar shops from our readers’ neighborhoods across the country. This first shop I’d like to talk about is the absolute model for the small-town cigar shop; friendly, helpful, and accommodating with a great selection and a wealth of knowledge. They’ll also plug you into what’s going on in the town if you’re interested. Tobacco Road- Barnegat, New Jersey is run by a father and son team of cigar lovers. Jeff Sr and Jr will be more than happy to show you around their humidors and help you find something new or locate an old favorite. You can hang out up front with the guys and chew the fat or relax on a leather couch with the remote in your hand in Tobacco Road’s back-room lounge. Only a short trip from Long Beach Island or Atlantic City, you have to stop in if you’re ever in the area. Tell them “Ammo Cans” sent you, they’ll know what that means.
In the heart of South Philly on the corner of Tenth and Tasker streets is the venerable Twin Shoppe. No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without stopping in and saying “hi” to owner Anthony Renzulli and the very friendly crowd of Twin Shoppe patrons. After perusing the selection of fine cigars in the walk-in humidor, you’ll experience true South Philly hospitality in the Twin Shoppe’s large back-room lounge. Kick back and relax or join in a friendly game of Texas Hold ‘Em; just watch out for those Aces and Eights.
In these increasingly hostile days when anti-tobacco sentiment has reached feverish, McCarthy-esque proportions, and the long pen of the law drips its putrid ink on the once hallowed cloth of our personal freedoms; it’s more important than ever to support your local B&M. These guys are out there every day fighting unjust taxes and regulations to stay afloat and keep this lifestyle alive. Do yourself and them a favor and go buy a cigar…in real life.