My house (which contains two young children that attend daycare/preschool) has had a rough time with illnesses in the past few weeks. I myself was hit by two bugs in a row and that has put me way behind on my cigar reviews. I feel I am on the upswing but it may be a week or so before I get another review done. This got me to thinking what I could do on the blog in the mean time because the interval since my last post has been a bit longer than I usually like it to be. I have been reading all my favorite bogs while I’ve been under the weather. Cigar Jack has been running an interesting feature on his blog in which he reviews cigar manufacturers’ websites. It’s an excellent idea and I have enjoyed reading the articles. His recent post about the Perdomo website indirectly sparked a bit of inspiration for this post to help fill the void until I can smoke again.

Internet Cigar Retailers and the Local Brick & Mortar Tobacconists.

The business of selling cigars over the internet is a big one. There are a large number of HUGE internet cigar retailers that move a lot of product for the cigar manufacturers. That’s because there are a lot of cigar smokers out there who hit the internet looking for a good price on their favorite smokes. And why not? Right? Everyone likes to save a buck. Most of us aren’t rich enough to go blowing money without pause or concern, and the fact is a lot of rich guys are rich because they know how to save (and spend) money. The fact is the best prices on cigars are almost always to be found on the internet. The internet vendors have a lot of built in advantages over the local B&M shops. Often people can purchase cigars and avoid large local tobacco taxes. They have huge humidors that can house enormous selections and they have the audience to support such diversity in product. That large audience also leads to large volumes of sales which in turn earn the internet vendors leverage with the manufacturers to get price breaks and exclusive lines made just for their businesses. All things that help them keep prices down, and selection up. There is also a convenience factor with ordering online. These are all things the little local shop has a hard time competing with. I would ask that you not forget about your local shop and give them your business whenever possible.

I’m not trying to vilify the internet vendors. The internet vendors are great. They provide us with access to cigars we may otherwise be unable to get. There are times when you are going to buy online. The reasons are varied and I won’t enumerate them all here. Everyone’s reasons may be a little different. Maybe you don’t have a local shop to go to. Well, then you need the internet guys and God Bless them for being there for those of you in that situation. A prime example for me is Obviously I use them. The God of Fire cigars I posted pictures of in an earlier post were purchased from CigarsDirect. My local shop will most likely never have God of Fire in stock, nor Opus X much to the owner’s frustration. CigarsDirect is great for that hard to find stuff. My local also doesn’t stock Padilla because they don’t sell well but I like some of their lines. To get that stuff I have to go online. I am not suggesting we should stop using internet vendors. Internet vendors and local tobacconists can co-exist. Like I said, I’ve used online shops in the past. I’ll use them in the future. I am just asking that you not forget local tobacconist. Give them your business whenever you can even if it means paying a little more. Here’s why…

Your local cigar shop is selling you more than just a cigar, or cutter, or humidor, etc. You’ll notice above I said you will often find the best prices online. What I did not say is that you’ll find the best deals online. In my opinion. your best deal is most often at your local shop. How’s that you wonder? You can get your favorite cigar cheaper online you say? That may be true but in my opinion it’s not necessarily the best deal and here is why.

When you buy a cigar at your local cigar shop you are getting a lot more than just a cigar. You are also [usually] getting a place where you can go to sit and smoke and enjoy your cigars. Even before these smoking bans started sweeping the country it was hard for a cigar smoker to find a place in public where he could go to smoke a cigar. [I could write five pages on the hypocrisy of allowing cigarettes and not cigars but that’s not what this article is about]The local cigar shop has always filled this function nicely. In a lot of cases it does so especially well. If you have a really good local shop there is often a TV with a game on and a fridge in the back with some drinks in it. Combine that with a comfortable chair or cushy leather couch and you’re on cloud nine. Sounds good right? But wait there’s more! If you call now and mention this TV offer we will throw in… Sorry. I think Billy Mays, the OxyClean guy possessed me for a moment. But you do get more than just a place to smoke. You get a whole community of cigar smokers and experts to talk and interact with. A lot of local shops have a group of “regulars” that hang out around the shop. That combined with what is hopefully a knowledgeable staff in the store combines to make a great community of guys and gals that you can socialize with and discuss cigars with. One of the greatest aspects of this hobby is the social component. Cigar smoking and collecting is a very social activity, especially if you want it to be. I have spent many a Wednesday night at my local shop smoking cigars a shooting the bull with the great guys who frequent the place. We watch sporting events, and talk about cigars, women, family, work, politics, spirits, food, etc, etc., etc… You get the idea. It’s just a great time. That is what, in my mind, justifies paying a slightly higher price for my smokes. I want to send as much of my business to my local shop as I can, because I would hate to lose it. I want to make sure that I do my part to keep that place there so I can continue to enjoy the friends and community that it provides. The great thing about these communities that build around these shops is that they are so easy to become a part of. Membership to the club is open to anyone who wants to come in and take a seat. Cigar smokers are some of the friendliest and most accepting people I know. When I started hanging out at my local shop, I didn’t know anyone there. I just showed up one night, sat down and joined in the conversation. Years later I still go out there most weeks (two kids since I started going there has made me a little less of a regular attendee) and enjoy the company of guys I now call my friends.

I glossed over it a bit when I started talking about community, but the staff of the cigar shop is another big part of this. A shop with a friendly knowledgeable staff should not be taken for granted. In fact, you should make a point to make use of them. Talk to the staff and get to know them and let them get to know you. They are on the “inside” of the industry. They often have lots of news and background info on the different cigars and manufacturers that is fun to hear about. Also, if they get to know you and what you smoke, they can often help point you in the direction of some great cigars that you may have never otherwise discovered on your own. The staff of your local tobacconist is a great resource and one that you should take advantage of. The face-to-face service they can provide you while you are in their store really is valuable. The guys working at my local shop have even introduced me to some of the sales reps for the manufacturers. Those guys are great to talk to as well. Sometimes they’ll even hand you some free swag or cigars after talking with you. I have been lucky enough to become friends with some cigar reps. I really enjoy talking cigars with these guys. They know their stuff and are full of great stories.

Frequenting my local cigar shop has enhanced my enjoyment of cigars and this hobby in an almost immeasurable way. The same could happen for you. I hope I’ve shown how you really do get more than just a cigar with the money you spend with your local tobacconist. That’s what makes the price a good deal. Keep those favorite online vendors bookmarked. You’ll need them on occasion. Just be sure to go out to your local shop, buy and cigar, sit down and light up. Don’t get too wrapped up in what the price of the cigar is. What you get for that extra dollar you spend on the cigar is money well spent. In fact, it may be the best deal on a cigar that you’ll find.