Latest Rant – The Disenchanted B&M Owner

The Cigar Nut

So, since my last rant went a little better than I had originally intended, I suppose it is only right for me to attempt to continue the trend. I can tell from the last one that I stepped on a few toes – good – and honestly, there are not very many things in this world that piss me off so I will try to come up with a few that are entertaining and provide a little humor, insight and a different viewpoint. As before, please let me know what you think and if all goes well, I may have another idea or two for more.

This rant may be a little slanted only because not everyone who purchases cigars actually goes to the local tobacco shop, B&M (Brick and Mortar) or cigar bar to purchase their sought after smokes but rather they purchase them online. Personally, I can’t argue with this approach because I personally acquire the majority of my cigars online, the prices are cheaper, selection greater but my main reasons will be explained shortly. For those who venture into their local B&M a bit more frequently, perhaps you will pick up on some of my pet peeves or perhaps you have a few of your own you’d like to let me know about.

The Cigar Nut

Now with my above mentioned statement I’m sure a few shop owners may be feeling the rush of blood to their face but I have to pause and give my own disclaimer – I purchase as much as I can from local B&M’s and have tried to be very vocal about people venturing outside their comfort zone and checking out a few of these shops, but not every shop out there deserves my business. It truly is a double edged blade and I’m not sure which side is sharper. Also, I am not sure about others but in St. Louis there are only a handful of Tobacco shops to begin with (and perhaps I expect too much), even fewer cigar specialty shops and yet again, even less when it comes to places that deserve my cash. Again, I will clarify more but before you hang me up to dry, know I am on your side haha!

Recently I was chatting with Jacob (@jakrell on twitter) and we had been talking about B&M’s near his home in Kansas City, Missouri and B&M’s in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri and it got me thinking about all the similarities (obvious) and how they all were considered ‘tobacco shops’ but the subtle (sometimes not so subtle) factors within the shops really got me intrigued into what makes a shop ‘great’, worth while or simply a waste of a cigar or two worth of gas. Keep a watch on the site, I will try to add as many B&M reviews from across the country as possible and perhaps we will all know a little better of what the ‘great Brick and Mortar experience’ is all about.

Now though, those happy rays of sunshine will come at another time – for now, it is time to complain. My biggest issue with a few of the shops within the St. Louis area is that of what I have deemed the ‘Disenchanted B&M Owner’ – if you have been to a few different shops I’d put money on it that you’d met at least one and can agree your experiences were similar.

The Cigar Nut

Ever walk into a shop to see one worker on the phone, sitting in a chair while watching the tv? Ever walk past them, into the walk in humidor – make eye contact and then they return to their Tv? If I was a regular I can understand this, but if this is the first time you see me walk into your store – get off your ass and call your friend back. Even if I was a regular, you should at the very minimum acknowledge my presence. I’m not asking you to come over and hold my hand through the humidor, but maybe spend a minute or two and offer a few seconds of help – worst case scenario I say no and you call your friend right back. That has got to be one of my largest issues with some shops and it seems to be rampant in the St. Louis area.

I remember one time I went into a shop and the owner was watching tv, eating potato chips and dip and once I was in the humidor for about 15 to 20 minutes I walked out and waited by the counter. The owner slowly looks up and asks ‘you paying with cash?’ and so I respond with a short answer ‘Yes I am’ – he asked me how many I had (not the type), I responded with the amount of cigars I had and he requested I give him a single 20.00 bill (it was about 30.00 worth of cigars so it wasn’t huge) and sent me on my way. Granted, this is way cool and I wish I could have it happen more often – although this was the very first time I had ever gone to this store, not a good impression. It just seemed to me that he was not worried about anything but ‘lets get this guy out of here as quick as possible. I don’t want to get up to actually ring him out.’

I guess for me it all boils down to the question – Do you care? More and more I am noticing that the answer to this is NO to a certain extent. They care if they do or do not have the sale but do not feel that their own personal interaction is truly the deciding factor. I have been known to drive 45 minutes one way, and pay higher taxes on each cigar – simply to be able to deal with the retailers. I personally feel that is what makes a B&M truly great.

The Cigar Nut

I wish I had more to discuss on this, but really once I went to three different stores and I received the exact same type of service, I honestly thought I would be done with Brick and Mortar shops as a whole. A few in the area have been able to change my overall feeling about these establishments and have kept my dream of opening my own shop alive. Perhaps it is years and years in the business and they get burnt out, perhaps they are making such a profit that small deals really do not effect them or perhaps they are just pricks – either way it goes I highly suggest you check out all aspects of a shop not just what they carry in stock.

My request to the readers – Please get some pictures together, write up a quick (or detailed) review of a Brick and Mortar shop near your home and I promise I will put them up on the site. My e-mail can be found on the contact page. Give us an honest thought on if the location is good or bad, what you did or did not like and if this is your local spot, what about this location keeps you coming back for more?

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4 Thoughts to “Latest Rant – The Disenchanted B&M Owner”

  1. Ya know, as a new smoker (ok, 6 months) this is exactly what I expected from B&Ms, especially here in NYC.

    I’m not talking about Nats or places of that scale. I mean those little holes in the wall.

    I’ve got one here in Brooklyn Heights, half a block off Court street and it’s a teeny little room with an Indian guy in there who has always given me a good recommendation. He doesn’t want to talk much and prices are high but he’s not unfriendly and he seems to know his stuff (at least well enough to hand me cigars I end up enjoying quite a bit.)

    Then in downtown manhattan (around the corner from J&R) is a tiny little bodega looking place that actually has a respectable little humidor room. Again, prices are high (though not as high as my guy in B’klyn) but the selection is far better. The guys are friendly, if suspicious (probably justified) and have some reasonably informed comment on the cigars I come out of there with.

    So I guess I lucked out. 😉

  2. Tom

    I’m spoiled in that I have a shop right down the street with great selection and ownership. Hell, every now and then I get to run the shop when Ed needs a little time off.

    I have run across a shop or two in the area that matches the lameness you ranted about. I won’t be paying these people a visit again. No problem!

  3. Jacob Krell

    Wow this could have gone so many different ways. While I may not have experienced this “I don’t care” or laziness I have been to a B&M and decided not to give them my business for other reasons. My beef is with the holier than though shops. The ones who turn their noses up at you and treat you like an idiot if you ask questions. The ones who think they are the true and only aficionados and you are wasting their time with your purchases. The ones who ridicule customers in front of others to try to make themselves look good and knowledgeable.

    Luckily for me I have many great places with wonderful owners and employees to visit. To name a few in case you are in KC and want to visit a great B&M try:
    The Cigar Merchant in Blue Springs
    Cigar & Tabac in Overland Park
    d*luxe Lounge & Cigar Deck in Parkville
    Outlaw Cigar Co in KC & Overland Park
    The Cigar Room in Lee’s Summit

    In Springfield, MO check out:
    Tobacco World

    I have had nothing but positive experiences at the above mentioned places. While there may be more I am not familiar with I wanted to share the ones I know about.

    Looking forward to some guest review on B&M’s across the country.

  4. lkat

    Two great stores in my area around Philly. Holt’s is well know and has been around forever for good reason.

    The other is BNB cigars in chesnut hill. Smaller shop than Holt’s but excellent selection and really helpful and attentive folks. Nice place to get work done on friday afternoons.

    They had an even smaller shop that I loved due to the relaxed helpfulness of Terrence. Very knowledgeable and spot on in his recommendations as my tastes evolved.

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