Brick and Mortar Versus Online Cigar Shops

June 16, 2009 · Posted in Cigar Industry 

My first cigars were some Arturo Fuentes from a local tobacco shop. These cigars ignited my passion for cigars and I am forever grateful to my mom for getting me those sticks. In no way am I overstating the facts when I say that cigars have enriched my life. So, thanks mom and thank you to the brick and mortar (B&M) that started me on this journey.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on Calle Ocho. Cigar smoking is just not that important in my area. The B&Ms in my neck of the woods are lackluster, at best. Yesterday, I went to a new shop that, from the outside, looked promising. It was actually a cigar shop(!) – so it should have a ton of cigars on hand. Or so I thought.

There were not that many cigars in the walk-in humidor in the back of the narrow shop. It looked cool with its glass doors but outside of the slim selection of Fuentes, Nubs, Punches, Patels, and some other mainstays there wasn’t much to choose from. That doesn’t even go into the horrible humidification system he had, but I digress. I asked the owner what he thought of the Casa Magna I was buying and the summation of his answer was: “They’re good. I like them because they are milder.”

Seriously, that is what he said. If you don’t know the Casa Magna was the #1 cigar for Cigar Aficionado in 2008 and it isn’t milder (I guess it’s milder than some other cigars but it isn’t, by any means, a “mild” cigar). So, even when I’m lucky enough to find a place that has a moderate selection of cigars, the proprietor has a poor knowledge of the products he is selling.

On top of all of this is the markup. I can understand paying a couple of extra dollars per cigar. But double what it goes for online? That’s too much. [Maybe, since I do live in the tax-loving state of California, there are a ton more taxes that I am unaware of - that could easily explain the extra markup.]

My stance on B&Ms can be summarized thusly: If you have a good one close by then, by all means, go there. It is worth paying a little extra for cigars if you have a great proprietor and can get some camaraderie from going. But, even if I had one by my house, I would still use online cigar shops.

Maybe I’m just different from the average cigar smokers. Personally, I don’t like going out all that much to smoke my cigars. When I go to a restaurant this Thursday for a cigar smokers’ dinner that will be the first time I will be going to a cigar event. I’m sure I will like it but, on average, I like to smoke alone. Smoking alone is a way for me to relax and enjoy my cigars. Maybe if I had a good friend who also smoked cigars I would smoke with him like Denny and Alan do at the end of every episode on Boston Legal. What all this means is that I probably wouldn’t be going to a B&M for the camaraderie alone.

Furthermore, there’s just no way for a B&M to have the same selection and prices that an online shop has. The online shops regularly have great deals as well. If it weren’t for the samplers offered online I would probably not have the same exposure to cigars that I currently have. Heck, if it weren’t for online shops like the ones that are advertised on my site I probably would not be blogging about cigars. And please don’t think that I wouldn’t be advocating online cigar shops if they weren’t advertising on my site and giving me the occasional freebie. I have a little more ethics than that.

For what it’s worth, online cigar shops will continue to be my go-to source for cigars. There are just too many deals and the prices are so much better online. When a truly good B&M opens up by my house I will go there frequently. Until that fortuitous day comes my cigars will be delivered – properly humidified.


One Response to “Brick and Mortar Versus Online Cigar Shops”

  1. Travis Lindsay on June 17th, 2009 10:17 pm

    I received the same comment from two people (@SentinelX & @dreamswillcome) on Twitter about this post. They both had this to say:

    re:brick & morter, around here pull scams where they put out cheap/crud cigars# w/ fake reviews or “special” no branders

    That isn’t good and, to tell you the truth, I had never thought that someone would do that. So, be vigilant – know cigars well so that you don’t fall for this kind of swindle.

    I would have to guess that the vast majority of proprietors are honest people and I am still waiting for a good one to come to my neighborhood.

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