Tobacconist tapping into local market
By KIM MORGAN CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT
Jan. 5, 2010, 12:08PM
Chocolate, vanilla, cranberry vodka, mango margarita … sounds like a list of ice cream flavors, or maybe cocktails at your favorite watering hole.
But nope, we’re talking cigars.
West Houston resident Cheryl Greenwald and Pearland resident Daniel Goodwin recently opened Cigar Towne, 1127 Eldridge Parkway.
“Smoking a cigar is a great thing to do if you’re networking, or just having some downtime,” said Greenwald, who enjoys a good cigar every now and then.
“It forces you to relax. And it’s not like a cigarette, which is addictive. All hand-made cigars are chemical free. It’s only tobacco. There are no additives.”
Greenwald is a professional tobacconist, and as such, has qualified for membership in the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association.
She had been working in the industry with another company for more than 10 years, but then decided to go out on her own.
The reason for setting up shop on Eldridge Parkway is because it’s an untapped area with potential, Greenwald said.
“It’s a growing area,” she said, “and there is nothing like us in this area at all. No cigar shops.”
Of course Houston is a no-smoking city, but cigar shops are exempt and are adult-only establishments. They are not permitted to have a liquor license. Greenwald said they have room for lounging, networking, or watching the game on a 55-inch flat screen.
Like fine wine
The business of importing cigars can be compared to the business of importing wine, Greenwald said.
Just as a wine pro would consider grape varietals, where they’re grown, and how and when they’re harvested, a tobacconist thinks about the variety of tobacco seeds, what kinds of leaves will grow, how and when they’re picked, and how to combine the leaves to develop different blends.
Tobacco is grown worldwide, Greenwald said, but most hand-made cigars are made in Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
The matter of properly storing cigars, again, just like wine, is crucial. Cigars are sensitive to humidity and temperature.
Then there’s the matter of how to smoke a cigar. Greenwald said seasoned cigar smokers generally do not inhale. They savor the flavor in their mouth.
Cigars come in all kinds of blends. Greenwald said she has more than 400 types, from mild to heavy, from “short and stubby” to “long and lean,” from two bucks to $20.
Greenwald’s business partner, Daniel Goodwin, 39, clearly remembers his first cigar some 15 years ago.
“A buddy of mine just gave me one,” Goodwin said. “It wasn’t the best, and I would probably never smoke that kind again.”
That’s probably because what Goodwin had was a dime-store, machine-produced cigar, he said.
These days, Goodwin enjoys teaching folks about the finer points of cigars, starting with what his customer might want to try.
“First, I look at what their experience is,” Goodwin said. “If they haven’t smoked before, I guide them towards a milder cigar. If you recommend something too strong, it will do two things — make them sick and scare them off from ever trying again.
“After that, we’ll talk about price range, and whether it’s for them, or for a gift.”
Goodwin said hand-made cigars are a great gift, and the shop opened just in time for the gift-giving season.
The fact it’s a recession doesn’t bother Goodwin in the slightest.
“I think it holds true,” he said, “that even during recessions, people still drink and people still smoke.”