The Cigar Box lites up conversation with new lounge

By ED HOWELL
Posted 9/5/18

The Cigar Box, which held a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday in Jasper and offers premium hand-rolled cigars and a smoking lounge, will have special events which will stretch into the Foothill Festival on …

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The Cigar Box lites up conversation with new lounge

Posted

The Cigar Box, which held a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday in Jasper and offers premium hand-rolled cigars and a smoking lounge, will have special events which will stretch into the Foothill Festival on Friday and Saturday. 

Shawn Doss of Jasper, the owner of the business, said a smaller cigar store was opened in March across from Sew Simple on Highway 195, next to another business owned by Doss, GoTees Screen Printing (which is still in business there). 

"We didn't know if Jasper was ready for something like this," Doss said. "We had a wonderful response, and people said, 'Can we smoke in here?' I said, 'No, it will smoke up all my T-shirts.'" Besides that, a zoning ordinance prevented smoking in public places anyway.

As people supported the business and as they requested a place for more selection, Doss started the process of finding a location at the end of May. A zoning ordinance was created to allow a smoking lounge, as many cities already allow an exception for that in their ordinances. 

After Doss gave examples to the Jasper City Council for such lounges to be allowed in zoning, the process was completed in less than two months. A lease was then signed for a building at 411 19th St. W, across from Jasper City Hall and near Young's Jewelers. 

"We have a large selection of cigars," Doss said. "We probably have close to 300 boxes of cigars. We have premium pipes and pipe tobacco as well. We have all the accessories, such as cutters and lighters, humidors, that sort of thing. 

The Cigar Box boasts it is the first cigar store in Jasper to focus entirely on premium cigars and other quality products. 

"Everything is hand rolled. Most everything we have comes from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republican and Honduras," he said. "We have some stuff from Mexico and different places, but most is from those regions. Most of our cigars are in the $8 to $10 range. All the cigars you get at a service station are mechanically rolled. All these are rolled by hand. It takes anywhere from two to six years to produce one of these cigars," once the tobacco growing and aging process is counted in, with 200 hands touching it during the process.

A sales area is in front (with the walls of one small room lined with multiple rows of cigar boxes). Behind that is a 1,000-square-foot smoking lounge that takes up most of the 1,400-square-foot facility. 

"If you smoke cigars, your wife is probably not going to let you smoke them at the house," he said, leaving the back porch as the usual option — which might not be good if the weather is bad. "Plus it is hard to get together with your buddies and hang out and smoke," he said. 

"The cigar lounge is a place where guys and ladies can come smoke cigars, fellowship with one another and enjoy the ballgame, hang out and talk," Doss said. 

Industrial-strength smoke-eating devices are hung from the ceiling above and that have intake to remove smoke almost instantly as it rises, as Doss demonstrated. "It circulates the air. It completely purifies the air every four minutes. I would say the air quality in this place is better than the air quality in some of the other places where people don't smoke," he said. 

Leather lounge chairs are positioned in the room, with two large-screen TVs playing on the wall. A food bar is to the rear, which will not serve alcohol, but soft drinks, ice and water will be provided. Events will be held at the establishment, where food will be served at the bar. 

About 30 cigar lockers are for rent for $40 a month and are almost sold out, although a couple more lockers are expected to be installed. Cigar products and bottles of alcohol, as well as other personal items, can be placed in the lockers for later use, he said. 

Locker rents also include 10 percent discounts on all purchases and 15 percent discount on boxes. They also get access to special events. 

"What I like most of what we have been able to create here. Everybody is so busy and everybody is on the phone. No one ever sits down to have conversations anymore," he said, recalling when people used to talk to each other on the back porch in a by-gone era.

People who come into the Cigar Box may not even know each other, he said, but they have an hour to kill smoking, which leads them to strike up conversations. 

"It's hard to play on your phone and smoke a cigar at the same time," Doss said, saying relationships are formed in the process, including for himself personally. "It has been fun to see how it brings together different types of people, no matter where you work or what color you are or where you go to church or if you don't go to church. Everybody from all walks of life come together to hang out with one another and have an opportunity to invest their lives into one another." 

While a number of men were seen enjoying the lounge Tuesday, Doss noted several women have also come as well. Artist Missy Miles, who is painting a mural nearby in downtown Jasper, joined in Tuesday and lit up a cigar, noting she has had cigars there with an incredible taste. 

However, he said people have to be ages 19 and older to be able to participate at the business, and those younger have no business to be in the premises making purchases or socializing. 

Hours for the business are being settled, and the next couple of weeks the store is experimenting with Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., although it may be adjusted. "It will probably be closed Sunday and Monday," Doss said. 

After the grand opening on Tuesday, which included the Anatomy of Pi food truck that night, raffles and giveaways are planned throughout this week. With an eye on the Coca-Cola Foothills Festival on Friday and Saturday downtown, which the business is an official partner for, Doss said special events are planned both days. 

On Friday, the founder and CEO of GTO cigars, Dr. Oscar Rodriguez of Montgomery, will be at the business from 6-9 p.m. "He's going to be talking about his cigars, selling cigars and answering questions," he said. "He's a physician in Montgomery. His family in the Dominican Republic has tobacco plantations and cigar rolling factories. They roll all his cigars and we carry his full line here." 

He said he was excited about Saturday. "We have a house blend cigar that we keep in our humidor that the cigar factory in New Orleans rolls for us. The rollers from the cigar factory from New Orleans will be here on site Saturday from 2-6 p.m. They will be in our lounge rolling cigars.

"If anybody has never seen the process, it is very interesting. They will be able to come and see how it goes from a pile of leaves to a premium cigar they can smoke," Doss said. 

The phone number is 205-295-5258. The store also has a Facebook page, cigarboxjasper, which one can link to through thecigarboxjasper.com.