Thursday, August 19, 2010
Audio interview: Kent Pennington, president of Texas Cigar Merchants Association
Kent's Addison retail establishment, Cigar Shop & More, will soon become a full service cigar bar.
Considered in a certain way, smoking a fine cigar is the ultimate extravagance. The cigar is a handcrafted artisan product composed of carefully cultivated, slowly aged materials, often obtained from far-flung regions of the world, that are blended together by experts who've learned their trade over dozens of years -- even generations, if you take into account the experience of their forebears.
It's common to pay upwards of $20 per stick for the privilege of owning a fine cigar.
And then you burn it.
Kent Pennington is president of the Texas Cigar Merchants Association, which tries to do for cigar smokers at the state level what the NRA does for gun owners on the national front: Limit government regulation. Kent's been involved in the retail end of the cigar business for about five years now, having left his career in the corporate world when he was presented with an opportunity to purchase an existing cigar store in Addison at the intersection of Belt Line and Midway. To all appearances, he's done quite well at that Cigar Shop & More retail location, and has even opened a second shop in Garland.
Kent has big news about the Addison location: He'll be moving into a larger storefront about 100 feet to the east and turning the operation into a full-service cigar bar -- the first of its kind in DFW, he says. (The way things stand now, if you want to enjoy a beverage or some food in the members lounge, it's BYOB -- and BYOF). In addition to browsing the humidor (currently home to some 1,800 cigar selections) and selecting a fine cigar, you'll soon be able to belly up to the full-service bar and order a fine scotch (or the libation of your choice) to go with it. Plus, there will be indoor/outdoor seating and a menu of food offerings. Want to finish off the experience with an espresso? Fine coffees will also be an option at the new facility, which Kent plans to open early in 2011.
Kent and I sat down in the members lounge area of the Addison store for a visit. I had a chance to ask him some things about cigar smoking that I've always wanted to know. Plus, he FORCED me to select a stogie from his inventory to fire up and puff on while we talked. (That rat bastard.)
Full disclosure: I'm a regular cigar smoker, as you might have guessed from the avatar attached to my byline.
The audio of our conversation is split into two parts of about 11 minutes each. Here's a summary of what I found out from this real-life cigar aficionado, who smokes 2-6 cigars on a typical day when he's in one of his stores, sharing lounge time and chewing the fat with his regulars.
- How he got into the biz; what's the appeal of cigar smoking to him personally, and to people generally
- Hazards of cigar smoking (HINT: There are some that you might not expect)
- How the SCHIP tax on tobacco products has affected the price of cigars
- The demographic of cigar store patrons (who are, it turns out, not all Rush Limbaugh clones)
- The Cuban embargo: Is it likely to be lifted anytime soon, and if/when it is, will American smokers even want to smoke Cuban cigars?
Interview with Kent Pennington: Part 1CLICK HERE to listen
- "If they lift the embargo, I expect we will see another cigar boom in this country."
- The impact of internet sales on brick and mortar shops such as Kent's
- Learn how to pronounce Tatuaje before you embarrass yourself in front of Pete Johnson (when he visits Cigar Shop & More in October)
- "I find the best cigars in the business are the small niche players, and I seek them out."
- Are cigar sales seasonal?
- What's the newest, hottest trend in cigars? (HINT: It's a vitola.)
- "It's an acquired taste, just like drinking wine or beer."
- Kent's favorite beverage pairings to accompany good cigars
- "The best cigar is the one you like. Not the one the magazines rated."
Interview with Kent Pennington: Part 2CLICK HERE to listen
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