Cigar shop offers relaxation and education
Smoking tobacco has become controversial to many, even unacceptable to some. But owners of at least one local business are hoping people give some facets of the activity a second look.
Owners of the Prattville Cigar Company espouse the virtues of a fine cigar, which they say is a unique experience. Bill and Patsy Hasely opened their cigar shop in November 2005.
"It was our first venture into retail sales and business," Bill Hasely said.
Hasely retired after 31 years as facility plant manager for Koppers, a company that produces chemicals, carbon compounds, and treated wood products for several different industries. Hasely said that he opened his own business for two reasons.
"First, I had an interest. I've enjoyed cigars for 15 years and as I'd travel, I'd seek out a cigar shop," he said.
According to Hasely, the second reason had to do more with his retirement.
"I retired at a young age and I needed something to do," he joked.
But the couple didn't jump into business without knowing what they were getting into though.
"We did our research first and thought it was a good area for growth with all the hotels, restaurants, and Bass Pro Shops," Hasely said.
And business has been very good over the last three years.
"We've had a very favorable response. We gauge that our sales has had an annual growth of 25-30 percent," Hasely remarked.
The Prattville Cigar Company's customers come not just from Prattville, but all over the area.
"The business has been welcomed. We have people from Prattville, Millbrook, Wetumpka, and Montgomery," said the owners. "We get a lot of business travelers too."
Although there are several other discount retailers in the area that sell cigars and other tobacco products, according to Hasely, his shop is the only one around that offers what it does.
"We're not that discount tobacco shop," he said. "We offer exclusively hand-rolled, premium cigars and we provide a smoking lounge."
In fact, the Hasely's smoking lounge includes a big screen television, a pool table, leather chairs, wireless Internet, a charcoal filter fan, and a special ventilation system to take care of the cigar smoke. The lounge has had famous football players, government officials, and even Olympians as visitors.
"We have had all walks of life," he said.
As far as the premium cigars, Hasely carries 25 different brands in his large walk-in humidor including Rocky Patel, Arturo Fuente and Pedron.
"We also carry pipes and pipe tobacco and cigar accessories, like lighters and cutters," he said.
Although the smoking issue is controversial, Hasely believes that, although he's never received negative comments, many people just don't understand what cigar smoking is all about.
"Cigars are very similar to wine. There are different flavors," he said. "It's for when people celebrate something."
According to Hasley, cigar smoking can be a hobby but many people also see it as a passion. The Haselys also have a passion for making their customers feel welcome and educating them as well on the different aspects of cigars. One way they are educating their customers is through the Tobacconist University and its partner, The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).
Patsy Hasely and her part-time employee will be taking an online course with the Tobacconist University to become a certified tobacconist.
"It's a very detailed study course," Patsy Hasely said.
The course and its certification will provide information on how cigar tobacco grows, how cigars are rolled, the history of cigars, the culture behind cigar smoking and other related facts. Bill Hasely believes that the courses will help give his shop an avenue of education for the customers. He also plans to offer mini-sessions to customers and says that at this point, no one else is providing this information.
"I'd venture to say we'll be the first in the state," Hasely said.
Source: Prattville Progress