Where: 14 Broad Street, Berlin
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday noon-7 p.m.
Grand opening 4 p.m. March 11.
BERLIN – The popular image of the cigar smoker has evolved from a symbol of decadence to a symbol of degradation to, and probably finally, symbol of leisure. As the pleasure of cigar smoking has become mainstreamed over the last decade and people have accepted the notion of the occasional cigar as worthwhile the cottage industry of boutique cigars has begin a revolution of its own.
Much like other rehabilitated vices as evidenced by the explosion of small wineries and breweries around the country, boutique cigar makers from all over South America and southern North America have found a market. These are the kinds of cigars that are just beginning to crest, occasionally being mentioned in the same paragraphs with the more established quality cigars.
And just as the burgeoning wine and beer industries have begun to find traction on the Eastern Shore, so to have the boutique cigars found a home. Johns Premium Cigars is slated to open as part of the 2nd Friday Arts Stroll next weekend and the opening signals the next big step in comfortable sophistication in the area.
Jaime McDonald and Jeb Deickman – both of whom’s real names are John – elected to open the shop after having discussed the possibility with varying levels of seriousness over the last few years. When they heard the store on the corner of Broad and Gay Streets was coming available they decided to take the plunge.
Deickman, who also works as a contractor, has created what will almost surely become a legendary atmosphere with his redesign of the building’s interior. In some places the rooms are stripped to the bare brick, giving the rooms a rustic feel accented by other sections of the wall that are oak-paneled. Add the big screen televisions, the odd high-top table and comfortable leather chairs throughout and the place strikes the perfect balance of hip sophistication.
The most promising aspect of the smoke room, which takes up more space than the outer sales floor, is the amount of attention they’ve put into ventilation. Because of the other accoutrements – the most enticing of which might be the available cigar lockers, though the TV and chairs can’t hurt – Deickman and McDonald expect to have a reasonable amount of smokers in the room at the same time. Even an avid smoker can get turned off by a cloud so dense it’s hard to penetrate and the recycled air can get stale no matter how well taken care of the room happens to be.
Deickman solved the potential problem by investing in a special ventilator that actually pulls fresh air from the outside, cycles it through the room and sends it out the other side along with the excess smoke. The outside air is either heated or cooled depending upon the temperature outside so the room is temperature controlled but the air is never stale and the smoke is kept in check allowing each of the patrons to enjoy the flavor of their cigars alone.
While Deickman provided the passion for comfort and design that will turn Johns Premium Cigars into an instant hot spot, McDonald has taken the mantle of cigar missionary, bringing quality boutique cigars to the fore. After years working in cigar stores and dealing with their patrons, McDonald has become something of a cigar translator. He prides himself in being able to recommend a cigar a patron might not have tried based on a cigar they’ve already enjoyed. Through his industry contacts McDonald was able to get a representative of Drew Estate cigars to attend the March 11 grand opening party.
If you’re not familiar with the boutique cigars of Drew Estate, Rocky Patel or Gurkha you likely will be soon and the best place to try the top cigars these makers produce is at next week’s grand opening.