Most Fridays after work, some Saturdays and assorted other days of the week, I can be found in a little cigar shop on Main Street called “Smoker’s Castle.”
Who knows how long the shop’s been there, but the oak-paneled decor has the whiff of early ’70s small town merchant. Smoker’s Castle was a cigar and pipe shop before fine stogies were hip and has outlasted local upstarts that tried to cash in on the craze at the end of the last decade.
It’s survived on the strength of a group of a dozen and a half or so of regulars who don’t usually buy by the bundle, only rarely plunk down as much as $10 for trendy churchills or coronas. Me, I fork over $1.60 each for five or six robusto maduros that have been lovingly rolled out of second-grade tobacco by apprentices in Honduras. Generally, a better cigar is hard to find, but the quality is unpredictable. That said, the only flaw that ever makes these sticks unsmokable are 1 in 15 that are rolled too tight.
Buying cigars at Smoker’s Castle is only half the fun. What keeps me a regular is the people I meet — unknown screenwriters and producers, brick layers, tow-truck drivers, postal workers, gardners and the occasional CPA or lawyer. If your vision of a smoke shop is a place populated by high-livin’ CEOs, then you’ve never been in a neighborhood smoker. It’s more like a local bar than a swanky Beverly Hills salon.
And I’m sure our conversations are more interesting, whether it’s the best place to buy habanero cheesecake or how to cure dysentery with camel dung, you might just hear something you’ve never heard before. Or a good dirty joke. And if you’ve been there more than twice and haven’t been insulted, you just aren’t part of the gang yet. Insults, in fact, are our primary pasttime some days.
Pictured are Brian, Marty and Vic. Vic is the proprietor. He’s owned the place about eight years. He’s pretty sure he’s handsome, and plays a pretty good Flamenco guitar. All around good guy. He sets tone both in civility and barbed rejoinders.