Story by Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography by Kacy Meinecke
When the Cigar Chateau opened in 1993 in northeast Wichita, its entire store took up about 1,000 square feet.
The store has grown so much in 24 years that now its walk-in humidor is 1,000 square feet alone. Located at 3409 N. Rock Road, the shop also sells cigar accessories ranging from upright to tabletop humidors, sturdy ashtrays and cleverly designed cigar holders; tobacco pipes that range from simple corncob pipes to hand-carved masterpieces; 60 different types of pipe tobacco; and some wine and cocktail accessories.
In the back of the shop, there’s a special area to enjoy one’s cigar purchase: the Diamond Crown Lounge. The lounge, which opened in 2004, takes its name from the elite Diamond Crown cigar brand created by the J.C. Newman Cigar Co., America’s oldest family-owned premier cigar maker based in Florida. Cigar Chateau was one of the first dealers in the Midwest to carry the brand, said Kris Booker, the store’s general manager since 1999.
“It’s a place where guys can come smoke and hang out,” explained Booker. But the lounge isn’t just for guys only, he noted. Plenty of women are enjoying cigars, too. The lounge features large leather club chairs and three TV screens so smokers can catch up on news and sports. No alcohol is allowed in the lounge.
Its patrons include everyone from blue-collar workers to entrepreneurs to lawyers, and from the newly able-to-smoke 18-year-old customer to a 90-year-old with plenty of cigar-smoking experience. For those who want to enjoy a cigar more frequently in the lounge setting, customers can purchase a year-long membership to the lounge, costing $350, or $450 if renting a humidified locker. A day pass is available for anyone making a cigar purchase of at least $10 that day.
The lounge epitomizes what cigar smoking tends to be about: an opportunity to get together to enjoy a hand-crafted product in a relaxing atmosphere and with good company.
“It’s not about getting a nicotine hit. It’s about flavor, quality of construction and age,” Booker said. “Cigars are a very artisenial product, like wine, cheese and olive oil.”
Cigar Chateau carries cigars from more than 100 different manufacturers, most of them based in Central America, and the cigars come in all shapes, sizes, strengths and flavors. Booker or one of the other tobacconists at the store can help suggest cigars based on one’s tastes and preference. Some cigars have ratings and description cards, as determined by the magazine “Cigar Aficionado,” to help customers discern what to purchase.
“There’s nothing on these shelves that I haven’t smoked personally,” said Booker of all the cigars carried at the store. Because everyone’s cigar palate and interpretation of the flavor is different, he also visits with his staff and even customers “whose palates I trust” to get feedback on their experiences with certain cigars.
“Tobacco, especially cigars, hits everyone differently,” Booker said. “It can pick up on what you’re drinking, what you’ve had for a meal and sometimes even who you’re with.”