A father-son team hopes to open a premium cigar shop in downtown Stillwater, if city council will give its blessing next week.
Scott Sodergren of Osceola, Wis., and his son Luke Sodergren of Hastings have been in business together in the past, running the staffing company Express Employment.
“In recent years, Luke has taken a more active role in running the company, so that gave me more time to pursue something I enjoy, which is cigars,” Scott said.
About a year and a half ago, Scott opened a small cigar shop in Osceola. He said it’s going well, and sales are up this year.
Luke has enjoyed cigars even longer than Scott — he helped get Scott into the hobby — and the two decided to open a much larger store in Stillwater, complete with a sampling room and a classy vibe.
“These are high-end, premium cigars,” Scott said. “This is not vaping or cigarettes or rolling papers. Those shops tend to attract an unwelcome element in some cases, where premium cigars attract a much different clientele. ... People who by premium cigars are people who frequent, nice restaurants, buy nice clothing, drive nice cars and such.”
Luke and Scott call premium cigars a luxury item and compare them to fine wines or Scotches.
“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the downtown Stillwater community,” Luke said. “Not only is it just a phenomenal community there that I think would enjoy this product, but there’s such a great walking and tourist environment.”
The shop would be known as Sodie’s Cigar Shop and would be at 209 S. Main. St.
Luke said it would have a large sampling room with TVs to watch sports, and perhaps a poker table.
To open the store, however, the Sodergrens need the city to modify its zoning code to allow tobacco shops in the Central Business District.
In order to allow a high-end shop while keeping ordinary tobacco stores out of downtown, the Sodergrens are asking the city to permit “tobacconist” operations in the Central Business District, defining “tobacconist” as a tobacco retailer receiving tobacco, premium cigars and accessories for retail sale at a retail outlet where 70 percent or more of the revenue comes from premium cigars, pipe tobacco and related accessories, excluding cigarettes.
Although state law allows indoor sampling of tobacco at tobacco products shops, city staff have concerns about smoke drifting into other buildings downtown. Staff recommends allowing tobacconist shops downtown by conditional use permit, but prohibiting the sampling of tobacco in shops in the Central Business District.
“Allowing for a use that would include indoor smoking, which adjacent tenants would not be protected from secondhand smoke, is in conflict with the Zoning Code,” the city staff report says.
Luke Sodergren, however, said the shop would have a strong ventilation system and high-powered air scrubbers so that “anything that’s pulled out into the community would be purified, not smoke-filled air.”
“Our business relies on people buying boxes of cigars,” he said. “People aren’t going to invest in a $200-300 box of cigars without sampling them.”
The planning commission sided with the Sodergrens and recommended approval of the proposed zoning ordinance change with sampling allowed. The city council is scheduled to consider the matter Nov. 7.
If the change is approved, Luke expects Sodie’s Cigar Shop to open by spring.
Contact Jonathan Young at email@example.com