“Smoking cigars is like falling in love. First, you are attracted by its shape; you stay for its flavour, and you must always remember never, never to let the flame go out!” - Winston Churchill
The former British prime minister famously loved his cigars, and that love has inspired a business in Victoria.
In business at the crossroads of Victoria and Arborteum Drives for just a few years, Churchill Cigars and Quality Gifts has cultivated a following throughout the west metro.
For Derrick Smigiel, who owns the shop with his wife, Tish, the venture was a natural progression for a years-long interest. Named after Winston Churchill, himself an avid cigar-smoker whose portrait hangs behind the counter, the business has grown steadily since opening its doors in downtown Victoria.
“It’s a hobby and passion that we got involved with, and so far, it’s been fun,” said Smigiel.
The husband and wife both have full-time jobs, so the shop is manned by a few different workers. At the shop’s core is its cigar sales, as the name would suggest, and Smigiel recognized his staff as particularly helpful for customers both seasoned and new to the cigar scene.
“We’ve got a really knowledgeable staff,” said Smigiel. “They know a lot about cigars.”
In a progression that could be compared to recent booms in the craft beer and liquor industries, there has also been a rise in what Smigiel called boutique cigars.
“What you’re seeing is more of the boutique cigar lines,” said Smigiel. “People are looking for something different. They’re looking for something fun — a different take, a different flavor.”
A large humidor, stocked with dozens of different offerings and kept at the optimal temperature and humidity for cigar-keeping, offers lots of choices for customers. But, Churchills is about more than just selling cigars.
Leather armchairs can be found throughout the building, both on the ground floor and up a flight of stairs. Smigiel explained that the idea wasn’t just to sell cigars, but also to give people a place to smoke them in a social setting.
“We have a great business model for the person who wants to come in and enjoy a cigar,” said Smigiel. “In fact, our motto is ‘a quality cigar, regardless of the cost, is an investment in one’s mental health.’”
Smigiel described Churchills as a place to relax, unwind and meet other cigar enthusiasts. The shop offers a few amenities toward that end, including poker tables, darts, coffee, soft drinks and an electronic buck-hunting game.
All of it is tied together by the cigar-smoking experience, which Smigiel said drew customers young (of course not too young) and old.
“There’s a lot of great conversations that take place, from a millionaire who owns property in the area to a student just getting out of college,” said Smigiel. “It’s a great environment for people to meet, share stories, network — all kinds of things.”
Seasonally available is the outdoor “Cigarden,” a small space just outside the shop covered in patio pavers and complete with seating, a fire pit and even a small grill.
“We don’t serve food, but if someone wants to bring a steak or burgers and throw it on the grill, they can,” said Smigiel.
Most of the gifts available at the shop are cigar-related, making the business a perfect stop not only for a cigar-lover, but those looking for a gift for a cigar-lover in their life as well.
“We have a lot of accessories, which are for cigars,” said Smigiel. “Travel humidors, regular humidors, lighters, cutters, poker sets, all kinds of carrying cases, ceramic holders — anything that’s cigar-related.”
Available, too, are smaller, cubic-foot locker humidors, where cigar aficionados can store their own cigars. Smigiel highlighted the importance of keeping cigars properly — a service provided perfectly by a humidor.
“It keeps the cigar at a humidification needed to burn properly without burning out,” explained Smigiel. “You want it to be around 72 percent humidity. We have a reverse osmosis system that maintains our product.”
This means that a customer can bring a cigar home, but would probably want to smoke it promptly. Dry cigars, according to Smigiel, can make for a disappointing experience.
“If you get a dry cigar, it’s going to crack on you, it’s going to burn different,” he said. “The integrity of the tobacco is much better at 72 percent.”
Churchills also hosts occasional events, among them meetings of smoking clubs based in the area, as well as poker and dart tournaments. All told, it’s an inviting place to come pick up some new cigars, or come in and relax.
“It’s a unique experience,” added Smigiel.
Churchills Cigars and Quality Gifts is located at 8000 Victoria Drive in Victoria, and can be reached by phone at 952-300-8576. For more information, visit www.churchillsqualitycigars.com.
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