My job takes me to some unexpected places. Earlier this week my boyfriend and I had passed by Hain’s Pope and Cigar shop on South George Street and he suggested we stop by sometime so he could pick out a late Christmas present for one of his brothers.
“Oh, I’ve been there,” I told him.”They’re really nice.”
I got that questionable look — the kind that silently wants to know what I was doing in an old cigar shop. I had to explain that months ago I was doing a story on bath salts and needed to find someone who sold the item. Hain’s does not. But I managed to get some suggestions for customers inside on where to look.
After that was explained, we decided to go. Thursday afternoon we walked there together and I was once again pleasantly surprised by the aromas that hit me when we stepped inside. I’ve always liked the smell of tobacco The store sells itself as the seventh oldest tobacco shop in the United States, and owner Jesus Castanon, who happened to be out of town when we stopped by, is usually sitting in the front rolling cigars.
A number of recliners and couches fill the front of the store where regulars, mostly older folks, sit with their feet up on the coffee table and slowly smoke a cigar or pipe. We shyly walked to the front and waited for someone from behind the counter to offer their advice on mild to medium cigars that would make a good gift.
A few minutes later, they were ringing up a number of Jesus’ hand-rolled cigars and a special bag that would help keep them fresh until we make the trip to Ohio this weekend.
An older guy — at least older than everyone else in there — was sitting at the counter smoking from a pipe. We asked for a cigar box to store our selection and the man jumped from his seat, stumbled to the display case and pulled out a decorated box.
He pulled out the two cigars that sat in the bottom and threw the box on the counter.
“I’ll pay for these,” he said, holding up the cigars. “Let them keep the box.”
He mentioned the small, wooden box is good for holding jewelry. He keeps giving them away as gifts, but has 60 sitting at home.
When we were ready to leave he tossed the two cigars at us.
“I stopped smoking these a while ago,” he said.