SUDBURY - It's never just a cigar at Victory Cigar Bar in Sudbury where patrons may linger in a walk-in humidor where they can choose from a selection of 350 hand-rolled beauties and then sink into a leather sofa and enjoy a cocktail and a smoke.
Victory Cigar Bar celebrated its first anniversary under new ownership in April, and according to partners Gino Allia and Bob MacDonald, business has grown about 40 percent in the past year.
The store boasts the biggest walk-in humidor west of Boston, and while other storeowners keep their cigars under lock and key, Victory Cigar Bar believes selecting the right cigar is a hands-on experience that should be savored.
"We're not over-the shoulder guys, we wait until they want our help," said Allia, a Framingham resident. "We want you to relax."
"Our customers are pretty educated. They know what they like. One of the compliments we've heard is that the cigar selection has gone up since we've taken over," said MacDonald, a Sudbury resident. "We have a lot of customers who call and request us to order a certain cigar for them. We've probably doubled the capacity of that humidor in the past year."
Allia and MacDonald know their cigars.
Whether a customer is a Montecristo or a Perdomo kind of guy the partners know just the right cigar to recommend, especially if he wants to try something new.
"We've probably smoked every cigar in our humidor," said Allia. "We have hard-to-find cigars like Ashton VSG. Those are the cigars they have on allocation, salesmen only have x amount of cigars to give out each month, but I have Padron 1926 series, 1964 series and 40th and 80th anniversary series, all very hard to get. I even have salesmen coming up to me and saying of the 80th anniversary, How did you get these?'"
Cigars, all hand-rolled, range in price from $3 to $35 with the average cigar priced about $8. The store carries many of the cigars listed in Cigar Aficionado including the magazine's number one choice the Padron 1926 #9.
They also sell a full line of cigar accessories, and with Father's Day coming up, cigars and gift certificates are hot items.
"Fathers appreciate getting a quality cigar instead of a tie," said MacDonald.
The sweet, earthy aroma of fine cigars is the first sensory impression upon entering the cigar emporium at 615 Boston Post Road. Next is the visual effect of vintage photographs on brown walls that draw patrons past the walk-in humidor stocked floor-to-ceiling with cigars and into a cozy bar with deep-cushioned leather sofas and chairs.
"We have a lot of retail business, and we've had people come in and not realize we have a bar back here," said MacDonald. "We're a haven for a lot of guys who tell us their wives don't like them smoking in the house. And in the winter it's too cold to go out and smoke on their deck."
Once settled in the clubby, low-lit lounge customers feel right at home. Soft music or four plasma TVs, tuned to financial programs, news or sports, don't intrude on conversation, a business meeting or a patron checking e-mail via the bar's complimentary Wi-Fi.
An air purification system pulls out the smoke and brings in fresh air.
"We get a real big crowd here in the 4 to 6 p.m. time frame, and we get a lot of women in here too," said MacDonald. "Our staff is friendly, knowledgeable and attentive."
While there is a regular crowd, the bar's intimate atmosphere promotes a warm welcome to newcomers.
"We have new people coming in all the time. The whole group embraces you," said Allia who pulls customers from as far as Hamilton and Dover as well as the closer MetroWest suburbs. "It's just a relaxing atmosphere. No loud music, good conversation. We just want people to come in and enjoy themselves."
The age mix is broad too, said Allia, "going all the way from 21 to 75."
In the summer there is seating for 20 on an outdoor patio.
Allia and MacDonald have stocked the bar with a wide range of single malt scotches and fine vodkas and bourbons as well as 40 brands of beer.
The store sponsors monthly events from cigar promotions to scotch tastings as well as private events. There are also regular jazz nights.
Friends from their childhood days in Waltham, Allia and MacDonald had talked about going into business for several years. Allia has 20 years in the restaurant business, while MacDonald's background is in sales.
They've both smoked cigars for years, so when they saw that Victory Cigar Bar was on the market a year ago they jumped at the chance to buy the business.
"The common thing in both our backgrounds was service," said MacDonald. "People like to know the owners take pride in their business and are here, and one of us is always here.
It was also an incredible year to have a bar in Boston, said MacDonald, with so many hometown teams drawing a large group of regular fans to watch games on the bar's four plasma TVs.
"It's fun being here. It's not your typical bar - we haven't had one incident," added MacDonald. "There are nights when we struggle to get people out of here."
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Source: Sudbury Town Crier