REDONDO BEACH, CA - For many years, Sam Hanna and his brother Bassam owned a grocery store in Hawthorne.
One day at a wedding, Sam Hanna was offered a cigar. He accepted, tried it and liked it. The Redondo Beach resident started smoking a cigar once every couple of weeks. Then it became a daily habit.
Today, cigars are their livelihood. The Hannas sold their grocery store and now own two cigar shops, Redondo Tobacco & Cigars in Redondo Beach and Crown Tobacco in Torrance. Sam Hanna, 38, said the cigar business is much more satisfying.
What does your job entail?
We sample cigars. This is the fun part. We sample every cigar that comes through. We buy cigars and find deals. And we sell to the public.
What's your favorite cigar?
There's a lot. La Gloria Cubana cigars is one of my favorites. I like all types. La Gloria Cubanas are regarded as more towards heavy. They have an earthy taste to it and you feel nutty flavors. They're good cigars.
Are you worried about the health effects of smoking?
When it's your time, it's your time. For me, it's the best thing for stress. You just go out for a couple of hours and relax.
How long does it take to smoke a cigar?
The big La Glorias can take about an hour and 15 minutes to smoke.
Do you smoke cigarettes?
No, cigars only. It's not like cigarettes, where you can take a few puffs and throw it away. With cigars, you have to slow down and maybe take a cup of coffee. It's a stress reliever because it makes you slow down. With cigars, you actually have to sit down and enjoy it. You can't rush through it. Otherwise, you're wasting it.
Do you sell many pipes?
It's slowly fading. It's not what it used to be. Very few younger people smoke it.
Are there special guidelines for storing cigars?
Cigars have to be at about 72 degrees and 68 percent to 72 percent humidity to keep it fresh.
Is aging good for cigars?
We have people who age cigars for years and years and years. It's like wine. The more you age them, the better. Cigars have oils, and the longer you age them, the oil isn't as potent. And it becomes a smoother cigar. So when you're talking about expensive cigars, the tobacco is aged for months and months so there's no biting taste. It's an art.
How does the origin of the tobacco affect the cigar's taste?
If you want a strong blend, you go with Nicaraguan, you go with Ecuadoran. Cuba has the best tobacco. There's something about the land and the sea breeze.
What's the best part of your job?
Talking cigars with people when they come here.
What's the worst part?
The regulations now with this negative thing with cigars and smoking in general.
Has this affected your business?
What are your best-selling items?
Cigarettes. We still tend to be a little bit cheaper than the big stores. What we make the most (profit) from is cigars and accessories like lighters.
Do you ever roll your own cigars?
No. We have a lady who rolls cigars for us. She comes here every couple of months and shows the customers how to roll cigars.
How much do your cigars cost?
It varies. The La Gloria cigars, we sell the big one for $10. You can get decent cigars for $2 a pop. The most expensive I sell are for $20.
Has anyone ever asked you for a foot-long cigar?
Oh, yeah. I got three of them. One of them is about 17 inches. It's more of a gag thing. They're very hard to make.
Do you have any funny stories you can share?
One time, we had a lady who came in with three other girls. And they were going to a strip show. And part of their show was cigars. So they bought from us cigars. She said, "Do we get a discount for pretty ladies?" We said OK. We gave them a discount.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Source: DAILY BREEZE