Going to "Cigar School"

A couple weeks back I noticed that a HUGE local tourist trap called JR's was opening something called a Cigar Annex near their main building. We've been traveling the 30 miles or so to JR's for years as they have a massive walk-in humidor with great prices. And when I say massive, I mean they have a humidor about the size of two of your local TGI Fridays! Anyway, the new annex wasn't opened for business yet, so today I thought I'd check their web site to see when it was opening. Much to my surprise they are having a Cigar School on Sunday night! I attended this a few years back at the Statesville, NC store and had a ball, so after some slight cajoling my Bro-in-law will be joining me. I'll give you a complete report as soon as I air-off enough for my bride to let me near the computer.

(Two days later)
What a fun evening! We arrived 45 minutes early so we could wander through the cigar store prior to heading to the new Cigar Annex. One of my son's and my favorite spots in the store is the smoking lounge at the back of the cigar store. They have an overstuffed leather couch and several leather chairs circling a large glass-topped coffee table. Around this space are smoking books and magazines of all kinds, and there's always someone who is relaxing with a good cigar or pipe, ready for a pleasant conversation. At this point we still haven't seen the inside of the Annex, but our minds were picturing more of the same.

5:00 was approaching so we left the main store and walked across the parking lot to the Annex. We stood outside for a few minutes thinking we were still too early, but then we noticed that the automatic sliding glass door was opening. The windows are very dark, and the interior lighting was low, so it looked closed, but inside were a few "Sooners" and the Trainers for the evening: Steve, Jackie and Brandon.

Steve was familiar, and as the evening went on I realized that he was present at the previous class I attend years ago in Statesville. Based out of New Jersey, Steve is JR's full-time Corporate Trainer. We really enjoyed his analogies and humorous take on the topics. He was getting over pnumonia, and I was pleased to see that in lieu of a strong cigar that he was smoking a Missouri Meerschaum pipe!

Kackie is another familiar face that we see almost every time we visit JR's. It took us a few visits before we got past our prejudices about how a woman could possibly know anything about cigars, we're happy to she that she's in when we visit. She brought a ton to the evening and I wouldn't mind attending an event with just her at the helm.

Brandon rounded out the crew, and while originally dismissed him as the "young clerk", he really is on his game when it comes to his cigar facts. Every time someone had a question like "Who rolls that cigar" or "when did that particular shape come to market" he had the answer. He spotlighted cigar storage during our session and had some interesting tips on humidification.

As a Trainer myself I would suggest a few changes:
The chairs sucked. As I mentioned, we were looking forward to the casual lounge-like environment touted on the Annex web site, and based on our past experience in the lounge. We hope that JR's is planning an upgrade, and seeing that we are in the center of the Furniture industry in the US, they should be able to solve this.

If they are going to do PowerPoint presentations in the future they've got to invest in a screen to project it on. Anything would be better than an un-ironed, creased bed sheet! Tiger Direst has one of $99 that would do just fine.

There was FREE SWAG included: We were given two nice cigars; an H. Upman and a JR's Ultimate. Both were excellent. We also received a new cutter and a mysterious attache. Why is it mysterious? Because it wasn't branded with a cigar brand, or even the JR logo; it wasn't designed for carrying cigars, and really it didn't make sense. I mean, I'm not one to turn down free SWAG, but it just didn't quite fit.

The thing that we found the most odd was the fact that when the session was over and we exited the Annex (7:10) the main store was closed! Had we wanted to put our new-found knowledge to immediate use (and we did) they should have had the store open for business. Better yet, why not have the class exit the Annex and travel to the store for the last 1/2 hour of the class? They could have walked us past some of the brands we talked about in the class and they could have pointed out some of the special shapes (such as figurados). Even better yet, how about a quick walk through the warehouse? I've been to four of the seven JR's and all of them claim to have the World's Largest Humidor. I asked them to settle it once and for all, which location had the largest humidor and they said that the Burlington Distribution Center was the warehouse for all the locations, and that half of the building was a humidor! The photo shows JR's location. The red lines outline the big store, with the balance of the building being the humidified warehouse! Yeah, I'd say that's big. (That's what she said.) The green outline is the location of the Annex.

Anyway, a tour that ended-up in the Cigar Store would have made sense, and I for one was planning on dropping some cash. Because we live several towns away it's not like I can drop by at any time.

If a JR's is in your town, or on your way to your next vacation spot, I encourage you to drop by their web site to see when the next Cigar School is planned and get into it. If the Burlington JR evenr expands this to include a DC tour I'll be sure to attend.

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