Why did owning a cigar shop appeal to you?
Owning a cigar shop appealed to me at a very young age, at age 20 in fact. Of course, no high schooler or college student dreams of becoming a cigar man, but after working a college gig at the local store in Starkville, MS, I felt a desire to seek out entrepreneurship and give being my own boss a try with one of my best friends, Auston Nolan. In March of 2012, together we created “Cigar Lounge of Starkville” in Starkville, MS. Two years ago I sought to expand and grow into another town and demographic so I drove to Tupelo, found one of the most unique buildings around, and founded “Spring Street Cigars.”
What are your plans for the shop?
On April 21, we will be launching a cigar called the Eiroa “TCB” Lancero- TCB for “Taking Care of Business” coined in honor of Elvis Presley’s band, Tupelo, and our roots here. We will launch an updated SSC website allowing patrons to shop with us any where in the world. We were able, over the past year, to create the largest walk-in humidor in the state of Mississippi, and it’s right here in Tupelo! One project we are in the middle of is installing a gas fireplace in our member’s room. We also plan to begin to rent out and host more birthday, wedding, and business functions as well as actually cater to more weddings. We decided to go ahead and build the Beer Garden on our half in what we call “The Alley” in October with plans to really see it flourish in the spring. Beer Gardens are still a concept growing around the US, but the purpose of beer gardens, and what we envision for the SSC Beer Garden, is to be the perfect before or after dinner spot.
What book has left the biggest mark on your life?
A book I recently read is “Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. It is an amazing writing that awakens your soul and allows you to be encouraged to work on your fears with God and allowed me to learn more about accepting grace. It’s impacted my life individually and hopefully will transfer over to being a young entrepreneur with long hours, demanding responsibilities, and allow me to apply my faith to the store and my business practices.
What is your favorite childhood movie/tv show?
It breaks my heart that he’s no longer around, but Robin Williams in “Patch Adams” is a movie that I could not get enough of even at my age in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It just really had it all, the comedy and the ending of the movie… I think it would get anyone. RIP Robin Williams.
Are Cuban cigars deserving of their reputation?
Of course, this is one of the most discussed, complex, and debated topics in the cigar industry. Firstly, no they are not legal here in the United States. Yes, there are quite a few Cuban cigar smokers out there who love the country’s product, but the beauty of cigars is it is truly an industry that is “to each, his own” since we are all designed with different pallets being attracted to different taste profiles in different cigars. My personal most used analogy is Major League Baseball being created in the 1800’s. The U.S. started the game and helped the sport become a world wide sensation played in almost every country in the world. Arguably, Americans are not the “best” at the game anymore. Some would say multiple Central American countries produce the best baseball players, that countries such as Nicaragua are where the “prodigies” are located, mostly because it is the country’s “national game” of Nicaragua. This is also the case for Cuban cigars.
What does it take to be a local business owner?
I’ll say it takes a lot, and it takes being open-minded. They don’t teach you all of the things that go into running a local business in high school or college. No one really lets you know what 70+ hours a week and little pay looks like. There isn’t a book that lets you read how to handle a difficult situation with a customer or what kind of endurance it takes in hard times. What does it take in my true opinion though? Humility. You can’t teach these things, not truthfully and fully at least. Some say business can be a “science,” but adapting and understanding “I don’t have all of the answers” is character, not science. The store has changed its look, some business models, and ideas several times. Could I have done this all on my own? Absolutely not. It took friends my age and friends twice my number. There’s always someone wiser, but can I accept their council? It took taking advice and accepting hard criticism. It took my pride being stepped on, but with the store’s future in mind. In this town, its honestly about reaching out and receiving. I could not have done what I’ve done without the people in this town and the help from even customers who have become friends and family.
When you aren’t at the cigar shop, what are you doing?
You should know some, if not most, business owners do not have a surplus of this myth they call “free” time. Time outside of the cigar shop will usually be consumed by reading a book, playing guitar or sitting behind the drum set, or catching local music at one of the best venues in Mississippi, Blue Canoe. If miracles happen and there is a full weekend off, my customers know I might drive straight to Chattanooga, TN, for the weekend or I’ll be in the yard at the house with the dogs and church on Sunday.
Photos by Lauren Wood