To quoth the great fictional character Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." We all recognize the truth in the statement immediately, although in our modern age, it is a notion hard to put into practice. Now, more than ever, our minds, emotions, energies, and schedules are tapped to the max, moving at an ever increasing rate of speed. We sometimes pause for the briefest of moments and wonder where it has all gone.
Paducah's Joaquin Hilton and Kip Kessler aren't buying into the myth that stopping to enjoy some of life's moments is counter productive. In fact, they've made it their business to construct pauses … deep breath moments designed to refresh, relax, and revive. Welcome to the Paducah Cigar Company.
"For me, it started on a trip with my dad to Hong Kong," says Joaquin. "We were in this beautiful cafe overlooking a mountain. The server comes over with cigars, Cuban Montecristo Torpedos. It was quite a powerful cigar, but between that and the ambience, it was a beautifully rich moment. " Joaquin then learned one of the secrets behind enjoying a good cigar.
"Experience is everything. You relax. You forget the rest of the world and take a true time out. From then on, I had the dream of opening a cigar shop."
On a recent trip to St. Louis, Joaquin and his friend Kip began to think seriously about bringing the cigar experience to Paducah. "It really surfaced when we went there for Joaquin's bachelor party," says Kip. "We went to a place where you could relax, hang out, and enjoy a good cigar. It didn't take long after we came back to decide to put this together."
The duo went to work, crafting a space that nurtured the perfect aura. "Yes, we sell cigars and tobacco products," says Joaquin. "But more than that, we provide a getaway. There are some great, public places in Paducah. But sometimes you just want to get away to a spot that isn't loud or crowded. Here, you can kick back on the leather couches and let go for a bit."
The Paducah Cigar Company offers the full experience via memberships where patrons can utilize their space, humidors, and make the member's section their own for a surprisingly modest rate. Members can store their cigars, get great deals on cigars in the store, enjoy the large screen TV for sporting and special events, and more. "We see them slipping down here during lunch from time to time," adds Joaquin, "or enjoying a football game or even having a meeting here."
"It all stems from what we like," adds Kip. "Everyone desires that private time, that time to relax. We just don't often follow through. The Paducah Cigar Company offers a world where one can get away and relax. Like Joaquin, I saw my dad stop and smoke occasionally as part of a way to relax. I set my house up in a way that I could have a dark, quiet place to relax, enjoy a cigar, and sip bourbon. That's the kind of atmosphere we have created here."
The duo invested in a console record player from Comfort Zone and had it restored by Allen Music. A stock of vinyl records gives patrons options when crafting a soundtrack. Today, the rich tones of Frank Sinatra gently rise and fall through the wafts of white smoke that dance from lit cigars before gently floating away into the ether. Even the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling were carefully chosen.
"We wanted this to feel very natural, all the way down to the smallest of touches," says Kip. "We even tested different light bulbs until we found the right wattage and style that was the perfect match. We settled on the exposed-filament look to add to the retro feel."
At the center of the experience is the cigar. "We know it can be intimidating if you don't know anything about them," says Joaquin, "but it is not hard to learn. There are plenty of varieties, some perfect for beginners. The best comparison to enjoying a cigar is enjoying wine. It takes time and dabbling in them to learn the differences. But the main thing to remember is that you can't rush it. There are different gauges of cigars based on how long you want to smoke. They can range from a half-an-hour to ninety minutes."
For those who want to try something lighter, The Paducah Cigar Company also offers hookah sessions. "These are pretty popular among the younger crowd, and it is a great, shared experience," says Joaquin. "The tobacco is flavored, and we have things like Cuban Mojito, Cherry, Pina Colada, and even one called The Incredible Hulk. Some say it is like smoking a lollipop!"
With hookah, the tobacco is kept moist. It is then placed in the hookah pipe just below a small, burning coal. The tobacco smolders and doesn't burn directly, producing a much smoother smoke. With each draw, the smoke passes over a reservoir of water, cooling it. The result is a cleaner feeling smoke and flavors that are retained and not burnt away by direct flame. Hookah sessions are available to everyone.
Joaquin and Kip are happy to bring the store and the experience to downtown Paducah. After hours of hard work creating a space that is authentic and natural, they sit back on the couch, light up, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
They are living what Raul Julia once said in regards to enjoying a good cigar: "Maybe it's like becoming one with the cigar. You lose yourself in it; everything fades away: your worries, your problems, your thoughts. They fade into the smoke, and the cigar and you are at peace."