What could Winston Churchill, Whoopi Goldberg, Rudyard Kipling, Sigmund Freud, Che Guevara, Mikhail Baryshnikov and King Edward VII possibly have in common?

122309-cigar-guy.jpgA passion for a good smoke. Cigars, that is.

In fact, in choosing Churchill as number one on its list of Top 100 Smokers in its November/December1999 issue, Cigar Afi cionado magazine relates the story that Churchill, who smoked eight to 10 Cuban cigars a day, asked that a special oxygen mask be made that would let him smoke in a nonpressurized cabin during a highaltitude fl ight. Such a mask was created. Who would say no to Churchill? 

Today, despite the pressure of political correctness, potential health risks and upcoming legislation that goes into effect in January in North Carolina banning smoking in nearly all restaurants and bars, cigar lovers may still enjoy the pleasure of their predilection. Private clubs and cigar bars are exempt from the no-smoking restrictions, and Kelly Rosser and his wife Sandy, of Highlander Cigar Co., located at 308A Hay Street, offer cigar smokers of the Fayetteville area not only a selection of fi ne cigars and pipe tobacco, but also opportunities to enjoy them with other enthusiasts in Historic Downtown Fayetteville.

Rosser, formerly with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and now working in Raleigh as a police offi cer, opened his storefront downtown the last weekend in September during the International Folk Festival.

“I started smoking cigars about 10 years ago, and I’ve got a friend who owns a cigar shop in Southport. I plan on retiring from police work in another six or seven years, and I’ve wanted to get into cigars, and he suggested that I go ahead and get my license. Along with the store, over the past six years I’ve been doing cigars at golf courses, restaurants and nightclubs, putting in humidors and going around on my days off and restocking them. And that’s how I got into it, and I guess one of the reasons that we decided to go ahead and do this now instead of waiting until I retire is because in January, the law changes, and that will cost me a lot of my wholesale customers.”

After consulting with his wife and the owner of the previous shop, Necessary Things, Rosser bought the inventory of the convenience store and added the retail option to his own business.

“We’re slowly turning it more from convenience store items to tobacco. We started with the cigar and cigarettes, and now we’ve added pipe tobacco and some chewing tobacco. We’ll start adding accessories, pipes, humidors, lighters, cutters.”

And of course, Rosser offers the Cigar and Pipe Club.

“What we do is have people who want to, come in and give us their e-mail, and we send them e-mails with cigar specials. Every Thursday night, if the weather permits, people come out, and we bring out some extra chairs and talk cigars. We have extended hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and we’re open for First Friday and all the special events downtown.”

“We’d like to expand the customer base over the next couple of years and then fi nd a larger space down here and have a smoking lounge.”

And while cigar smoking is generally associated with men, Rosser acknowledges that his clientele includes “more women than I would have thought.”

“We’re starting to see more women. A young lady stopped by this morning. She’d just started smoking, and she wanted to ask some questions about cigars and lighters. The only difference I see is that they go for a smaller cigar.”

Rosser carries a nice cigar selection that he intends to expand. His best sellers include Rocky Patel, Cohiba, Arturo Fuente and Romeo y Julieta cigars.

“I carry fi ve or six different kinds of the Romeo y Julieta. I also get a lot of requests for Acid cigars (Drew Estate). I would have thought it would have been a 20-something cigar, but all ages come in and ask for them.”

“My favorite all-round cigar is the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series.”

And while no tobacconist today can offer –– or could offer in the past for that matter — the “really good fi ve-cent cigar” Vice President Marshall declared the country needed in the early 1900s, Highlander Cigar Co. does offer custom gift packs, gift sets and accessories perfect for those cigar afi cionados on your holiday shopping list.

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