Local Spotlight…Main Street News, Doylestown, Pa

Today we have an interview with Jeff Brandt of Main Street News in historical Doylestown, Pa. This is exactly the type of thing this blog was built for and I am happy to offer a platform to small shop owners, brands, etc and help get the word out. Thanks Jeff for doing this.
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When did you first get into cigars?
-I smoked cigars since age 18, but got really serious about it 10 years ago, as a consumer. About 5 years ago I took a part time gig at a cigar shop and worked there about 3 years while waiting for my current store to become available. My shop Main Street News opened March of 2016.
What is it about cigars that you enjoy the most?
– I love the fact that the premium cigar is hand made. I also admire the tradition and integrity that is passed down from generation to generation.
What made you decide to open your own shop?
– I opened my Newsstand because I saw an opportunity for a business that was needed in my town. The cigars weren’t part of the original plan. It wasn’t until I started the planning and the layout of the news stand that I realized I should sell cigars, and it would fit just perfect. Not to mention I had some outside pressure from my friends to sell cigars.
So tell us a little about your shop.
– Main Street News is a small news & smoke shop in the historical town of Doylestown, Pa. My location housed a local newspaper and news stand in 1804, and continued up into the late 1800’s.
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What’s the best part of being a shop owner?
– The best part about being a shop owner is meeting new people all the time. It doesn’t feel like work when your suggesting great cigars for people, and having them return with their great experience on your recommendation. Its awful satisfying.
What are some of your favorite cigars?
-I like a med-full blend the best. In a Maduro or San Andres wrapper. Some of my favorites come out of Dominican Big Leaguer factory. I also like the Jenneff Session II Maduro. That cigar is blended by Consuelo Gomez, remember her because she is doing great things with tobacco. Hamlet Parades is another guy I really like. He works under the Tavicusa umbrella which is owned by Rocky Patel. Flat Bed Cigars is another brand I like. They produce a killer San Andres cigar named Billboard, and a great PA Broadleaf.
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Is there anyone in the industry that you look up to or admire? If so who and why?
– I admire the smaller, farmer who starts with a seed and ends with a finished product. Those are the people I admire. Anybody can buy a cigar and slap their name on it. But the person who spends years cultivating and planting tobacco, then blending and aging leaf is the real superstar of the industry. Like Carlos Carlito Fuente Jr., Don Peppin, and Jorge Padron, to name a few. But if I had to pick one that I really admire it would be Francisco Almonte, of Dominican Big Leaguer. He is the grower, blender, and roller and is doing great stuff with tobacco. His sticks were the first to grace my humidor, and he was the first to come see me, and I felt a connection with him and could see he is a young and ambitious business man and I wanted to grow with him. He really helped me get going in the beginning with product, and he took a chance on me. Maybe because he saw i shared the same passion and dedication in cigars as he did.
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What are some of the brands available in your shop?
– I don’t limit myself to any particular  brand or labels. I like what I like, and I carry such that, and anything my customers ask for.
Do you ship?
– I started to dabble in the shipping of cigars, and it wasn’t because I was looking to do so. It started out because a few folks reading my reviews on our Face Book page, and stuff I shared in the different groups I belong to such as, smoke filled room, the cigar corner, dark side of the leaf, to name a few. Anybody can message me thru the Main Street News, Doylestown Face Book page, or by email Smokejmb@yahoo.com
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Local Spotlight. Ford on Fifth, Scottsdale, AZ.

I am very happy to introduce my first local cigar lounge spotlight feature. This is something that I have wanted to do for some time and it is finally starting to come together. Local shops are the heart of the industry and are so vital to the cigar community. I try to visit local shops every time I go to a new place. When I travel for work I have found some great shops that I visit almost every chance I get. You get the opportunity to talk with new people, try new sticks you may not find at your local shop, and just take in the experience in a new environment. There are some places that I go just to escape and enjoy some quiet time and I know what shops offer me that chance. Others I know it’s going to be a large group of regulars and the conversations will range greatly. It all depends on the mood. One thing you will always find in any lounge, is like minded people wanting to hang out and enjoy that one equalizer, quality cigars. No matter what your background, social status, income, ethnicity, religious belief, sexuality, etc. once you step into a lounge and light up a smoke, I have found that all the rest simply does not matter. I have seen it, said it and heard it so many times “If the world was a cigar lounge, it would be a beautiful place”. There is so much truth to that statement. Have you ever seen the need for bouncers in a cigar lounge? I haven’t. Why? Because it’s just not that type of environment. I have had total strangers give me some great cigars, I have given cigars to total strangers, and made total strangers friends. This is why I love this community and being involved, if only a very small part, and doing things like this is my small contribution and a way to give back.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days down in Phoenix, Az and from the minute I knew I was going, I started making plans to visit Ford on Fifth. Anthony and Melanie Cantelmo are well known throughout the cigar industry and Anthony recently took over Ford on Fifth. If you are not familiar with them, follow them both on Instagram and Twitter. Unfortunately, Anthony and I’s schedules just didn’t match up and we did not get the opportunity to sit down, have some sticks and do the interview but we still managed to make it happen.

So here we go. A few questions with Anthony Cantelmo of Ford on Fifth.

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 When did you personally get into cigars?

I smoked my first cigar on my 18th Birthday, back in 2000, and have been part of the industry ever since. My first job in the industry was in 2006, I started as a retail night guy at my local B&M.

 What is it about cigars that you enjoy the most?
I love the aroma, the flavor, and the craftsmanship of cigars, but to be honest it’s the camaraderie that I really love about cigars. The friends and people I have met, because of my love of the leaf has been a fantastic journey. I think there is such a richness in conversation that generally happens when people sit down and unwind with a good cigar.
How long have you been involved in the industry?

I have been involved since 2006. In the beginning I was a teacher, so it was only as part time work that I participated in the retail side, but in 2010 I transitioned full time and also ran a news blog for the industry too. In late 2012 I started my first position as a rep for the manufacturer’s with La Flor Dominicana and worked with them plus a couple others until November of 2016 when the shop opportunity presented itself.

 What made you decide to open your own shop?

I think for me it’s always been a dream to do it, but it wasn’t something I was actively pursuing. To be honest I was content with my sales brokerage and doing well in that field. The shop opportunity fell into my lap though and it was too good not to go after it. The life balance it provides for me and my family is priceless and it’s great to be part of a shop community again.

 Tell us about your shop.

Our shop is a fantastic small retail spot in the middle of historic downtown Old Scottsdale in AZ. One of the most unique aspects of our shop is that it’s the oldest shop in AZ for tobacco. It was founded in 1958. Our philosophy is “a new tradition” which embraces the past, but also looks forward to modernizing some elements and building our community.

 What’s the best part about being a shop owner?

Being part of the community is my greatest joy. Our shop is truly a “Cheers” environment where everyone know’s your name. I always tell people how thankful I am for our community and the great guys that we have. Nothing is better than that!

 What are some of your favorite cigars?
My favorites are always changing, but some of my current favorites are Villa Sombra by Warped, Muestra de Saka by Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, La Rosa by HVC, and Bishop’s Blend by Black Label Trading Company.
 What’s it like having a spouse that is so recognized throughout the industry?

It’s great to have a spouse in the industry because you have a common ground when you talk about the in’s and out’s of the business. From a notoriety stand point it’s has its up’s-and-downs, but the best part is having a voice and reach when we want to talk about or share information about our business. My goal is to have a global community with our BOTL’s and SOTL’s for our shop and Mel is a large part of that.

Anything else you want to add.

We Ship to Canada and Australia right now, and have a website that we are constantly working on at www.fordonfifth.com

 

I want to thank Anthony for taking the time to work with me on this and I want to thank Ben for helping me when I stopped in and hooking me up with some great sticks. If you are in the Phoenix, Scottsdale area, do yourself a favor and stop in. They are in a great area with a lot of shopping all within walking distance so if your spouse doesn’t want to hang out, there is plenty for them to do.

Check out some of the great specials they have available online right now also. Be sure to follow them on social media as they are doing some outstanding giveaways as well.

I hope you enjoyed this piece. If you have a local shop that you visit that you would like me to feature, drop me a comment and let me know. There are many great shops out there and we really need to give them some support. I will always make it a point to support them here.

Until next time everyone, long ashes and full glasses friends. If you stop in at Ford on Fifth, tell them you read about them here. Thanks in advance!

Mixing pleasure with business…Arizona

So I had the opportunity this week to travel to Phoenix/Scottsdale to speak and be part of a panel at a work conference. It was a really nice honor to be selected and after a long day of travel, I arrived in paradise. I was fortunate enough for my wife to travel and meet me there and combine some vacation days in after the conference. Coming from Pa and getting to Az after the cold we have been having was certainly a blessing. Being from the south, I am a lot more partial to warm than cold.

I arrived at the airport Tuesday (3 hour time difference made for a long day) and my wife instructed me to meet her at the rental car center. Off to the shuttle I go to arrive to a bright red, Camaro convertible SS with 4k miles! Now I would never own this car, but as a rental for the week in the desert, oh hell yes I will! Off to the JW Marriot to check into our room. This place is simply majestic. Set at the foot of the mountains, this is an oasis of scenery and upscale living. This was proven later with the clientele for the restaurant and seeing the exotic car show in the parking lot. Super friendly staff, super clean and the food was great.

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Being a cigar guy obviously high on my priority of things to see and do was to visit local shops. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t work out exactly like I planned but…I did bring cigars and I did get to visit 2 local spots. Smoke and Joe (cigars and coffee, well done) and Ford on Fifth. For those of you that are on Instagram and Twitter you probably know FTB_Melanie and FTB_Anthony Cantelmo, Ford on Fifth is their shop. More to come on that.

After a successful conference on Wed and a wonderful fully catered dinner in the garden, I found a fellow cigar aficionado and he presented me with the offer of, you bring the cigars and I will buy the drinks. You sir have a deal! I enjoyed a Padron 1926 Maduro and a nice bourbon and he a Balmoral Anejo XO and scotch. After trying the Lagavulin he was having, I decided I needed to have some of that as well. That was my first time with that and I was not disappointed. Super smokey and a great pairing with the Padron I was having.

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Thursday was an early start and 5 hour drive up to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ. WOW! I can’t begin to describe in words how breathtaking the scenery was there. Pics are nice but can’t even come close to the real life experience. After a long day of hiking, tours and moments of deep thought, we drove the 5 hours back, convertible top down, music cranked and cruising through some beautiful desert landscape.

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Friday was open to whatever so we went to some local spots to sight-see and do the tourist thing. As we were driving, my wonderful wife noticed Smoke and Joe and asked if I wanted to stop, I almost flipped the car doing a u turn to get there. Lol. Ok Not really but yes I did indeed want to stop. What a cool place. I should have gotten pictures but with jet lagged, time change, busy schedule and overall drag assing that was going on, I just wanted to smoke. My wife was kind enough to replace my Padron 1926 Maduro and bought me 2 house blends and the Full Metal Jacket cigar. Got to love it when the wife takes such great care of you! We sat outside and I enjoyed a L’atelier Limited Edition while talking with the owner for a few minutes. He is a pilot with Southwest and opened the cigar lounge. Nice selection, the lady at the counter was super friendly, the private lounge seemed very nice and the coffee bar was a nice touch.

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After that nice break, it was off to do some more sightseeing and photos. We found ourselves near Ford on Fifth so I decided to stop in and see if Anthony was around. He was not so I was a little bummed about that but no fear, the guy working at the time (I did not catch his name) was more than helpful in pointing me to the long time eluded Deliverance Nocturne that I have been searching for. Score! I picked up some of those and a Mi Querida from Steve Saka and Dunbarton Tobacco. Steve was there on Tuesday night and unfortunately I missed him. I hoped to make it back later that evening to have a smoke but that didn’t play out. Ford on Fifth has some history behind it and has a small lounge and a nice humidor with a nice selection and a outdoor sitting area in the front.

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We headed out to our next adventure which was a sunset electric bike tour through the desert. What a cool concept and oh what a trip! The trails were a fun challenge, the views were terrific, the knowledge about the plants, desert, area etc was super interesting. A side from a brief encounter with a very large and very pissed off rattlesnake, we had a great trip. I highly recommend taking the tour if you ever visit. Hit me up and I will get you the info. Our tour guide was great and did a great job of getting video and photos on top of a great tour.

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We tried out a place called the Wild Thaiger we saw on Diners, Drivein’s and Dives for dinner. Very good Thai food and worth checking out. After a full week and an early start on Saturday of travel, sadly it was time to put Az behind us for now.

I say for now because my wife and I truly fell in love with the state. It is certainly on the top of our list for places to move. If I can make that work in the future, I certainly will do so. Until then, we will have to rely on photos and memories. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it. I know this isn’t that much about cigars but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Feel free to drop comments or suggestions.

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Road trip…Nashville and Louisville

So Monday we returned home from a 1700 + mile road trip from Pa, to Nashville, Louisville and back with a stop at the legendary Leaf and Bean in Pittsburg. It was a quick trip but it was packed with things to do. After working all day Thursday we finally hit the road around 6 pm and drove all night and arrived in Nashville around 7 am. Just in time for breakfast and then a stop off at Crowned Heads headquarters to meet Jon Huber. Because of scheduling we couldn’t hang out for long but it was nice to finally meet the man behind some of my favorite cigars. I was able to score a new hoodie and a couple of great samplers! Next was a stop off at Smokers Abby to pick up some Crowned Heads Tennessee Waltz (FINALLY!!!!), the new Oscar Habano, and a couple of Viaje Honey and Hand Grenades. This is a great local shop with mainly boutique brands, a nice humidor and lounge. I highly recommend stopping in if you are in the area. After that it was full blown tourist mode. The Johnny Cash museum, all the bars and stores on Broadway, The Ryman Auditorium (incredible amount of history in that place and we also got to attend The Grand Ole Opry in the Ryman which was awesome), local bus tour of the area, Music Row and more. We found another local lounge called Primings Cigar Bar and Lounge. Another nice humidor, the best Old Fashion I have ever had, great bar, super friendly and attentive staff and a really nice house blend cigar. If you have never been to Nashville and you like country music or history I recommend taking a trip. I am not a new country music fan, personally I think this new bro country garbage has ruined the genre. I think much of the “talent” shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breathe as the true legends of the music. Moving on…

The Tennessee Waltz is a cigar that was made by Crowned Heads and sells exclusively in the companies home state (some online retailers do have them). If it reminds you of another cigar, it’s for good reason. Made in the My Father’s Cigar factory this cigar is 5 1/2 X 52 with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers.

Right off the bat this cigar smells of barnyard (hay) with notes of cocoa and pepper. It is a very rustic looking stick with a dark brown color with lots of veins and the orange ribbon on the foot. As I light it, first with a match and then touched up with a dual torch, I am met with black pepper and a woodsy cedar (maybe) with some leather and nuts. As I moved towards the second third, the spice leveled off because of the sweet cocoa that appeared.

Into the second third and it moves into a cocoa and nuttiness.There is still some spice but its a nice combination. It isn’t super complex but the blend is very nice. The draw, ash, and smoke production are still great.

As I move into the final third, the spice makes a comeback but the woodsy, leather, earthy notes even it out nicely to finish out this cigar. It remains a solid medium bodied smoke for me. I have read reviews that stated it became tart or bitter into the last third. I did not experience that with this one.

Overall the Tennessee Waltz was a solid medium bodied, flavorful cigar with great construction, even burn, perfect draw, not super complex but consistent throughout the entire smoke. I enjoyed this cigar a lot and would recommend it to anyone. For me, it is a box worthy cigar and I will certainly smoke it again. Total time was right at 1 hour 40 minutes.

After Nashville we took the 2 hour drive to Louisville and stopped in at Four Roses Bourbon distillery for a tour and tasting and then over to Woodford Reserve for another tasting (we got there too late to tour). The next morning I realized that our hotel was literally a couple blocks from Angel’s Envy bourbon so we had to stop in. They recently re-opened their distillery and we didn’t have reservations for the tour but still scored a nice bottle and shirt. Overall I would say it was a busy, but very nice getaway. It helps that I came home with new cigars and 3 bottles of really nice bourbon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review. Please drop your comments and reviews here. Take a few minutes and click on the links below.

Up next, the Oscar goes to….. Check back and find out.

Peace!

Please visit: http://www.crownedheads.com/cigars/

http://smokersabbey.squarespace.com/

http://www.primingscigar.com/

 

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