Cigars on Sixth

[An entry from my old Cigars in Denver blog]

Cigars on Sixth

Cigars on Sixth
707 East 6th Avenue
Denver, CO 80203

[Que the old-west gunslinger movie music] “Weeooo, weeooo. Waaant, waaant, waaa.”

I stepped through the door, stopped, and let my eyes adjust to the darkness inside. Time seemed to stop. All eyes were upon me. The card players stopped playing. Men, involved in conversation, held their words and looked my way. Silence. Smoke hung in the air. The tension rose as everyone in the place seemed to share a single thought, “This man is not one of us. Who the hell is this stranger? And, what the hell does he want?”

I straightened my glasses, nodded and smiled, “Hi. Hiya doin’.”

Critical eyes looked me up and down, evaluating me. Friend or foe?

I stepped forward. The place was a place of beauty. Dark hard woods – well kept – defined the environment. I saw glass-fronted cases filled with all the things I love. Lighters, desktop humidors, cutters, and humidifying devices. This was my kind of place, yet, I felt unwelcome. Unwanted. A bother. But mostly I felt uninitiated. I was an outsider. This was a place for people who knew… the owner, not for ‘foreigners’ like me. If one of the men had spoken, I think he might have said, “We don’t take kindly to foreigners ’round here.”

OK. OK. That bit of hyperbole was fun but let me dispense with the drama and get down to the business of this review:

The first time I walked into Cigars on Sixth I had the distinct impression that it was a place where the locals hang out, and they’re really not very good at welcoming walk-in traffic.

It was 6:00 PM on a Friday in March. I was lucky enough to find a place to park on a side street and walked a block to the store, enjoying a cigar as I went. Surprisingly for such a place, there was no ashtray out front, so I tossed my butt into the gutter. When I walked in, there were about a dozen people sitting on sofas in a lounge area on one side, and a few playing cards around a small table on the other. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at me. I don’t think anyone was exactly scowling at me, but they definitely looked at me with an expression that said, “What the hell is HE doing here?” They looked displeased with my presence.

The store looked fantastic – done-up well in hardwoods and cases full of cigar accessories. The place was simply beautiful, but in the interest in getting down to business and avoiding all the uncomfortable stares from the patrons, I immediately started looking around for the humidor. Once I saw the doorway to the humidor beside the cash register, I headed off in that direction. I was met halfway by the owner who didn’t exactly seem glad to see me, but did offer to assist. He opened the humidor door for me and I walked in to meet a crowd of people inside. OK, it was only 4 people, but in this cramped walk-in humidor it was a crowd. It’s only about the size of the space inside a large sport utility vehicle. There’s an island in the middle which leaves only a small walkway around the perimeter in which to see all the cigar boxes that line the walls and fill the center table. The crowd of 4 people prevented me from moving, but once they dispersed, I got a chance to look around.

This is where it gets good! Here is where Cigars on Sixth really shines.

They have a good selection. And I don’t just mean they have a lot. I mean they have something for everyone. They have some high-end stuff but the best part, in my mind, is that they have plenty, plenty of good cigar brands for around $5.00 or less. Moreover, some enterprising individual took what must have been an enormous amount of time and research to label every single box or display with labels of, “Mild”, “Mild-medium”, “Medium”, “Full-bodied”, etc. For someone like me who loves, and is always interested in trying new mild-to-medium cigars, I was simply astounded! Still-impressive was the fact that everything was clearly labeled with a price. I was beside myself. This is a rarity in Denver – I imagine a rarity anywhere.

I sensed that the owner was watching me like a hawk. (Perhaps, he thought I was a shoplifter despite the fact that I arrived fresh from the office in my business clothes? I don’t know.) After I began filling my hands with singles of things I wanted to try, the owner seemed to relax and stop watching me through the window.

When I emerged from the humidor with a bundle of cigars between my hands, the owner warmed up to me. As he rang me up, we chit-chatted about the bars and restaurants in and around Denver that still allow smoking on their patios. I paid no attention to the regular customers in the store as I browsed their selection of, mostly high-end, accessories before I left.

This week, I went back.

It was a Tuesday about 6:00 PM and I wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable when I walked in as I had been the time before. There were about six patrons sitting on sofas conversing. As soon as I went in, someone (not the owner I’d met before) stood and asked me if I needed help. I told him I was just looking for some smokes and headed for the humidor. He followed me.

Now, as a careful cigar buyer, one of my pet peeves is not being allowed to browse freely in a humidor. Frankly, if I’m permitted walk around a super-market or hardware store without someone on my tail, I should be able to brows a humidor without someone looking over my shoulder every second. When I’m browsing for cigars I want to be left the hell alone to consider, inspect, pick up cigars, put them back, carry them around, and change my mind as I feel fit. It’s a sensory and emotional experience, and I just don’t need all the fucking pressure, OK?

But this guy followed, quizzed me about what I wanted and wouldn’t leave me alone, and that pissed me off. So I asked him if he had Troyas. No. I asked if he had Davidoffs. No. He rambled on about cigar vendors while I tried to look around. Finally I asked him what kind of Punches he had. He showed me. I grabbed two big Corojos and left. $11.00 and I was out the door!

If he had left me alone in the humidor for ten minutes I would, surely, have found many cigar brands I’ve been meaning to try, collected two big hand fulls of cigars, and checked out with about $50 worth of loot. If I haven’t already made my point about allowing customers to be free to browse, that’s the monetary difference between pressuring a customer and leaving him the hell alone to look around.

Overall, I’d recommend Cigars on Sixth to anyone with any budget. They conveniently post their prices for everything in their humidor and go the extra mile by labeling their cigars with their relative strengths. These two features make Cigars on Sixth special among cigar sellers. Their employees do need to learn to leave customers alone to browse in peace, sans-pressure. And, if the owner would only have a talk with his regulars, “Hey, you guys, when someone walks in here you need to smile and wave and say ‘Hi’ or something”, that would go a long way to improving first impressions.

Go to Cigars on Sixth with a $20 dollar bill in your pocket and walk out with 4 cigars that you’ve never tried before that suit your strength tastes. But leave your gun belt at home. It’ll only get you shot.

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