New W.Va. club is smokin'

Cigar workshop gives public a chance to experience ambience

Cigar workshop gives public a chance to experience ambience

May 03, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -Previously, if Bob Palmer wanted to smoke a cigar in the comfort of his home during the winter, he had to set up a kerosene heater in the garage.

His wife doesn't like the smell, says Palmer, 50, of Martinsburg.

Now, all he has to do is grab a key and head to the Churchill Society, a private cigar smoking club where members have 24-7 access to rooms filled with leather chairs, original paintings and handmade wooden lockers to store cigars.

"The club is more than just an ability to smoke a cigar," says Palmer, 50, as he puffs on a cigar at King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium, the Churchill Society's downstairs neighbor. "There's a camaraderie there. It's a social event, beyond just the smoking."

On Thursday, the Churchill Society will open its doors to the public. The private club will host a free, cigar-tasting workshop led by Jose Blanco, a master blender for Dominican Republic-based La Aurora cigar factory.


Charter member Ed Trout says the event will be like a wine tasting. "But for cigars," says Trout, who owns King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium in downtown Martinsburg.

The idea is to give cigar lovers a deeper appreciation for the cigars they smoke and introduce the club to the public.

"With cigarettes, it seems like you're always on the go - rush, rush, rush," Trout says. "With a cigar or pipe, it's a very relaxing type of thing, to just sit down and take 20 to 30 minutes of your day and relax with it."

For a monthly fee, members of the Churchill Society get a key to the club, which they can access whenever they want. They have to get permission and pay extra to bring a guest.

The club is now 35 members strong, says charter member Bill Orlando.

Orlando, 57, of Martinsburg, led The Herald-Mail on a quick tour of the club, taking the reporter first to the sitting room. The bedroom-size quarter had dark, hardwood floors, chocolate brown leather chairs and original paintings - mostly of female subjects - created by a local artist.

"We'll eventually get XM radio, a little music in here," Orlando says.

The paintings of women, some showing skin in an artful way, gave the impression of a guys-only sort of place. Orlando says the guys-only impression is a wrong one. His wife is a cigar smoker.

"Women can join," Orlando says. "We have two that are ready to join."

But are there women in the club?

"Not yet, but we are hoping to get some," Orlando says.

According to club charter members, the Churchill Society wasn't born out of a need to create some sort of man zone. The society was created by 15 cigar smokers a little more than a year ago partly due to public anti-smoking laws.

"You can't smoke cigars anywhere anymore," Trout says.

Even if it were easier to smoke in public, Trout, 37, of Martinsburg, admits that not everyone has an appreciation for the sweet-but-burnt smell of cigar smoke. In fact, he doesn't smoke cigars in his own house because of the smell.

If you can't - or choose not to - smoke cigars at home, you aren't left with many options. And smokers like Orlando who do puff at home say they still have a need to smoke cigars with others.

Which leads us to the other reason for the club: It's an excuse to hang out. No more smoking in the garage with a kerosene heater as your company.

"There's a lot of friendships - it's a very social thing," Trout says. "There's a bond with cigar smokers as there would be with someone else, maybe, fishermen, hunters. It's a very close-knit group."

If you go ...

WHAT: Cigar-tasting workshop, hosted by Jose Blanco, a master blender for Dominican Republic-based La Aurora cigar factory

WHEN: 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 7

WHERE: Churchill Society and the King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium, 320 W. King St., downtown Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Free

MORE: Participation is limited to 25 people, so you must contact club member Ed Trout ahead of time. Call King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium 304-264-9130.

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