Despite a new smoking ban that goes in effect for most public places Jan. 1, smokers looking for somewhere to puff away in Columbia County will have at least one option.
Russell Wilder is the owner of Top Shelf Cigar & Tobacco Shoppe, which opened recently in Evans Towne Centre near Publix. He says he believes the smoking ban in most public places in Columbia County will be a boost for business. Patrons can smoke their favorite cigars in the shop.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"This is a store for a cigar community to talk cigars, politics or sports," said Russell Wilder, the owner of the new business Top Shelf Cigar & Tobacco Shoppe.
Wilder said customers are allowed to smoke their favorite brand while relaxing in a secluded room with leather interior and a television.
"This shop provides an atmosphere and owner that is a friend to them.''
In order to maintain a friendly atmosphere, Wilder said, he asks customers to become a member of his e-mail club.
"If a customer tells me what they like, then they'll get a free cigar on their birthday," he said. "I'll also tell them when their favorite cigar is on sale."
Items such as imported cigars, cigarettes, smoking tobacco, humidors, Zippo lighters, cigar boxes and pipes are some of the items sold at the shop, which opened Aug. 7 in the 4000 block of Washington Road in Evans at the Publix shopping center.
"I just felt like there needed to be one here," Wilder said about why he opened the business. "There isn't a tobacco shop in Columbia County. And when somebody wants a cigar or something like that, they don't want to have to go all across town to get it."
He also gave another reason for opening the shop.
"There's a perceived notion that cigars are prestigious," he said. "That's why I wanted to locate in this community. Cigars are also a safe alternative to cigarettes."
Now that the new smoking ban is coming, Wilder said he is hopeful for the future.
"The smoking ban will definitely help my business," he said. "Since people can't smoke in certain places, they come here to the lounge and smoke. Some days, it's standing room only."
But that doesn't mean he agrees with the ban, which was recently passed. The ban exempts certain outdoor dining areas, certain private clubs and businesses that make their profit from tobacco sales, such as Wilder's store.
"I still think it's wrong," Wilder said. "The government doesn't need to get in the operation. We're all adults.''
For more information about Wilder's store, visit topshelfcigarshoppe.com or call 860-8628.
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