Saying that Third Street Cigar is just a cigar shop, is akin to claiming that the Declaration of Independence is just a history paper. There’s just so much more going on at this Waterville smoking hub than burning leaves and b-s-ing about politics. Not that those pursuits aren’t noble, but owners John Henry, Dave Webb and Zach Szabo are about maximizing the space they have.
In addition to the three sitting rooms for cigar consumption (one, a members-only lounge tucked away discreetly in the back is frequented by a who’s who of local celebs), a fully stocked humidor boasting an excellent selection of brand name smoke sticks, the assorted collection of smoking accessories for sale including pipes and high-end butane lighters and branded merchandise boasting the Third Street Cigar logo, there’s also a lifestyle and philanthropy element to the business.
“We bring in national and local artists, primarily blues artists, Henry said of the lounge’s affinity for music. “We’re fortunate that we get a lot of these musicians that are coming from Indianapolis or Chicago and they’re heading towards New York or Toronto and so we’re a perfect middle ground for them to stop. We’ve had Scott Ellis, Kellie Ritchie, Jeff Jensen… quite a few national acts.” Converting their upstairs smoking area into a stage of sorts, Third Street Cigar hosts numerous concerts throughout the year, providing a cozy venue that allows for an intimate listening experience— with smoking, of course. It adds a cool haze to the space and takes you back to a, let’s say, less complicated era.
“We also do a lot of charity functions,” Henry adds. “Last year we raised over $50,000 for various charities.” It’s an impressive aim for what could be just another smoking establishment. They also host stand-up comedy nights, educational events, a young professional business lecture series, cigar industry legends, outdoor festivals and more. But their newest venture is arguably their most exciting— taking their collected love of music to the next level, the group has started a record label.
Bobby G with Curtis Grant, Jr. and the Midnight Rockers played the night Third Street Cigar opened, and now three years later, the band’s CD is the first release from Third Street Cigar Records. With producer Johnny Rawls doing the mixing, their album, Still Standing, features a collection of 10 original songs performed by the 73-year-old bluesman singer and his band. It’s great cruising music, perfect for a long, casual trek down I-75 with one hand griping the wheel, while the other taps a beat. The first recording opportunity for Bobby G and “The Worst Feeling” is a particular highlight.
“I think the future is to continually build our brand,” Henry says of the space. Our brand is— we’re selling an experience. Yes, we sell cigars, but we’re selling an experience whether you’re in that front area or whether you’re in the back lounge or whether you came to see entertainment, we want you to walk away with an experience where you say, ‘I thought that was pretty cool and something different.’”
The recording business is one they plan to continue engaging in as the opportunities present themselves. And the cigar business, and the philanthropy, and the merchandising, and… well, whatever strikes their fancy. They just bought a giant industrial grill and smoker, a huge trailer-towed behemoth that can handle all the ribs you could dream of throwing at it. Maybe they’ll start a restaurant next? Don’t be surprised; this group of buddies is living out their dreams. You should consider getting involved with the fun.
Purchase copies of Still Standing online in digital or CD format on cdbaby.com, Amazon and other online retailers. Or pick up copies at Third Street Cigar, 20 N. 3rd St., Waterville.