HARKER HEIGHTS — Stetson Cigars and Private Cigar Club has survived in a world where a lot of the competition has gone up in smoke.
Cigar bars began cropping up across the country in the mid-1990s, but not many remain. Angelyne and Donald Felt opened their first cigar store in Savannah, Ga., in 1997.
Since then, the business has relocated twice and evolved immensely. Stetson’s current 2,400-square-foot store and private club in Market Heights proves that the Felts invested in more than a fad.
Angelyne Felt runs the store because Donald is an active-duty soldier. She had never inhaled anything but oxygen before the couple opened their first store. After smoking her first Romeo y Julieta and finding it a pleasurable experience, she dove into cigar research.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to sell a product, I have to know the product,’” Felt said.
Now, she said, she is “pretty much” a connoisseur. She has to know about hundreds of types of cigars, ranging in price from $2 to more than $40 apiece, in order to satisfy her customers.
“I’ve been doing this since 1997,” Felt said. “At first, I would question what people meant when they said a cigar had a nutmeg flavor or even a sweetness to it. But I developed a palate over time. Now I can make the distinction.”
The Felts opened their first cigar store in Central Texas in Salado seven years ago. They relocated to Market Heights three years ago because they believed the center had a bright future. They also wanted the chance to expand their revenue streams.
“We wanted to open a club, but the store in Salado was too small,” she said. “So that was a big part of the decision.”
Customers can pay a monthly, biannual or annual membership fee to join the club. Membership comes with a personal cigar locker/humidifier and access to the store’s back room, which houses the club. The club does not sell liquor, but members can bring in bottles and store them at the club.
“We get soldiers, doctors, lawyers, judges,” Felt said. “We have a lot of people that might not even notice each other at another type of club. But here, everyone is connected by a passion for cigars.”
Felt said club membership ebbs and flows.
“We were hoping the club would pay for our rent, which it did at one point,” she said. “But the movement in and out of town of soldiers has a big impact. People find us, leave and then new people have to find us all over again.”
Felt said the shop attracts people from every strata of cigar knowledge.
“It is a lot like wine,” she said. “There is a lot more to it than most people might realize. But you have to try something before you know if you like it. We take the time to help customers who don’t know much about cigars. I really like working with first-timers. They tend to want to try a variety, and that is always fun.”
At the end of the day, she said her business is about enjoyment and comfort.
“As long as you like a cigar, it doesn’t matter what anybody else says or how much it costs,” she said. “People come here to relax. If you like it, that is all that matters.”