If Leopold de Rothschild, Sir Winston Churchill, or the 5th Earl of Lonsdale were alive today their supreme goal would be to eliminate stress from the world with a nice smoke.
At the Tobacco Republic, in Loomis, California, such a place exists.
In this sort of separate universe where the motto is "Every cigar is like a mini vacation," one of the owners, Ron, tells the story of his first experience with cigars, in his usual calm demeanor, which can be fittingly compared to the alluring effect of cigar smoke.
"I stood there and watched them roll the cigar," Ron reflected on his monumental cigar experience in Florida where he grew up. "I was always an anti-smoker," something that he based on his perception of cigarettes.
After being offered a cigar, "I figured why not. It was not what I expected," cogitated Ron who tells his clients that the best cigar, is the one that is being enjoyed at the moment.
The main thing that Ron and his employees want to reveal to any individual, cigar connoisseur or amateur alike, is the calming effect that they bring. In modern terms this can be described as stress-relief medication.
One cigar a day is what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger smokes to relieve stress. "If you look at diseases per capita nowadays it is through the roof." Ron credits this to stress and compares it to 20 years ago. "Back then it was difficult to find a doctor to attribute disease to stress. Now it's not easy to find one who doesn't."
Ron says that one year of interaction at the Tobacco Republic is like a PHD in psychology. Cigar people, he says, share some basic personality traits, pointedly they are social and generous whether it be with money, contacts or talents.
In the main room of the shop there are cigars, of course, and a circle of chairs.
On any given day when a client walks in, she can expect to find at least five men, and a woman every once-in-a-while, smoking and interacting.
Through the fog in the "extrovert room" are a few of the 1.33 percent of people in the U.S. that Ron said smoke hand-rolled, premium cigars regularly. He also added another percentage to the list, "80 percent of cigar smokers don't know anything about cigars, but it's like that with anything."
Almost as if he's floating on cigar smoke, Ron directs some customers into the main holding room containing hundreds of different boxes of cigars, a room that is kept moist with humidification devices which keep moisture in the air.
Beyond the stress-relieving properties of cigars or the rumors about research proving smoking cigars being helpful in preventing Parkinson's disease, the emphasis that Tobacco Republic puts on every hand-rolled cigar can be largely found in the quality of the tobacco, how it was aged, (about three years to get rid of all the ammonia), and how it was fermented.
The 466 chemicals in cigarettes that John Richard Violett III, the National Sales Representative for Tobacco Republic said differentiates them from cigars makes the sticks all the more "palatable to science."
"Technically cigars are supposed to be the anti-chemical," said Richard Violett III who entered the cigar business one year ago upon Ron's urging. Since then, like most people involved in such an explicit area, Richard Violett III has lived, breathed and bled cigars.
Richard Violett III said that the fermentation process is a relatively new progression in cigar making, but the Mayans made cigars all the way back to the tenth century and perhaps, just maybe, they did not ferment them.
Fermentation gives the product more smoothness than steaming tobacco, which is the process used for making cigaretets. "Steaming does the job of releasing natural bi-products of tobacco, ammonia and nicotine, but fermentation adds flavor, pop, and pizzazz."
Besides his one day off, Richard Violett III has spent the last seven months on a work-related cigar tour where he traveled "border to border and border to coast," meeting with other cigar experts, analyzing customers and making contacts.
These relations are the very people that Ron said make or break a cigar business owner.
"No one will ever know that it's all about relations. We attain such a good variety of cigars, over 500, because of it," he said.
Within the non-chemical, non-machine manufactured array of sticks at the Republic is the "diamond in the rough," one of only eight boxes in the world, containing cigars made in Honduras using a bottle of Louis XII Cognac, a $15 thousand acquisition that was the result of one contact, a woman who used to work for Ron.
Taxes will have an effect on how much is made on the rare box that will be sold to one mysterious sports figure.
"Taxes affect the quality of what's available in America," Ron said.
Richard Violett III said that 1995 was the last peak in cigar industry sales, but they are going up now. He reflects on the anti-stress properties of cigars which make taxes and other minute details on the business side insignificant. "It's an undiminishing vice. As you draw on your cigar, as it goes down so do the issues of the day."
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