Tobacco enthusiasts can find respite on the California Central Coast at The Sanctuary Tobacco Shop in San Luis Obispo and Boyd’s Tobacco and Elegant Gifts in Paso Robles. These establishments offer indoor lounges where cigar and pipe aficionados can sit down and enjoy a peaceful smoke far away from the haters and coughers of everyday life.
Each establishment brings its own character to the table; the Sanctuary, 1111 Chorro St., with its close quarters brings an air of intimacy. It’s nearly impossible to smoke a cigar and not enter into a conversation. With the close quarters feel and the welcoming nods of the patrons, even a newbie will feel like one of the boys in no time. Owner Douglas Shaw bought the tobacco store in 1992; renamed it and refurbished it adding a lounge/loft where patrons can enjoy their tobacco of choice. The lounge which is accessible from a narrow set of stairs overlooks the store and generally first time visitors will miss it unless they hear some laughter emanating from above. The quaint lounge seats about ten and is open to everyone free of charge, though Shaw requires people to purchase a cigar from the store and not bring their own. “If somebody buys a cigar, they are welcome to use the lounge,” said Shaw. Customers are also welcome to leave a bottle of their desired beverage to consume at their leisure.
Considering the banning of smoking that started in San Luis Obispo back in the 90s and spread across the country not to mention the western world, the Sanctuary touts a dual meaning. It can be considered a place of refuge where one can enjoy a cigar or pipe without judgment, but there is also an unspoken rule of ‘what is said here stays here’ that lends a speakeasy feel to the joint.
Thursday nights are the most popular. Generally open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (only until 4 on Sundays) the little cigar shop does stay open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays because of the SLO Farmer’s Market that happens a few hundred feet from the shop.
Shaw, a self-confessed conversationalist also proves that he can turn a phrase. “The only work free, smoke place in San Luis Obispo,” he said with a smile.
Boyd’s, 625 Spring St., is massive compared to the Sanctuary and boasts a 300 square foot walk-in humidor that will more than likely have that specific cigar you have been searching for.
Now owned by Charles Janigian, president of JMG International, Inc., Boyd’s is more than a sleepy store. Every month there is something going on, whether it is raffles, wine and cigar pairing or even a cigar celebrity visit. “He’s [Janigian] is in the business of distributing, so he knows all the big players,” said Manager Charity Pisceki, “We have a lot of fun.”
Janigian is a boxing enthusiast with his own brand of cigars called Knockout. “The Nicaraguan Knockout Lightweight Division Maduro cigar is a smooth and delicious blend of Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican fillers, Nicaraguan binder, and a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper,” according to the Knockout website. Behind the counter are a boxing glove, bell and hammer that are rung on occasion and is an instant attention getter.
The lounge looks like something out of a Charles Bronson movie, even sporting a stuffed great white buffalo. The pool table is encircled by enormous wild game trophy heads that gaze with glassy eyes on all those who venture into the room. These beasts are the real deal, donated to Boyd’s by a member who is a big hunter and also a dentist. It’s always the quiet ones. The wood décor was done by the original owner John Boyd and lends itself to a den type of atmosphere. At Boyd’s it is easy to recline on a cushion and read or watch the big screen TV and not say a word to anyone without appearing aloof.