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Smoke This Way

February 23, 2009

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A “Third Place” refers to a gathering place in the community that is separate from our two usual social environments of the home and workplace. The Squire Tobacco Unlimited Shop in downtown Charleston, W.Va., is just such a place. The gregarious man who runs it, Charlie Morgan, used to be a Union Carbide engineer, then traveled to places like Saudi Arabia  to create data centers. Illness led to retirement and a return home to Charleston. He got turned on to cigars in the late ’90s. Now, he’s something of a smokey guru to cigar and pipe smokers in the area. His shop stocks more than 600 boxes of cigars, all hand-made and hand-rolled, plus pipes, tobaccos and lighters galore.

It’s a cozy place with stuffed sofas, a communal vibe and clouds of aromatic smoke hanging in the air. (Though if your sensibilities are easily bruised by Vargas-girl photography and politically incorrect portraiture — for us pinko-liberal types, that is — you may not wish to linger over the wall of photos in the back. “That’s my Wall of Shame,” says Charlie, who lets another fellow hang the photos. “I don’t go back there.” )

It’s not just a manly citadel, though. About 40 to 50 women each month come in to buy cigars at The Squire, Charlie says, and many hang for awhile, adding plumes and fumes to the atmosphere. I love the place and am a member in good standing, with my white laminated “Squire’ card in my wallet entltitling me to discounts. I buy exactly one cigar a month there, an Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 . In fact, there’s a half-smoked one in an ashtray on the back porch, where I sit in exile from the rest of the family to smoke. Cigar and pipe exiles from across the valley head to The Squire to share the burn.

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