Smokey atmosphere a joy at Fidel’s

Miranda Bond and Miranda Bond

There is no “No Smoking” sign in sight at Fidel’s.

Instead patrons will see a welcoming smoker’s lounge with leather couches, a café style table, television and a walk-in humidor, which the owners call the pride and joy of their cigar shop.

“We get credibility with it. It’s reputable,” said Denny Emahiser, co-owner of Fidel’s. “It’s nice in this room because that’s really the focal point of the room, I think you sit in here anywhere and look in there if you’re a cigar guy.”

While the lounge with a view of the humidor draws in customers, Emahiser said that he believes people come back because of the welcoming atmosphere he tries to create. As customers come into the shop, Emahiser isn’t afraid to strike up a conversation.

A woman enters the shop looking for a Christmas present for her husband and Emahiser jokes with her, saying that she didn’t look like a cigar smoker. He is able to remember her husband and the type of cigars that he prefers.

Another happy customer left satisfied with her purchase.

“Everybody’s a number and a nobody, but you know if someone comes in — always make them feel warm and welcome and really make someone feel special when they come in and treat them good,” Emahiser said. “When someone leaves I thank them for their business and I really mean it. I love people in the first place.”

This business philosophy has drawn customers back to the shop since it opened a year ago, in November 2003. Emahiser said that 80 percent of his customers are repeats.

Greg Brown, a Sophomore at the University, has been a regular customer since Fidel’s first opened. He said that during the summer he bought cigars every other day. Since school has started, he doesn’t buy them as frequently. He also like to hang out in the smokers lounge when he has time.

“I like the fact that it’s a nice secluded area,” he said. “It’s a great place to come and smoke a cigar and drink a beer.”

He said the atmosphere is what drawls him back.

Emahiser said in the daytime that he sees “older guys,” and at night, “college guys.” Business from these age groups tends to be about equal, he says. He added that he sees a variety of customers, mostly men, but has encountered a few women who smoke cigars.

Business has been good in the past year, he said. However, summer sales were slow due to construction on Wooster Street in front of the store.

Fidel’s information

Owners: Bill Burkle and Denny Emahiser

Founded: November 2003

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. M-F and 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday

When Emahiser opened Fidel’s he knew a lot about business and cigars, but as he discovered, there was still room for him to learn about the cigar business.

“It’s funny, cigars that I originally bought I thought were going to sell, and those were the ones that didn’t, and the cigars that I thought wouldn’t sell are the ones that move,” he said. “I learned a lot with what cigars to buy.”

He has made adjustments to his orders to fit the needs of the customers.

Adjusting to customers’ needs was the idea behind opening the shop. Co-owners Burkle and Emahiser agreed that there was a need for a place where people could come to buy cigars and smoke them without being bothered.

They said that they believe the customers enjoy hanging out, especially within the “political incorrectness” of the lounge.

“It’s just a place where you can relax and nobody bothers you [for smoking],” Emahiser said. “We are very politically incorrect. We have Playboy magazines, we leave the toilet seat up, you can bring booze in here and drink it as long as you are 21.”

Burkle said they created the shop with the purpose of giving cigar smokers the option of smoking inside in peace.

“Freedom of choice, last time I checked that is what America was all about,” Burkle said. “We thought we needed a place where people could smoke.”

The owners celebrate the American way of consuming guilty pleasures, which may seem a little ironic with a name like Fidel’s: a few customers have asked if the owners are Communists.

They reply that the name is a joke; just another element of the shop owners’ laid-back attitude.

It only took Emahiser and Burkle about five minutes to come up with the name. They figured few names were better than that of the most famous cigar smoker in history, Emahiser said. The name has been successful in drawing the attention of the public. Once people come into the shop, Emahiser encourages them to hang around Fidel’s and socialize in the lounge. He said that the goal in opening the shop was not only to sell cigars, but create a social and relaxing atmosphere.

It seems that the owners have managed to do both. The atmosphere of Fidel’s can be best summed up with Emahiser’s motto: “Love life, love people and have fun.”