BERLIN — The preparations for the grand opening of “John’s Premium Cigars” are almost complete. Despite minor construction still underway at the store, which will feature a smoking lounge in addition to a walk-in humidor, it’s still on track for a March 11 opening in Berlin.
“Things are coming along,” said Jaime McDonald, one of the owners of the store.
According to McDonald, he and his partner Jeb Deickman have been discussing opening a cigar store for a long time, but only recently did they consider it anything more than just idle talk.
“Probably six months ago I mentioned it [opening a store],” said McDonald. “We kind of just joked about it.”
But several months after originally talking about it, Deickman, who is the co- owner of Veridian Builders, approached McDonald with a proposition.
“‘Let’s just go for it,’ he told me,” said McDonald. “And then it just happened.”
After deciding to make a cigar store a reality, McDonald confessed that Berlin hadn’t always been his first choice.
“I was thinking Salisbury,” he said.
However, Deickman convinced him that Berlin had everything they were looking for, including the right atmosphere for a cigar store and lounge. He cited the historical appeal of the town, along with a business friendly attitude.
“Berlin’s really growing,” said McDonald.
Once the pair settled on a location, they had to go through what is usually a tedious process of securing licenses, permits and organizing the store. While McDonald stated that everything they’ve done so far took a lot of work and dedication, he also expressed surprise at how, once he and Deickman had decided to go for it, “everything just fell into place.”
Now, only a little more than a month after moving into their current location next to The Globe in downtown Berlin, McDonald and Deickman are putting the final touches on the building. When completed, the store will feature a tightly climate-controlled walk-in humidor at the front of the store, as well as a spacious smoking lounge in the back where patrons will be able to try the cigars they’ve just bought.
“We want it [the lounge] to feel like a home away from home,” said McDonald.
When completed, the lounge will feature leather furniture, a flat screen television, cigar art and individual, climate-controlled lockers where regular customers without home humidors will be able to store purchases.
Additionally, the lounge will have a “fresh air ventilation system” which will continuously circulate air in the room and replace it with air from outside after first adjusting the outside air to fit the lounge’s current temperature.
“People don’t like smoking outside,” said McDonald when explaining the decision to include a lounge area in their store.
McDonald admitted the hope that the lounge would be a big selling point for the store. Beyond that, he and Deickman are planning to attempt to draw in customers by utilizing the advantages that a Berlin location offers. For one, the proximity of the Bay Club Golf Course holds potential for the store, as golfers traditionally make up a large demographic of cigar buyers.
McDonald also explained that they would be seeking to fit the store into the overall business scheme of Berlin. While nothing was finalized, he mentioned the possibility of doing specials and tie-ins with other merchants, such as The Globe next door.
McDonald asserted that the overall plan for the store was to give off a “relaxing but upscale” feel. He expressed the desire to fill a special niche in Berlin, since the next closest cigar store is in Ocean City.
The feedback the pair has gotten so far has been generally good, though McDonald admits that some people seem to take issue with the store just because it sells tobacco. Still, the majority of responses so far have been encouraging.
“We’re hoping the people that do like it, really like it,” McDonald said.
McDonald and Deickman will get the chance to find out how well the area responds when opens they open their doors at 4 p.m. on March 11.
“You don’t succeed unless you take a chance,” he said, summarizing the entire experience.
With the exposed brick and rafters inside and the earth-toned paint on the outside, John’s Premium Cigars is already starting to look like it fits right into downtown Berlin. When asked if he thought the town and the store would be a good match, McDonald expressed the hope that they would.
“Maybe we’ll be in the next movie,” joked McDonald, referring to the film “Runaway Bride”, filmed in Berlin several years ago.