In Marin / CURRENTS
Brian Telford did a tour in Vietnam, returned to Marin, went to work in the Strawberry Village tobacco shop his dad bought in 1970 and never left. Today, Telford is the only tobacconist in Marin. In the 2,370-square-foot store fronting Highway 101, he and his wife, Susan, sell premium cigars, pipes and accessories as well as hosting a private lounge for tobacco aficionados. How did you get started? BRIAN: I learned about the
product from my brother, my father and what I read. Your favorite cigar? The Davidoff Aniversario
#3. It has a flavor and taste like it’s been in a wine cellar for 100 years. Smooth. How many types of
cigars do you sell? 2,300. SUSAN: If you can’t find it at Telford’s, it’s going to be pretty hard to find it
anywhere. It seems overwhelming. How do you help a neophyte? BRIAN: You ask questions. What
have you tried? Mild, medium or strong? Then you find out what size they like. Maybe something as
small as a pencil, maybe as thick as your thumb. How long would you like to enjoy it? A five-inch cigar
lasts about 45 minutes, a seven-inch cigar lasts well over an hour. That’s a bit of a commitment.
Certainly, in time, but it’s something done socially, with friends usually, in an atmosphere where you’re relaxed. These are not corner
store cigars, are they? No, that’s the so-called mass-market product, which I don’t sell. What I sell in here is 100 percent tobacco and
all hand-rolled. Is that pricey? It’s labor intensive. But the value comes through in the flavor and the taste. Average price for a premium
cigar? MANAGER THOMAS BROCK: Right now, $8 to $12 is what we would call an everyday smoke, a golf course cigar. SUSAN: We have a
high-rent district up there. We can go from $35 to $100 — for one stick, to be burned, up in smoke. How often does the average cigar
smoker indulge? We talk about this as a hobby, not habit, so when people come together for reasons of celebration and community,
what do they do? They enjoy a cigar. You have a baby, what do you do? You hand out cigars. You close a deal, what do you do? You get
a cigar. Any trends? Pipes are moving from being a personal thing to being a social thing. People in their 20s and 30s today, including
women, who know the good aspects of tobacco, are enjoying pipes together. How is business? BRIAN: The answer to that is how many
times I’ve opened and closed stores. This is my ninth location. We’re in the best spot we’ve ever had. We’re a freestanding lot that allows
us to be away from those who don’t appreciate what we do. All of sudden we’ve become very, very popular this year. Final comments?
SUSAN: Brian’s middle name is Mr. Cigar. On the tennis court he is “Hey, Cigar, good shot!” TIM POR TER
HOW TO LIGHT A CIGAR
Telford’s manager Thomas
Brock explains: Hold the
cigar at a 45-degree angle.
Hold the flame away from
the foot of the cigar. Toast
the end, which heats the
tobacco and gives you a bit
of foreplay, the aroma. It’s
like letting wine breathe.
When you see some smoke,
draw it into your mouth
and light the entire foot.
It’s very important that
you light the entire foot
because a partially lit foot
won’t burn evenly.
Up in Smoke
Cigar and pipe smokers find a refuge in smoke-free Marin.
ON THE JOB