A flaming passion

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Cigar Haven owner enjoys nearly 10 years of success

By Mark Robinson

It ignited as a feminist statement against the status quo. It raged into a burning love affair that flames bright decades later. And it shows no signs of going up in smoke.

Barbara Munchel lit up her first cigar as a college sophomore – a Royal Jamaican, she recalls – more as a sign of rebellion than anything. But something happened: She found that she enjoyed the experience – the aromas, the taste, the soothing feeling – and cigars became Munchel’s passion and mission.

Munchel has spent nearly 25 years in the tobacco sales industry. She operates Cigar Haven, 11017 Allisonville Rd., Fishers, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in March. She believes hers is the best cigar shop in metro Indianapolis, because of the specialized customer service she gives every patron and for the extensive variety of boutique cigars available. She owes it all to that Royal Jamaican she enjoyed back when.

“The moment I had my first cigar, I understood absolutely why cigars were so popular,” Munchel said. “I liked the taste, I liked the development of flavor, I found it extremely relaxing and I liked the whole ritual and selection of the cigar, the preparation of the cigar. I just liked it!”

Munchel toiled for years selling tobacco products for others, dreaming of opening her own specialty shop. One customer, Gene Burt, encouraged Munchel to keep dreaming and that someday it would come true. Burt helped finance the deal that launched Cigar Haven in 2005. “He said he’d make it happen for me and he did,” Munchel said.

Munchel compared her work to that of a sommelier selecting the proper wine. She takes time to understand her customers in terms of cigar smoking experience, budget and the occasion where the cigar will be used. She then pairs the customer with the proper product from her vast inventory. She emphasized that she is not “just a clerk” selling tobacco products as in some other establishments; she is the proprietor of Cigar Haven with an extensive knowledge and first-hand appreciation for her products.

“We do work with customers and we listen to what they have to say,” Munchel said. “We really do try to match them up with the appropriate cigars.”

Prices range from the affordable ($3 a cigar) to the high end for special occasions that can reach $70 each. Cigar Haven offers some of the world’s finer cigars that come from Nicaragua (such as the Padron Anniversary and Liga Privada) or the Dominican Republic (Opus X, for example), countries known to produce the best cigars because some cigar makers fled there from Cuba to set up shop following the 1950s revolution.

Munchel said her clientele is 95 percent male, mainly 25 years and older. “It’s more of the successful, up-and-coming, decision-maker crowd,” she said. As much as she would like to see differently, only about 5 percent of her customers are women, and many of them ask for flavored cigars. “I just don’t carry them,” Munchel said, her distaste evident for what she considers not a true cigar.

Cigar Haven offers a smoking lounge for customers to try their purchases, complete with TVs, recliners and work desks. Customers can also pay an annual membership fee to Gene’s Cave, a private lounge where, Munchel said, a number of successful business deals have been completed.

Cigar Haven is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 577-1005 or visit cigar-haven.com.

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