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Newest shop in Seminole Heights readies for grand opening

Seminole Heights’ first cigar shop and lounge is the product of a friendship that began on Facebook.

Benny Blanchard and Glenn Genereux started communicating through the Cigar Cartel Facebook site and discovered they lived just seven blocks from each other on Central Avenue. The men come from different backgrounds: Blanchard, 37, is a massage therapist with Soothing Palm Bodyworks; Genereux, 51, serves as chief financial officer for Custom Cable in Sabal Park. 

But their shared passion for fine smokes kindled a friendship. In the spring, the two men each came to a decision that they needed to elevate their friendship to a business partnership. It started with a text message from Blanchard telling Genereux he wanted to ask a question. Genereux immediately messaged back: “The answer is yes.”

“I hadn’t even asked the question yet,” Blanchard said. “He said, ‘You want to open a cigar shop.’”

Genereux remembers his stroke of clairvoyance and laughs. He had meant to broach the subject of a partnership to Blanchard after some informal research.

“I had had a number of conversations at business lunches and other gatherings, and the talk was about Seminole Heights,” says Genereux, 51. “And people said, ‘You know what’s missing is a cigar shop; a place where you can sit down and smoke a cigar.’ And these were people that I wasn’t even talking about cigars with.”

The pair searched for four months before they found a location they liked at 6207 N. Florida Ave. The 98-year-old house needed some renovations, but the landlord was willing to work with them. It didn’t hurt that the Jug & Bottle Dept., a fine wine and craft brew shop, had recently opened nearby at Florida and East Hanna avenues.

Right now the lounge consists of a main salon where the television, counter and display cases are located. On the other side of the wall is another room with seating. Genereux said he and Blanchard plan to put a third seating area in with tables and chairs where customers can play dominos or board games as well as socialize.

The shop had its “soft opening” Saturday, Sept. 3, promoting the event through The Heights Cigar Shop Facebook page. The opening was well-attended, with many customers taking advantage of the 55-inch television to watch college football while enjoying cigars.

“All day Saturday we had an outpouring of people from the area,” Genereux says. “They had been watching our signs saying, ‘Coming soon,’ and following us on Facebook, waiting for us to unlock the doors. We’re really happy we found this location in Seminole Heights.”

A grand opening will be Oct. 8 which a representative from Drew Estate cigars will host, Blanchard says. 

The shop carries many well-known, main-line brands such as Arturo Fuente, Drew Estate and Rocky Patel. But Blanchard says he plans to diversify with smaller, boutique brand cigars as the business gets rolling. 

“We’re going to listen to what our customers like as we grow over the next few months,” Blanchard says. “We’re going to find out what they like, plus helping them find out about some of the boutique cigars.”

Read more articles by Mike Salinero.

Mike Salinero is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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