Seminole County local Alex Setzer was having lunch at the famed Sanford restaurant Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café last year with business partner Tom Darnell, where the two quickly discovered they both had a similar vision of bringing a high end cigar lounge to our rapidly expanding downtown scene. “I have fallen in love with Historic Downtown Sanford over the last several years,” says Setzer. “With all the growth, Sanford has quickly become my go-to town”.
The idea emblazoned in the front of their minds, the duo immediately headed over to the waterfront and looked at the existing space located under the Gateway at Riverwalk condominium complex. “It was our first choice,” said Setzer, “and Sanford is expanding toward the waterfront. I’m proud of this project and feel it is not only a natural fit for (Sanford’s) growth, but will help be a catalyst in bringing more businesses towards the lakefront”. After discussing a licensing agreement with businessman, partner and friend Tony Nardone of Executive Cigar Shop & Lounge in Melbourne (Setzer and Darnell’s first choice), the project rapidly came together.
The property was acquired in December of 2018, the licensing agreement signed, and Executive Cigars sent their team into Sanford. Led by Director of Operations Erica Everett, a partner in the Sanford enterprise and the General Manager at the Melbourne location, the Executive Cigar team has been present and overseeing the build out. “Cigar aficionados are eyeing Sanford as a ‘cigar destination’,” says Everett. “They won’t want to go anywhere else; with multiple cigar options here they will be able to support them all and bounce around.”
Executive Cigar Shop & Lounge will offer visitors to Historic Downtown Sanford a premier waterfront view and upscale experience unlike any other local option. “We offer three amazing selling points; the view, a world class ventilation system, and first class customer experience,” says Setzer. “Extensive conversations” with multiple Sanford restaurants have already been discussed to provide guests to Executive Cigars with food delivery service, adding to their experience.
Two notable features of Executive’s plan are the private VIP lounge area and the world class ventilation system that promises to alleviate any smoke concerns for patrons and neighbors alike. The VIP area will be accessible 24×7 to members by thumbprint access. Amenities such as a self-serve bar stocked with beer and wine, multiple TVs, private bathrooms, VIP lockers, executive tables, upscale furniture, and an amazing view of Lake Monroe and the Sanford Riverwalk.
The ventilation system replaces conventional smoke eaters and will be significantly more efficient at handling smoke and odor than any other method. Discussing this feature, Setzer comments that “It provides an improved quality of life for patrons. Less smoke, more comfortable. It also looks out for the residents (of the Gateway condominiums). The HOA requested this, and has been amazing to work with. Both the HOA and the residents are very excited for our project.”
Multiple package options to Executive Cigar Shop & Lounge will be available to members; for more information contact Erica@ExecutiveCigars.com
Over on Sanford Avenue, businessman Ty Butler opened Torch One Cigars in July. A cigar aficionado who spent 15 years in the roofing industry, Butler is putting his personal stamp on Torch One. “This isn’t a money-driven enterprise,” says Butler. “We provide an experience. Guests come to relax and enjoy a friendly vibe with indoor/outdoor seating.” Set with comfy furniture, some low-key jazz and R&B, and a proprietor with an infectiously welcoming and genuine vibe, Torch One is a natural community fit. In an industry where hospitality means everything, Butler himself becomes the selling point for Torch One, infusing his own personality into the business. “This is ‘home.’ A stress relief place,” says Butler. “80% of walk in customers return.”
Torch One has a full bar, a wide selection of choice cigars, and is beginning to focus on events. Butler discussed with me his plans for ongoing monthly ‘Torch One Takeovers’ where a live DJ accompanies tables set out by different cigar companies, each bringing their offerings and unique craft to the event. An expansion is also planned, as Butler looks to move back the current wall behind the bar and expand the back area.
Participation in the ongoing monthly Sanford Avenue Block Party and potential pig roasts are on the horizon for Torch One, allowing BBQ and tasting events to be introduced.
We saved the first for last, as Celery City Cigars opened on Palmetto Ave at the end of June, becoming the first dedicated cigar bar in Historic Downtown Sanford. Owners Shane Hardenbrook and Paul Williams brought the concept as a natural tie in to their neighboring business, Celery City Craft, a craft beer bar with over 50 craft pours on tap and an enormous outdoor courtyard. “Our uniqueness is that we have a cigar lounge with a wide selection of craft beers and a handcrafted humidor,” says Williams.
With Celery City Craft and Celery City Cigars connected by a common courtyard, guests can enjoy either the relaxing interior of the cigar bar or meander outdoors with their cigars. Unbelievable culinary offerings are available from Sushi and Seoul, where innovative sushi meets Korean-inspired street fare. From ‘Classy Hour’ to whisky and scotch tastings to multiple cigar events in the works, Celery City Cigars is sure to keep guests happy.
Smoking cigars is like falling in love. First, you are attracted by its shape; you stay for its flavor, and you must always remember never, ever to let the flame go out. With three cigar lounges each offering a unique experience and business owners who have the passion to bring these concepts together, Historic Downtown Sanford offers a cigar scene that promises to keep the flame lit for a long and enjoyable time.