Red Sox great to help cigar lounge celebrate
By Wayne E. Rivet
Jim Apovian still remembers the raised eyebrows and cynical looks he received when he talked about opening a cigar lounge.
“In Bridgton?” was the common response.
Despite the skepticism, Apovian truly believed his idea would fly. He did his homework, checking where other cigar outlets were in relation to Bridgton. And, he did some old-fashioned field study.
“I remember one day we drove by a guy who was sitting outdoors smoking a cigar. Jim stopped the car and asked the man if he wouldn’t mind telling him where he bought his cigar,” Jim’s wife, Kristin, said. “He found that many people either had to drive a good distance to buy a good cigar or they ordered them over the Internet.”
Feeling a market existed for his idea, Jim launched the William Perry Cigar Lounge, located in the historic old hospital building on Main Hill.
Jim believed in his plan.
Yet, the odds were somewhat against him. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), which keeps statistics on failures, 80% of new businesses fail within the first year. Add a sluggish economy to the mix, and the deck might appear stacked against the cigar lounge.
“We’ve had a great year!” he said. “When we first opened, there was some negativity. People wondered how something like this would do in a small town like Bridgton, especially since we see a lot of small businesses open and close. We knew this was something out of the ordinary, but we really felt it would work. We’ve stayed open year round. We did it! We’re going to be here for a long time!”
To celebrate the one-year anniversary, Jim wanted to make a “big splash.” Obviously, he could simply light up an expensive victory cigar and share the moment with some of his loyal customers.
Not big enough.
Jim decided to “go all out” and bring a celebrity to town. Who better than Luis Tiant, the former Boston Red Sox all-star pitcher and cigar connoisseur, who has his own line of stogies, “El Tiante.”
This Saturday, Tiant will be the special guest at the William Perry Cigar Lounge, where he will take part in some special in-house promotions — including the sale of his own line, which includes a blue-wrap Oscuro and a red wrap Rosado (a medium body cigar with a little spice) — and meet with area fans from noon to about 6 p.m.
The first 23 customers to purchase “El Tiante” cigars — the 20-cigar box range in price from $120 to $160 — will receive autographed items including a baseball and photo, as well as a chance to be photographed with the legendary pitcher. Sales after the first 23 will include an autographed cigar box and a photo with Tiant.
Raffles will also be held. There is no admission charge. The event will be catered by Merced’s of Naples.
“We’ve found that people from all over from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania to New York love Luis,” Jim said. “
How did Jim lure a celebrity like Tiant to a small rural town and a relatively new cigar lounge?
“I know Luis’ son. We talked about it for quite some time and finally worked something out,” he said. “We’re really excited about this. I’m not sure what to expect, but it should be a great day.”
A diehard Red Sox fan (he even got a tattoo on his right leg commemorating the team’s World Series win in 2004), Jim sported team colors Monday despite this year’s dreadful season. Once he signed up Tiant, Jim started to grow a mustache like the legendary pitcher.
“Once he signed on, I started to grow it as a tribute,” Jim said. “I’ll see what he thinks.”
A lost art?
In today’s hectic world, Jim Apovian says people need to stop, take time to relax and connect with others.
And, one can do that while enjoying a cigar.
“To enjoy a good cigar, it takes 45 minutes to an hour to smoke it. It gives you time to relax, talk to others, make new friends,” Jim said. “Through conversations, you find out just how small a world this is. I was talking to a 72-year-old man, who I learned grew up in Somerville and was a childhood friend of my uncle.”
The William Perry Cigar Lounge has been a place where new friendships have been formed, either while enjoying a cigar or over a competitive game of chess or backgammon.
Bob Nyeburg showed up at the lounge on the second day the new business opened and has been a regular since.
“You want to come here,” he said. “Sitting around in these comfortable chairs with good friends, smoking a cigar, why wouldn’t you want to be here?”
Cigars are hardly exclusive to men. Recently, the lounge held a “Couples Night.” About 10 couples enjoyed an evening of conversation, dancing and, of course, cigars.
“We wanted to create a more ‘upscale’ environment, not a ‘man dome’ so that everyone can enjoy it here,” Jim said. “We certainly want to thank Bridgton and all our customers for their support this past year. They’ve made the business a success.”