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They aren’t just blowing smoke

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From left, Sticks House of Cigars owner Dave Whitman and Joe Brazean, Wenatchee, enjoy Friday night, Dec. 7, outside Whitman’s store. Whitman put up a shelter and heaters so his clients can smoke throughout the year.

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What: An upscale cigar store featuring a club-like atmosphere with easy chairs, a pool table, flat-screen TVs and a smoking patio.

Where: 527 Piere St., Suite A, Wenatchee.

When: Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Notable: In addition to 20 brands and 200 types of cigars, the store carries accessories (cutters, lighters, ashtrays, humidors), cigar gift packs, magazines and some non-alcoholic beverages (lemonade, coffee, soft drinks).

Contact: 881-1722, or visit stickshouse

WENATCHEE — It’s not the aroma or taste that draws Andrew Newell to a good cigar. It’s the ritual.

It’s enforced relaxation,” said the 25-year-old stogie smoker, lifting an unwrapped cigar from a fancy box of Alec Bradley blends in the Sticks House of Cigars humidor room.

You trim the end, light it up, and puff away,” he said. “You set aside a certain amount of time to just sit, smoke, relax and watch the world go by.”

Newell, along with a growing number of local cigar enthusiasts, can now watch the world go by from the smoking patio at Sticks, a six-month-old cigar emporium that offers clubhouse-style amenities to the puffing public.

Owner David Whitman’s upscale store features more than 200 types of cigars along with “a little bit of educating and a lot of socializing” to become a local hub for the popular trend’s curious and connoisseurs.

Sticks presents an open floorplan furnished with easy chairs, flat-screen TVs, a pool table and even a snack counter (free pretzels and popcorn) all surrounding what Whitman says is the Wenatchee Valley’s largest commercial humidor — a 12-by-12-foot wood-and-stone controlled-atmosphere room filled with fine cigars and their rich aromas.

Whitman emphasizes that his store isn’t a cigar lounge — by state law, no smoking is allowed inside the building — but more of a casual hangout for Sticks’ customers to talk sports or politics, or swap cigar recommendations.

A love of cigars can connect people,” said Whitman, who claimed stogie lovers seem to share a thoughtful, relaxed and open approach to life. “As one local judge told me the other day, ‘I’ve never met a cigar smoker I didn’t like.’”

Cigar fans at Sticks include not only judges, Whitman added, but area law officers, paramedics, firemen and scores of business owners and managers. “And golfers,” he chuckled. “Playing golf offers the perfect environment for enjoying a cigar — you’re outdoors, enjoying your friends, with enough downtime to light up and smoke.”

To puff communally at Sticks, customers gather outside under a heated, 20-by-20-foot tent located on the adjacent smoking patio. Tables and chairs have been set up, and ashtrays, lighters and trimmers are available.

Aside from the humidor,” said Whitman, “the patio is the most important part of our business. It’s where lots of customers — both men and women — can light up and relax. On busy evenings after work, this is definitely the place to be for cigar smokers.”

Did he say women? “We have a handful of loyal women customers,” said Whitman. “They feel comfortable here, not threatened by any kind of macho attitude that you find at some smoke shops.” He estimated that females comprise up to 30 or 40 percent of his email marketing list.

Whitman, 53, a Wenatchee native, developed a serious interest in cigars only seven years ago. “It’s not a lifelong obsession or anything like that,” he said. “Some buddies took me to a cigar lounge in Scottsdale (Ariz.), and I realized, yes, this is a good thing, something I could learn to like a lot.”

Working for a paint company, Whitman traveled extensively and found himself seeking out cigar stores and lounges in the various cities he visited.

I started to make mental lists of things I liked and didn’t like,” he said, “not even really thinking about opening my own store, just noting what worked and what didn’t.”

In 2010, Whitman lost his job when the recession slammed the construction industry along with ancillary businesses, such as paint supply companies. Not finding work in the paint industry, he began thinking about opening his own business. Why not sell something he loved?

Sticks opened June 2 in a space adjacent to Columbia Valley Brewing, just north of downtown and near the Columbia River and Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail. The customer response was immediate, he said, and has grown each month as cigar smokers learn he’s open.

Currently, Sticks carries about 20 brands of cigars, mostly from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and, maybe soon, Puerto Rico. Top brands include Oliva, A.J. Fernandez, Drew Estate and Berger & Argenti. Prices range from under $3 to over $20, with mid-priced cigars costing from $7 to $10.

Cigar taste varies immensely depending on climate, soils and growing practices,” said Whitman. Terms like “peppery,” “leathery,” “woody” and “hints of nuts and coffee” are used by aficionados to describe the many flavors, he said. “But, really, it comes down to your own tastebuds, to what you like personally.”

Currently, Whitman’s top choice — and it changes frequently — is a Costa Rican favorite by Via Havana. “It’s well-made, rolled tight, aged meticulously and presented beautifully with a well-designed band and in top-notch box. It has all the signs of quality.”

And it’s that kind of quality, he said, that brings his customer back two and three times a week for a good smoke.

I’ve learned there was pent-up demand for a place like this,” he said, “where regardless of a person’s everyday problems and stress, he or she can come here, sit down and not be judged or hassled.”

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.