Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…sometimes a cigar can change your life. ~ Jake Shellenberger

I can’t count how many times my decision to disconnect from the day and enjoy a cigar at my local shop has lead to fortuitous circumstances. I’ve also had the privilege of hearing similar stories from friends, family, and acquaintances. They never get old.

This is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to take on ownership of a cigar shop. To be a part of connecting folks in the community and providing a location for divine appointments is exciting and awe-inspiring.

Back in 2009, when my partner Clint offered me the opportunity to be a partner in his newly founded cigar manufacturing company 262 Cigars, I was elated. I jumped at the chance not fully understanding what that commitment would ultimately look like. Further, I had no inkling we’d ever get into cigar shop ownership just 7 short years later. But we’ll get to that soon enough. Over the next several years I fell in love with the cigar industry. I love to travel, and every opportunity I had to get on the road and visit our 262 retailers, throw events, attend the IPCPR, or join with other brands at cigar festivals was a real treat. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of new cigar smokers and no matter where I went I noticed a common thread. I found that in every shop, every lounge, at every event, it was the people who made the experiences unique and endearing.

I believe that the cigar is one of the great equalizers of mankind. Smoking a cigar in the company of others is an experience that I’ve seen bring out the best in people. Walk into most shops and lounges and you’ll meet people of all ages and from all backgrounds sitting around a coffee table enjoying conversation, sharing stories, sharing favorite cigars, and even striking up new business relationships. You’ll find blue collar, white collar, and no collar folks finding unity around a handmade product that allows them the chance to spend an hour or so forgetting about all the nonsense that so often dominates today’s headlines and just being. You’ll see fathers reconnecting with sons, friends, and family celebrating engagements, weddings, babies, new jobs, and graduations.

I have personally witnessed and been a part of conversations where a friend or even new acquaintance had just been through the grinder of life and was desperate for some peace of mind, an ear to vent to, or some wise advice to help guide them through a tough decision. Those are the moments that solidify my reasons for sticking with the cigar industry, even through tough times of my own. To be in the presence of a divine appointment, what many may label as a happenstance or mere coincidence, I see the hand of God directing movements, schedules, conversations, generosity, love, kindness, and sacrifice is exhilarating.

This is why I love the cigar business. This is why I cherish my involvement in what can sometimes be a very difficult business. When we took ownership of the shops here in Lynchburg, VA, we were unaware of the trials that would come. While we knew we had an uphill road ahead of us, the extent of those climbs was something we would only discover after the transition. But time and time again, when we’ve been afforded the chance to bail and move on, it’s the people that kept us engaged. Even now it’s the family and friends; the kinship that we feel with our staff and our patrons that mean the most to us. We want to continue building an environment that is ripe for these divine appointments to occur.

For me personally, that’s what makes the road ahead completely worthwhile. I hope that you feel the same way. I hope that we can foster the type of environment that you can feel at home in. I also hope that you will join alongside us in building something that goes beyond the four walls of the shops; beyond the brands that are in the humidors, but something greater that reaches into all of us and makes us and the world around us better than when we found it.

Sincerely,
Mike Justice

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