East Nashville shop Smokers Abbey took a name that evokes a spiritual home or hub -- and that makes a lot of sense, when you consider the origins of co-owners Joshua Stump and Chris Hayzlett’s love of fine tobacco.
“(Chris and I) both got into cigars as a biblically legal way to cope with the stress of ministry,” Stump says.
When the cigar bug bit, both were pastoring (Stump is currently the Pastor of Keeill Fellowship in Nashville, part of Anchor Mission USA), and although a cigar shop might seem like an outwardly odd move from the pulpit, the shopmates’ draw toward community keeps a common thread. From poker nights to shows to comedy nights, Smokers Abbey’s regular events make the space much more than a smoke shop — something more akin to a "Cheers" for Nashville cigar lovers, where everyone’s Norm.
Since we’re creeping toward the Abbey’s first anniversary in June, we figured we’d check in with Stump to get some shop insight and tobacco tips.
The East Nashvillian: What made you feel like East Nashville was the right place for a fine tobacco stop?
Joshua Stump: “We both live in the East Side and we wanted to share our passion with our friends and neighbors. There are currently not any full production cigar and pipe retail outlets in East Nashville.”
Learning enough about cigars and fine tobacco to figure out what you like: Is it a long, demanding process?
“Finding the right cigar for your palate is much like refining your taste for wine, coffee, or cocktails. They are not all the same, but based on the type of tobacco and where it’s grown we can find the right cigar for your taste. Your can get a pretty good idea of what you like within the first five cigars.”
Let's say you had two totally different customers: One's a total newbie, the other is a hardcore aficionado. What would you recommend from your stock to those two folks, and why?
“We like to start a newbie out on a Connecticut Blend. It is a milder cigar. Our best seller is the Suave by House of Emillio Cigars.
“For someone more experienced we would turn them onto a J.D. Howard, by Crowned Heads (a Nashville-based company). The cigar is all about East Nashville History.” (Read about it at the Crowned Heads website.)
You guys have made events a big part of your shop, too. How did you develop that schedule or guide/decide what types of events you're going to host?
“Events are a wonderful way to bring the social aspect of cigar life. We plan different types of parties and celebrations to share our common love of cigars together with the community.”
You're coming up on a year in business now -- reflecting on your first year in business in East Nashville, how do you feel?
“We’re very excited about the future — we have plans to expand our lounge in the same location, as we are leasing and addition space in our building. We’re planning on raising funds to help cover cost of expansion. The new space will accommodate room for sports fans and live indie music.
“As far as our first year, it has been difficult, as we underestimated the cost of the new business. But the neighbors in East Nashville have been so loving and engaged to support us through the winter months.”
Visit Smokers Abbey at 604 Gallatin Rd., Ste 102, or at the Smokers Abbey website. For regular updates on events and specials, follow the Abbey on Instagram. (Joshua's photo from Instagram.)