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Inspiring Conversations with Shirley McClellan of Fire and Smoke Cigar Parlor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shirley McClellan.

Hi Shirley, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My love of tobacco started at an early age, as a young woman sitting on her grandfather’s front porch. I grew up Baltimore, MD but my grandfather is from Darlington, South Carolina, We used to visit during the summer. My grandfather and relatives before him worked in tobacco fields. They would sit on the porch and smoke cigars. I loved the smell, the fellowship, the laughs….. everything! My grandmother always made me come inside while the men were enjoying their cigars and talking, but I’d sneak back out to the bottom of the steps to enjoy the aroma.”

I couldn’t wait to get older and try cigars, as partaking was a “rite of passage” for family members upon graduating from high school. This family passion, combined with an early desire to be an entrepreneur (motivated by a 4th grade teacher that told me I couldn’t own my own business), and encouragement from family and friends, lead me to cigar lounges around the world to build a model for the perfect lounge.

My vision became clear: to open a premium cigar lounge where I could create the ultimate inclusive experience. My plans didn’t include a member’s only, business attire-only type of atmosphere, but research, a developed business plan, authentic connections, and community support.

The next step, determine a location. One of my associates informed me of the current location in a shopping center in Towson, a growing city in Baltimore County with a very diverse community. Having to completely renovate this space, contractors, friends, and family came to my aid offering the manpower (in exchange for cigars from my personal collection) needed to transform what was once a tax preparation office to what Fire and Smoke Cigar Parlor is today. It was a sight to see as we were patching holes in the walls, hanging pictures and painting, while all enjoying cigars together!

December 19th, 2017, the last free cigar had been smoked and it was time to open up shop! Support started flowing in and the lounge was packed daily; days before the official January 2018 grand opening.

My mission is to ensure my customers feel as if they are a part of the cigar community, because there are still times when I as a woman and as an African-American doesn’t receive the same reception and respect in shops as my male counterparts do. I’’d walk into a shop and one race of people would be on one side, another race on the other and both would give me looks and comments as if I didn’t belong because I was a woman. I remember entering lounges and being immediately told, “We don’t sell those sweeten, candy cigars’, assuming that I wasn’t familiar with premium, non-infused tobacco because of her gender.

A lot of things have changed the ‘good ole boy network’ that exists in the cigar industry. The cigar enthusiast demographic is changing, along with the way new products are introduced and marketed. It’s all contributing to the evolution of the cigar industry. As the first Black woman owned CIGAR PARLOR in Baltimore County, I credit the opening of shops women and lounges in more diverse neighborhoods with changing the way cigars are enjoyed.

I take pride in promoting the cigar industry among the African-American community and bringing all cultures together. We’re all trying to enjoy the same thing, so there’s no reason we can’t all do it all as one.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I had challenges from the beginning. Just getting my license was an ordeal because of the structure of my building and the new handicap ♿️ laws. After that, contractors quit and it was literally friends and family that help me build out my business. Then I found that many cigar companies wasn’t ready to do business with me as a woman entering a man’s world! It took a good 3 years to get my foot in the door of some of the old regime cigar companies. Along the way there were all kinds of challenges, especially the Pandemic. My business was closed almost 6 months in 2020 and 3 months in 2021! I built a website and delivered and shipped. I did zooms with my customers. I just had to figure it out.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Fire and Smoke Cigar Parlor?
Fire and Smoke Cigar Parlor is the first and solely only Black Woman owned Cigar Parlor in all of Baltimore County located at 6827A LOCH RAVEN BLVD TOWSON MD 21286. Fire and Smoke Cigar Parlor is a RETAIL STORE FIRST! Yes, we have an amazingly comfortable and friendly lounge, but our first priority is to offer FINE CIGARS, PIPES, AND ACCESSORIES! We are a TRUE TOBACCONIST! We have the arguably best brands in the business… The exquisite limited editions like Opus 6 and Opus Story, the most awarded staples in the industry like Padron and Cohiba, The best of the boutiques like La Palina and My Father’s, the Infused greats from Drew Estate like Leather Rose and Acid 20….the hidden boutique gems like 1502 and Lucky cigars, the PCA EXCLUSIVES like Asylum PCA 2021, the newest on the market like the CAO Firewalker, Cohiba Serie M, and some of the top 25 cigars of the year like the Bradley Kintsugi …. just to mention a small few of what’s on the shelves! We have the arguably best crafted Wessex tobacco pipes…. the staples in accessories like Xikar….your humidor needs by Boveda…. travel cases, humidors, lighters ,cutters, cigar publications, gift sets, and the list goes on! Next time you think about buying cigars, pipes, or accessories make us your first stop, then stay and enjoy the atmosphere! I am known as *the home lounge* it is the most welcoming friendliest lounge in the state. No matter your background, gender, or race you will feel at home while enjoying a great Cigar.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I have been lucky to find a location in East Baltimore County that attracted some of the most serious Cigar smokers and loyal customers that make sure I am open for business everyday.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Hux Spirits
Jackson Photography
Seymore Photos

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