“Smoking a cigar is like sipping a glass of fine wine,” explained owner James Kommer, who runs the tobacco shop along with his wife, Rose, sons Brandon and Kyle, and daughter Nicole. “You want to enjoy it and savor the flavor.”
Kommer, who opened a similar shop in Clifton Park seven years ago before moving to downtown Saratoga Springs six years ago, said the business has been popular with lovers of a fine smoke, especially with the unique benefit of the lounges for members’ exclusive use.
“You never see a person outside of their office hurrying to smoke a cigar,” said Kommer. “This gives them a place to relax and enjoy a cigar while also talking with friends, working or just hanging out.”
Located in a historic building on the corner of Broadway and Phila Street, James & Sons utilizes unique features of the former bank. The room sized humidor where are the cigars are kept, is built to air quality control specifics and is lined with Spanish cedar. The walk-in humidor features all hand-rolled cigars from all over the world including Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, costing from $6 to $40 apiece. Discounts are given to those with a membership.
“We offer a lot of boutique brands,” said Kommer, noting that none of the cigars are machine produced. “With the proper humidity, proper temperature they can stay fresh forever. Like a fine wine, a good cigar can get better with age.”
Just off the humidor is a set of lockers located in the original bank vault. Depending on the membership purchased, customers can be assigned a locker, also built as a humidor with a Spanish cedar lining, and a name tag is installed on the individual lockers. There are also a set of lockers in another space in the shop, and lockers will be installed in the two new lounges upstairs.
In addition, a couple of times a month, Kommer brings in a gentleman who grew up in the Dominican Republic and who was schooled in the tradition of hand rolling cigars. Using an authentic cigar rolling table designed after the tables used in Cuba, the roller sets up outside the Broadway store and rolls cigars for passersby and giving demonstrations.
Kommer, who was introduced to cigars by his father-in-law 33 years ago, said running the shop has been a lot of fun for the family.
“When you enjoy what you do, it is not work,” said Kommer. “How tough can it be smoking cigars and talking with friends all day? I get to meet all kinds of people. The cigars are almost secondary because of the comradeship.”
Continuing, he explained that those who become members and spend time at the shop, often become more like friends. Some, he said, come in to visit, watch television on one of the big screen TVs or to work.
“Some people come here with their laptops and actually work out of here,” said Kommer, noting that they offer Wi-Fi service to members as well.
While James & Sons has always offered a lounge in the main store, when the tenant who was renting the space next door and above moved out, the Kommers seized the opportunity to build two more lounges—one with an English feel and the other, a little bit of Havana in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Exclusively for Black Diamond memberships, the two lounges are open for extended hours—9 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week—and are accessible by key card access only.
The English Lounge has a just above street level view of both Broadway and Phila Street, with over-sized windows, chocolate brown, plush leather chairs, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi access. Lockers are also planned.
The Cuba Lounge, complete with a mural depicting a 1950s-era car on a beach—the license plate has the letters CLK in memory for the Kommer’s son, Cody, who died when he was only 15—turquoise lined ashtrays, Mango-colored walls and a specially made dominoes table.
Kommer said several things in the store are dedicated to Cody, noting that even a cigar is named after him.
“We do this as a family,” said Kommer.
James & Sons Tobacconists is located at 360 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Membership dues are $150 annually for non-locker members with a 10 percent discount on all purchases; $250 annually for a membership with a locker and a 15 percent discount; $250 annually and $40 a month for a Black Diamond membership which grants extended hours access to both upstairs lounges, concierge service, 30 percent discount on boxes and 15 percent on other purchases, special access to in-house events and on-going perks. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. During track season, limited memberships will be available. Call (518) 581-7274 for more information.