ISLAND CITY — Union County cigar lovers have a new venue, not for lighting up, but for shopping.
Big Smoke, an Idaho-based company that specializes in tobacco products, including cigars, has opened a store in Island City.
It features a walk-in humidor to keep cigars at moisture and temperature levels ideal for maintaining their flavor, said Kara Johnson, manager of the new Big Smoke shop at the north end of the Walmart parking lot at 11621 Island Ave., Suite A.
"We believe it is the only walk-in cigar humidor in the tri-county (Union, Wallowa and Baker counties) area," she said.
The humidor, which has wood paneling, holds many cigar brands including Cuban Rejects produced by Ventura Cigar Company.
"They are one of our most popular cigars," Johnson said.
Don't be fooled by the name — these cigars are not rejects of Cuban origin. Rather, Cuban Rejects are cigars made from tobacco in Nicaragua that has a similar climate to Cuba. They provide a taste similar to the cigars Cuba is famous for but which the United States has banned since imposing a trade embargo on the island nation in 1962.
The shop carries an array of other brands, including Cohiba, Montecristo and Partagas. The Big Smoke staff is open to recommendations for bringing in additional cigar brands in the future.
"We are trying to get feedback," Johnson said.
Everyone entering the Island City Big Smoke store must be at least 21 years old due to state law. No smoking is allowed in the shop under Oregon's Indoor Clean Air Act.
The smoke shop in Island City is one of 64 Big Smoke stores in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Utah, about 25 of which are named Tobacco Connection. Most of the chain's stores are in Idaho. Oregon's stores in addition to Island City are in Pendleton and Hermiston. The Washington Big Smoke stores are in Kennewick and Moses Lake.
Big Smoke carries other smoking products, from cigarettes to pipe tobacco, and also sells beer and wine. The store chills the beer it sells, which includes Terminal Gravity IPA in its walk-in cooler, or "Beer Cave." The shop carries 10 varieties of wine including Barefoot.
Johnson said the Big Smoke company strives to be community active. Charities it reaches out to annually include the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for which it raised almost $40,000 in 2019. The funding, raised with the help of customer donations, helps send children to MDA camps.