When a 34-foot Airstream trailer popped up on Craigslist in Greenville last winter, Frank Robertson didn’t waste a second. “I called the guy at 7 p.m. and said, ‘I’d like to see it tonight,’” he recalls.
By midnight, he and friend Taylor Bostwick owned the Airstream and immediately began converting it into Southern Smoke, their mobile cigar lounge that’s been popping up this fall at weddings and events like the grand opening of The Cedar Room and Mercantile and Mash at the Cigar Factory. Guests can purchase cigars from the six-foot cabinet humidor and relax in the lounge, which features a custom exhaust system and seating for 16 in club chairs and built-in benches.
Robertson’s love affair with cigars began at age 15, when he puffed on his first—a Padrón 64 from Nicaragua—in a barn behind his family’s home in Texas. They helped him relax while on active duty in the Air Force, and he soon hatched the idea of Southern Smoke as a retirement plan.
A friendship with fellow Texan and Citadel student Bostwick (a Naval serviceman) kicked that plan into high gear. By last summer, Robertson had left his job at Benefitfocus to devote himself full-time to his passion. And it’s a family affair: his wife, Abbey, handles booking and PR, and Bostwick’s wife, Jenna, manages marketing.
Robertson and Bostwick will each graduate from The Citadel this spring, but “My goal is to not ever use my degree,” Robertson admits. “I’m going to work my fingers to the bone to make sure Southern Smoke thrives.”
Tobacconist Frank Robertson shares tips on choosing the perfect cigar
➼ Know your limits. If you don’t use tobacco regularly, a medium-bodied cigar may suit you best. It’s a rule of thumb that darker cigars are typically stronger.
➼ Don’t break the bank. Cigars in the U.S. range from $2 to $30, but many of the best ones are $8 to $15, says Robertson.
➼ Think about timing. A “presidente” size cigar may look and feel great, but it may also take two hours to smoke—not ideal if you’re at a wedding.
➼ Trust your instincts. “If you like the smell and it feels right in your hand, go for it,” Robertson advises.
➼ Practice proper preservation. A good cigar will naturally go out after about 10 minutes and smoke for another 20. To finish it later (within a day, at the most), use a lighter at the end to whisk away any accumulated moisture.