Cigars Anyone? Montclair’s Fumé Cigar Shop & Lounge’s Frank Alberto Talks Shop

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Frank Alberto, co-owner of  Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge
Frank Alberto, co-owner of
Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge

For me, cigars have always been associated with Edward G. Robinson, George Burns and Gordon Gekko and a pungent odor that clung to my clothes days after I was around a cigar smoker. To better understand the world of cigars, I stopped by Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge (415 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair).

“Cigars are definitely an acquired taste. Some people prefer beer; some people prefer wine; some people prefer cigarettes over cigars; and then there’s different types of cigars and there different types of cigar smokers,” says Frank Alberto, who along with brother Ralph (and another person who is no longer with the shop), opened Fumé in 2004.

The shop offers 2-3,000 different types of hand-rolled, limited produced high-end “boutique” cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras ranging from $7.00 to $50 per stick or $100-$1,000 by the box, depending on the number and type of cigars in the box.  The Alberto brothers also sell cigar cutters, lighters, tobacco pipes, humidors and select cigarette brands. 

Members (for a $400 annual membership fee) have access to a lounge where they can smoke their cigars that are stored in their own humidified lockers.  They can also watch sports on a wide screen TV (hot food is served on Sundays), attend special events and get discounts on purchases.

While the majority of members are male, Alberto says there are two female members.  “One lady is here every night,” says Alberto, who grew up in Newark and now lives in Cedar Grove.  “It definitely takes a woman who can deal with men on a large scale.  There is a little bit of a watch TV, a lot of sporting events on.  If you’re not into sporting events, it’s probably difficult if you’re a lady.  Some guys don’t even like sporting events, so they’ll go in the back room where it’s quiet and sit there and smoke.” 

Members talk and smoke their cigars in Fumé's Lounge.
Members talk and smoke their cigars in Fumé’s Lounge.

For first-time cigar smokers, Alberto recommends they start with a milder cigar, which can have a creamy, earth-peppery tone and leathery taste.  He says cigars from the Dominican Republic are creamier, less acidic and have a cocoa taste, while Nicaraguan cigars (his favorite) have a black peppery taste and Hondurans have an earthy, bittersweet chocolate-type taste.

“You learn what you like; we’ll set you up with two-three different cigars with three different tastes—a creamy one; one that has a little bit of spice and one with an earthy overtone—has a light bitterness. Then you bring in the cigar labels and we mark the ones you like.  After your second or third try, we’ll bump it up to a medium (stronger) taste.  Then we’ll go to a full-bodied taste.”

The Fumé co-owner says many women who visit the store with their husbands or boyfriends try flavored cigars—the cigars’ outer leaves are dipped in fruit, coffee or mint chocolate chip flavored extracts.

While Cuban cigars hold a certain caché because of their illegal status in the United States and their craftsmanship, Alberto thinks Nicaraguan and Dominican cigars (known as domestic cigars because they are allowed into the U.S. legally) have equalled or surpassed them.   “The issue is quality control with these domestic cigars.  The manufacturers have different people looking at every step of the way.  With the Cuban stuff, it’s still done in an antiquated way.  There are no real regulations, so you might get a box that’s excellent and the cigar color might be dark and then you’ll get a box again with a lighter (colored) cigar.  The consistency is not there, whereas there is with domestic cigars.”

Thoughts on ending the trade embargo that banned Cuban cigars from entering the United States legally 52 years ago? “I don’t see it happening in the near future…I’m not a diplomat, so I wouldn’t know.  If it does happen, it would create a great boom again for cigars, like in the early ’90’s,” comments Alberto.

“People tell you there’s not enough product to go around—that’s not true.  There’s enough Cuban cigars that they can supply America with.  80 percent of the Cuban cigars that are currently made are exported to Europe and re-imported to the U.S. Customs will check it and grab you if they want.” Alberto says he doesn’t think this happens often.

Are cigar pairings with specific wine and spirits legitimate or just a marketing thing?

Lighter and cigar cutter sits on top of a box of La Flor Dominicana Cigars.
Lighter and cigar cutter sit on top of a box of La Flor Dominicana Cigars.

“Sometimes we try to pair stuff; for me it doesn’t work. It all depends on the person and the palate he/she has.  Everybody is different; that’s why they make all these different cigars—that’s why we have so many variances in prices.

“A guy comes in here and buys a $20 cigar for the first time here and he’s used to a $3 cigar from another place. He might like the $3 cigar taste he’s used to—he’s used to that earthy or creamy or cocoa taste.  It’s just like a wine. Some people might like a Barolo; some people like something lighter and they go for a pinot noir.”

Popular accessories Alberto sells that might translate into holiday gift ideas? 

Cigar lighters ($15-$2,000; “It’s a big part of the whole mystique of a cigar”) and cigar cutters (similar pricing and also a status symbol for cigar smokers).

Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge, 415 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, 973-783-3863

16 COMMENTS

  1. Forgive me, but this is where Baristanet confuses me.

    This is an “story” about a new business (legal, yes) but one that promotes smoking. Which, unlike alcohol, is at the forefront of things that shall be banned, scorned and tossed aside.

    The idea that smoking cigars, is what? Like drinking wine? Is dumb. We already know that SOME alcohol has some medical beneficial. Whereas we know that ALL smoking is bad.

    Simply, this is irresponsible for this site, which at times tries to have a conscious about things that pose dangers to society (all the paid sick day stuff, kids and guns, kids and smoking/alcohol, etc.), to shill for a “cool, hip, blah-blah-blah, smoke shop.”

    Cigars, like cigarettes, are a disgusting habit that we know leads to cancer. No moderation. According to the cdc: “Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.” (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/cigars/)

    Again, alcohol is different.

    These guys are free to do what they want- I hope they are successful. Smoking is perfectly legal, and I hope the “members” enjoy the comfort of enjoying a smoke with like-minded folks.

    My issue is why is this on Baritanet? Or can we expect to see the outside patio at the DLV Lounge complete with the cigarette smokers huddled from the cold featured too?

    I’m confused.

  2. You are.

    Barista not advocating cigar smoking. They are simply running a story on a local business.

    No one will will get hooked on cigars by reading this article. Oh, I see, it’s the moral ambiguity that is objected to.

    Yeah right, almost fell off my chair!

  3. And let’s not even discuss the “line” between the ban on smoking ads and “stories” like this.

    The issue is the choice to highlight THIS local business.

    This “story” doesn’t even pretend to cover an issue- other than it’s a new business. A story about how to get around the Cuban embargo- perhaps. That would be interesting- how a local business does it.

    Or how a local business tries to thrive in the face of public scorn of its activity? Maybe.

    But instead we get: “The shop offers 2-3,000 different types of hand-rolled, limited produced high-end “boutique” cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras ranging from $7.00 to $50 per stick or $100-$1,000 by the box, depending on the number and type of cigars in the box. The Alberto brothers also sell cigar cutters, lighters, tobacco pipes, humidors and select cigarette brands.”

  4. I nominate Prof’s 1:24pm comment for the worst comment in the history of Baristanet award.

    I ask that Baristanet display the worst comment below the featured comment. It should remain there until it is topped with an even worse comment.

  5. Grown ups can make their own decisions. I have no problem with smoke shops. I’d rather people smoke there than in public places. If you don’t smoke, don’t go.

  6. In the history of B’net, stayhyphy? Obviously you don’t know too much about the smoking ban and sponsored content. If you did, you’d at least understand my comment. Rather, you’ve showed yourself.

    But please, go ‘head and consider it dumb.

    Again, the issue isn’t the store– they can do whatever they like, and I hope they are successful, hell I might even go and chill with a Ashton Aged Maduro (or something from my peoples in the DR).

    The issue is why does a site that highlights health and safety in our community, feel the need to do a “story” about a smoke shop?

  7. I agree, Mrs. Martta. The problem is when 2 or 3 of these cigar smokers sit on the bench in front of the store and you can smell them within a 2 block radius.

  8. I love Fume. I think it’s great that there’s a place in town where you can get a fine cigar, socialize and enjoy life. The fact that it’s across from Cuban Pete’s is even better. A nice Cuban dinner and a cigar? What could be better.
    Do you know what else I love? That I can always count on someone whining on Baristanet. Maybe a nice Casa Magna robusto would do you some good (you know who you are).

  9. Cigarettes make me gag. There are some cigars that I don’t care for the smell of, but I’ve walked by the shop before and encountered some pleasant smells from the gentleman sitting outside smoking cigars on the bench. It adds to the ambience unless you’re just an uptight person.

  10. “For me, cigars have always been associated with Edward G. Robinson, George Burns and Gordon Gekko …..”

    How about Groucho , JFK , Winston , and Sigmund ?….. Btw, did Sig really utter that famous line?

  11. And last but not least : How about the late great congresswoman , NJ’s own Millicent Fenwick. ?

    Nope , they sure don’t make Republicans like that anymore…..(sigh)

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