There’s a new/old place in town that you really need to visit. And when you do, you won’t recognize the upstairs lounge at the famous Londoncigar store on St James’s Street.
“It’s long been in need of an update, but for one reason or another we just haven’t been able to get it done before,” Rob Fox tells Cigar Journal with his trademark chuckle.
“We’ve been talking about it for years! It was worth the wait.” If you’ve ever been upstairs for a smoke at JJ Fox, you will recognize the fabulous semi-circle window which leads onto a faux balcony and a view over one of London’s most famous retail streets. But that’s about all you’ll recognize. Now there are comfortable leather club chairs, a series of tables around which to chat, a lot more room due to some walls having been knocked down and and a coffee machine for patrons to enjoy.
“Our customers love coming up here,” continues Rob, “And to be honest, many of them were anti any change at all. But I hope we’ve done something modern while retaining the sense of what we’re all about here.”
“The best members club in London – and you don’t have to pay for it”; “St James’s best-kept secret”; and “The world’s friendliest cigar club,” are just three of the comments I’ve been given in recent weeks by regular attendees. Someone even pleaded with me to abandon my planned piece as he didn’t want more people to know about his “favorite place in the world.”
Jean Clarke is the manager of the store and is proud to be able to offer more than 350 vitolas to visiting clients, and also show them an area dedicated to vintage and aged cigars.
And if you’re having difficulty in choosing your stick, look no further for advice than the store’s floor staff, with three Masters of Habanos, two Silver Chaveta winners, and industry legend Philip Shervington, who is celebrating his 50th year in the business. They’ll undoubtedly recommend something to suit the occasion.
But it’s the characters you’ll meet and talk to who will form the memories you’ll retain from your trip “upstairs” in JJ’s. Some are content to sit quietly and use the free WiFi, but many other guests will enjoy having a chat.
You may not agree with everything you hear, but that’s fine; this is a place for everyone. Cigar smokers are a democratic bunch and accommodating of all tastes and styles. That’s why you may enjoy your smoke next to a chap in jeans, or another resplendent in a three-piece suit. You’ll meet tradesmen, lawyers, servicemen, and more. And for that hour or two, in this newly refurbished haven, you’ll be among friends.
James J. Fox
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Autumn Edition 2015. Read more