The Tinder Box
Here I am at the big bike rally in Sturgis South Dakota where I received a hot tip about the Tinder Box Cigar Bar in Rapid City.
I was in Rapid visiting with Pastor Dave and his lovely wife Ruth who were in town on a tourist trip and decided that I would recon the Tinder Box where I met Penney, one of the waitresses who was immediately helpful and very friendly.
I told her who I was and about my blog and asked her when the best time to come in would be. She informed me that they have live music on the weekend and drew a pretty big crowd.
I had a feeling that this was going to turn in to a real cigar adventure and began making plans for a visit.
I actually went into the Tinder Box twice before going in for my interview and was able to get a feel for the place along with inspiration for questions that I hoped to get the answers to when I actually met the owners.
On the initial approach, I noticed that there were patio tables and chairs out front on the sidewalk. The display windows on both sides of the entry were wide enough for easy chairs and small tables where people were able to sit and enjoy their own semi-private area as well as the activity on the outside. I thought they were mannequins until I realized they were real people. It made a surprising and quite inviting, noticeable display.
Inside they are a good sized establishment with lots of plush cushy leather chairs and couches. Their humidor is not large but they make up for volume with quality. They carry some fine quality hand rolled cigars.
One of the first things I noticed was that they offer a 3 1/2″ Macanudo Cru Royale, which is a medium to full flavor stick that I really enjoy but have a hard time finding. I also noticed that they stock several of the short cigars which I later learned the story behind these when I talked to Chris Johnson the owner.
I invited my friend Deb to join me for the interview and we rode in on my Harley. As we entered there was a beautiful young lady at the mic singing old, like BC (before Chuck) songs (Frank Sinatra era stuff) and she had a wonderful voice.
She evoked the spirit of a romantic time of Ingrid Bergman and Humphery Bogart in 1942 movie Casablanca.
I found out that her name is Sofia Beatty and she is one of many artists that play around Rapid City. They apparently have quite the music scene, one of many things that has me seeing Rapid in a whole new light.
After going into the humidor and picking out a Cru Royale for myself and a Sweet Jane for Deb (who had never smoked a cigar in her life), I proceeded to explain the intricacies of cigar etiquette to her. By the end of the night. she was a connoisseur!
I also had the privilege of meeting Frisker. Frisker was purchased as a pup at the same time the lounge was purchased. She grew up in the bar and she is associated as The Cigar Dog. She has been very popular with the regulars and the tourists in Rapid City during the summer, they snap many pictures of her daily. Occaisionaly she even draws in a customer or two.
In the course of the evening we got acquainted with the waitstaff,
who were all very kind and helpful, particularly Penney whom I had met on a previous visit. When we came in this evening she informed me that she had checked out my blog and was happy that we had returned and wanted to introduce us to the owners, however, they had stepped out for dinner.
So we sat smoking and watched miss Beatty as she performed her soulful rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. What a lovely voice!
We meet the people behind the magic
At about this time Penney comes to get me to meet the owners, Chris Johnson and Caroline Sharp.
I introduced myself to them and explained what I was doing and they were immediately warm and enthusiastic and invited Deb and me to take the 50-cent tour.
Chris led us downstairs through the wine cellar to what is called The Underground 420, which has nothing to do with the smoking of another leafy product but was named for the address of the building.
The Underground 420 is a huge comfortable banquet room that is rented out for special occasions. Interestingly Chris says that he gets more bachelorette parties than anything else.
The room, being underground, maintains a constant 68 degrees through all seasons of the year.
All of the artwork in the 420 room has at one point or another been in the main lounge upstairs or in the bathrooms. One in particular, the kitchen scene is a favorite above the urinal in the men’s room, where gentlemen report that they see something new each time they stand before it!
Chris tells me that they have owned the place for 4 years and have made a lot of changes. Even the Underground 420 is a restoration project that was just storage when they moved in.
Chris has spent most of his working life in marketing and immediately recognized the potential that the Tinder box offered and in a short time their popularity has grown considerably.
Caroline is an astute businesswoman, presenting herself as a highly professional and credible resource in the field of cigars, as well as in hospitality. I was very pleased with their reception.
I had the opportunity to ask Chris about those short cigars that I spotted on the recon and here is the answer: In the winter it is so cold in South Dakota that it takes too long to smoke a long cigar, thus the short ones! I had to laugh at myself when he told me this!
All good things must end
Chris, Caroline, Deb and I visited for quite a while in the 420 room and then we went back up to the main lounge. Chris was not as impressed with my cigar selection for Deb as I was and gave her a popular house stick that he thought she would enjoy. He also gave me an Indian Motorcycle cigar which is a new line originating in the Dominican Republic. It was a nice full flavor 60 gage, Maduro, probably a Gordo
As we talked Chris also had one of the girls make me a Cuban coffee, which I really enjoyed. The coffee is one that the Fuente’s are putting out and if you see it somewhere, try it!
By this time, it was getting late and it was time for Chris and Caroline to go home and Deb and I had a long ride back to camp back in Sturgis
My humble opinion
I would without a doubt recommend the Tinder Box in Rapid City South Dakota to any of my Cigar Pals! I have not received a warmer welcome in any of the cigar bars that I have been in. That is saying a lot because I have been in quite a few and been treated very well in some. There is just something about this place that makes it stand out above the rest. Thank You, Chris and Caroline and all the girls for an awesome cigar adventure.
So folks, if you get out to Rapid City (thats where all the Presidents on the mountain are) be sure to stop in at the Tinder Box and tell em Chuck sent you!