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FatMan Cigars, located just six blocks from the Capitol, is the product of one man's two-decade infatuation with the cigar.
Joey Madrid, 40, owner and operator of FatMan Cigars, said he discovered cigars as a navy electrician in 1990, and dreamed of opening a cigar shop since 1995. At the time, he was told he was too young to be taken seriously in the business.
FatMan Cigars marks its first year in business on Tuesday. Unlike many cigar shops, it is one of the only places in Sacramento where you can purchase your cigar and smoke it inside. The standalone building, with separate ventilation systems for each floor, gives patrons the freedom to light up inside, a luxury for California smokers.
“I first started smoking cigars in a submarine,” said Madrid, a native Sacramentan. “Now I can’t sit and smoke in a public park.”
That dynamic helped shape the business Madrid opened late last year, just months before Hangar 17, Madrid’s restaurant venture, closed. Unlike others in his business, the strict laws that govern where the public can and cannot smoke have actually helped Madrid set his shop apart from the competition.
“It definitely has helped business that smoking is prohibited,” Madrid said. “It’s a challenge for a brick-and-mortar (store) that doesn’t allow smoke to compete with excise taxes and out-of-state tobacco sales.”
Madrid credits Mark Just, owner of Tower Cigars, as a mentor. With 19 years in the business, Just gave Madrid advice and guidance, a relationship that is helped by having two different business models.
“His business has a lounge that allows people to smoke,” Just said. “It’s much larger. We’re just a hit-and-run.”
Madrid’s building, located on 10th Street near R Street, was once home to the offices of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Now, completely remodeled, the space is a true cigar lover’s haven.
The lower level features a walk-in humidor and lounge area, complete with leather furniture, hardwood floors and flat-screen televisions. An antique cash register rests atop the sales counter, and in a second lounge, farther down the hall, sits a working soda machine from 1963. The narrow hallway is lined with bookshelves- filled with hundreds of empty cigar boxes.
“My friends say I’m a hoarder,” Madrid said, adding that he does not sell the empty boxes, but gives them away to customers, including one who uses the boxes to make guitars and ukuleles.
The upper level is a private lounge for members. It is accessible via key card through a separate entrance at the back of the building.
The members’ lounge features a poker room, a locker room that houses 60 lockers, several flat-screen televisions and more leather furniture. A small kitchen area with refrigerator, restroom and two balconies complete the space. Madrid plans to add a sink and dishwasher to the kitchen next year.
Membership rates start at $500 per year and include cigar storage and exclusive access to the members’ lounge. Madrid does not sell or provide food or beverage, but members are permitted to bring those items into the lounge.
His members have made some requests, including the addition of a door to the poker room so that it can be used as an office. Madrid said he does his best to meet their requests, but he has had a few unique suggestions – such as the installation of a fireman’s pole – that he could not accommodate.
While Madrid said most of his clientele is male, he does have a few female members and clients. He said his clients range from CEOs of companies to “average guys like me,” and said the proximity to the Capitol brings in some staffers and politicians.
“I can tell how my day is going to go by the the parking situation,” Madrid said, adding that he often closes on state holidays, because the neighborhood is so quiet.
FatMan Cigars sells cigars, humidors, lighters, cutters and other cigar-related products. Prices range from just a few dollars to $45 per cigar, the price for a Padron, one of his most popular options.
The shop is open from noon to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The members’ lounge is open for members from noon to midnight, Monday through Saturday.