As with any business and doubly so for a local cigar shop it is the shop’s staff that are the heart and soul of the establishment. They are the ones who care for the property. They are the first ones the customer meets. They set the tone and, when needed, they keep the peace. It’s a family. The Cigar Shack is no different.
When it comes time for one of the members to move on to better things it's only fitting that we take a moment to show our respect. This day Ira Haas is that member. He's been a friend to so many. Ira is more than just a member of the Cigar Shack family, however. He's more of a father figure to the establishment. He's widely respected. He's provided guidance and a certain manner of getting things done that's an example to any businessman.
Some words from his coworkers:
“Thank You, Ira!
In a little cigar store's life, you will go through trials and tribulations that lead to decision making on all levels, but your customers will never get a chance to see that side of the business. A successful cigar store takes a "team" of people all helping each other while serving the patrons on a daily basis. Usually, one guy stands out among them a sort of band leader if you will. A store manager, who watches what sells, does the ordering, makes weekly schedules, and shares your vision and passion for trying to make the BEST little cigar store in the area. That would be Ira.
But Ira's a whole lot more than that. He's a retired man with a BIG heart a passion for cigars and knowledge far beyond your typical cigar smoker. He's friendly, kind and a lot of fun to talk to. He understands the business and is as honest as they come. In this tough business that's a rare breed.
Ira is also my friend; he's there whenever you need to vent or bounce an idea off of. I enjoy his company, and it's no wonder why others do as well. I don't know how The Cigar Shack will be like without him, but I do know that will all miss him. I've personally seen the difference a GREAT store manager can be. Ira, I can't Thank You enough for all your expertise and friendship. We will miss you, but we will keep in touch, my friend. ALL THE BEST TO YOU AND LIZ, GOD BLESS!”
“So, have you ever met someone and after spending some time with them, you feel like they've been a friend your whole life... that’s Ira. For the past couple of years, I've been lucky enough to work here at the shop with him and get to know Ira on a personal level and came to find out we have a lot in common. His love for his wife, family, country and the men in blue is unwavering.
There's one particular evening that myself and my daughter will remember forever - bagpipes down Broadway. It was a bonding moment for a father and daughter.
Ira made that happen.
So .... he looks rough and tough on the outside (and I know he can be when needed) but Ira is also a big-hearted, kind and a friend I call brother.
Will he be missed ... eh.”
“Ira’s the guy who gives the afternoons at the Shack a little professionalism and a lot of cigar knowledge.”
We’re all going to miss him; staff and customers included. You’d have to be crazy not to. We decided to take some time to discuss his thoughts on the shop. Interviewing him is Matthew Pollotta.
Matt: How did you first find out about the Cigar Shack? What was your first contact with it?
Ira: Through a friend. Through a mutual friend of the shop.
Matt: That’s how you met Bobby (the owner)?
Matt: How did you get involved?
Ira: Came in spoke to Bob. He needed a day manager. I guess after smoking a cigar with him…
Matt: You guys got along?
Matt: What was your first impression of the Cigar Shack?
Ira: I liked it. It’s like a man cave. That’s what I like about a cigar shop.
Matt: What was your first memory here?
Ira: Just basically the difference between having been for a short time at a place like [large competitor] where it was just fast food cigars, it’s basically Macy’s, and coming to a place where they actually care about the clients.
Matt: What surprised you the most about working here?
Ira: Just that coming from law enforcement I dealt with people that I wasn’t always thrilled about having to deal with and coming here and meeting people and just talking to people.
Matt: Reacting with them?
Ira: The social interaction. Yeah.
Matt: So, what’s been the most challenging part about working here?
Ira: Just trying to keep… the business, the cigar business isn’t what I thought it was. You know, there are cigars on shelf and people come in. So, keeping people engaged with what we have. Making sure we can put out some new stuff. Some old stuff and keeping people good with what we have. And also, keeping the right movies on TV because I’m a movie guy.
Matt: What’s your best memory of here, ever?
Ira: Actually, my best memory is just last week when I was getting ready… well not getting ready but we’d had our 4th anniversary, and Bobby gave me that going away gift of two Cohibas and…
Matt: You mean the 50s? Were you surprised?
Ira: I was extremely surprised. They are according to everything I’ve read about them impossible to get.
Matt: They have such limited stock. They’re probably numbered, right?
Ira: It’s not… they’re not for sale. They were made as a gift, I believe, to anybody who came to the 50th anniversary in Cuba. You had to be invited.
Matt: If you could change one thing about the Cigar Shack what would it be?
Ira: I would love to have an inventory that included everything, but it's obliviously not a possibility.
Matt: That’s part of the Politics.
Ira: If I could change one thing that’s what it would be. To have the best selection of cigars on the face of the Earth.
Matt: If there’s one thing that you would want others to know about the Cigar Shack that they probably don’t, what would it be?
Ira: What a great guy I am! [laughs]
Matt: Who are some of the more memorable people you’ve met while working here?
Ira: Harold! We have a very eclectic mix of customers. In my old job, we had a 110 people working there, and we said there were a 100 different stories. It's the same thing here. Every customer has a different story.
Matt: What’s your personal philosophy on what makes a good cigar?
Ira: It’s personal preference. I tell people all the time when they come in and look at a cigar, “is this a good cigar,” there are certain cigars that I don’t like, doesn’t mean it’s a bad cigar. So, it’s hard to say what makes a good cigar but, philosophy wise, my favorite cigar is any cigar I smoke while I’m sitting around talking to people because to me it’s more social than anything.
Matt: Has anybody introduced you to something new that you really didn’t know about?
Ira: I’ve tried some new cigars. I haven’t had any bad cigars while I’ve been here. I’ve had some cigars that just weren’t my taste. I’ve become a much larger fan of Tatuaje. I always like them, but now I like them a lot more. My favorite line all over right now is that Micallef line. We brought that in. Lenon from the company came in. I talked to him to set up an event, and we've been with them since day one. I think it's the best line out there.
Matt: Micallef is great. They’re finally starting to get some recognition.
Matt: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Ira: [laughs] I don’t know. I don’t put everything out there. If I think someone is being upfront with me, I'm being upfront with them.
Matt: You’re kind of like an onion. The first person people meet is the cop. But when you get past the cop you open up a little bit.
Ira: Yeah, I could live with that.
Matt: What would you tell someone thinking about visiting the Cigar Shack?
Ira: Come in, buy a cigar, bring a bottle of scotch with you and watch a movie.
Matt: What do you think will change about this place in the next five years?
Ira: As long as everything keeps going the way it’s going the shop is going to get more recognition, more popular. It’s definitely a good place.
Matt: What’s it like working for Bobby?
Ira: He’s a great boss. Bobby is a good boss. Once he trusts you, he lets you run things.
Matt: How do you think others would describe you? Like John or Jack?
Ira: I would hope they consider me a friend. I like to know that I’m trusted. I think I’m a nice guy.
Matt: Final question. What's the one thing you'd like to say as your final goodbye?
Ira: When I first started here I made business cards. Mostly because I had a credit with Vistaprint. I put on there that it's like your own man cave only better. And that's how I tried to keep it going. It's like your own man cave, but you gotta buy cigars. [laughs]