When introducing new customers to cigars, John Simmons, owner of International House of Stogies in Missouri City, said he suggests boutique cigar brands as opposed to the more popular cigar brands.

Simmons, whose knowledge of
cigars was formed over 20 years, said he has accumulated an international collection of 275 cigar brands at his business and specifically specializes in boutique cigars.

“One of the things that our members like about us is we stray away from the standard paths,” he said.
“We carry [popular brands] but in limited quantities because the real cigar enthusiast is no longer smoking a lot of those brands. They are going out into the boutique lines.”

Boutique cigar brands are defined as premium cigars produced in small quantities. Simmons said he meets with different boutique cigar companies to personally test their cigars with the intention of possibly featuring them in his shop, which in turn helps the companies establish a following.

After two years of building the shop’s cigar collection, International House of Stogies has attracted 75 members who have access to the 24-hour private lounge and smoking patios. A membership costs $1,000 per year and includes a personalized humidor locker for members to store their cigars and spirits.

“We have people coming from every area around [Houston],” Simmons said.

To introduce members and customers to boutique cigar brands, Simmons said he consults with each customer
to pair him or her with cigars tailored to his or her tastes. Simmons also hosts various pairing, tasting and social events, including a monthly ladies night to introduce women to the cigar culture.

“If you have a certain drink you like, we will pair a cigar that matches well with the drink,” Simmons said. “If you are a novice, we always try and start you on a cigar that will not beat you up—something that is light, aromatic and smooth.”

Because of the growing popularity of the events, Simmons said he is looking to relocate the cigar shop to a larger building and is also considering opening a second location.

Although a timeline has not been determined for relocation, Simmons said the move would allow him to triple his inventory and introduce a larger selection of tobacco pipes and loose tobacco products.

“The idea is to grow from 1,600 square feet to 4,000 square feet with a bigger member lounge and a larger retail presence,” he said. “

In the meantime, Simmons said he wants to continue to meet with up-and-coming boutique cigar companies to continue to build International House of Stogies’ inventory.

“Wherever tobacco is grown, we have it covered,” he said.