Sims Patrick Studio is honored to have JR Cigar featured in HD Magazine's Sketchbook. We are really proud Kendal Rogers who was the lead designer and project manager for SPS. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Kendal and Libby Patrick about JR Cigar.
Q: How did you get involved in the project? Had you worked with the owner before?
A: We have worked alongside the architecture firm, Phillips Partnership, on this and several other projects in the past. They asked us to lead the design aspects of the prototype for JR Cigar. This was a new working relationship with the owner, JR Cigar.
Q: What was the project brief given?
A: JR Cigar, a cigar retailer, desired a new prototype for their retail spaces that incorporated a smoking lounge that beckons the true cigar connoisseur as well as someone recently introduced to the experience. The goal was for the community to think of JR Cigar as a destination for cigar smokers to congregate: the Starbucks of the cigar world. The existing building originally designed as a family-style restaurant with a distinct silhouette was converted to a remarkable, luxurious smoking lounge with a craft beer bar.
Q: Was this a renovation or new build? If renovation, of what?
A: This was a renovation of a Bob Evans restaurant.
Q: What was your overall design aesthetic? Inspirations?
A: As Zino Davidoff said, "A wisely chosen cigar to me is like a weapon against certain of life's torments. In some mysterious way, a little blue smoke chases them away."
The inspiration was a Speakeasy of the 1920’s. Since cigars have historically been a symbol of celebration and success, smoking them focuses on the “experience.” The comfortable, relaxing environment needed to invite men and women to acquire and then enjoy their cigars over a business meeting or an after-dinner nightcap, whether they were there with those they love or need a respite from them. Cigar smoking is not just a hobby, it is truly a lifestyle. The concept behind the design was an inviting space with many types of lounge seating, allowing the different experiences. We included modern twists of industrial style while keeping the overall feel of a traditional smoking lounge of the past.
Q: How did you achieve this—colors, textures, materials?
A: We used the cigar itself as the basis for textures and colors - browns, tobacco, and greys. Everything emerges from the cigar: the elegant wood, the plush leather, raw metal. We kept high style and added touches of unexpected elements. We used clean lines, natural materials, and a few great focal features so that each different lounge area is just as desirable as the other. The eclectic space, different types of seating groupings and mix of furniture styles lends itself to many different customer preferences. There are communal tables, large living room groupings, small intimate conversation areas, work areas, and a presentation room on the backside of the fireplace. Stylish, rugged furniture, as well as accent and decorative lighting, are important features that define seating groups and provide ambiance. The reclaimed wood and contemporary stacked stone fireplace define spaces, help to create focal points and promote an interactive environment.
Q: What is the standout of the design?
A: It has become a memory-making experience. As Raul Julia said, "A cigar is as good as memories that you have when you smoked it." The spacious, comfortable, inviting design encourages people to gather together to enjoy their cigars and have fun. At any given point, you will find many different types of people using the space at once - friends out for a cigar and a drink together, people watching the game, and people with a laptop working throughout the day. From opening until closing, every day of the week, the space is bustling with many people who feel at home at JR Cigar.
Q: What were some of the challenges of the project?
A: The biggest challenge with the design of JR Cigar was its location. Since this was a renovation of a Bob Evans restaurant, we had to turn a typical box building with one main entrance into two separate spaces - retail space and the lounge space. The exterior felt like a chain restaurant and the arrival sequence was non-existent. We were tasked with creating an indoor/outdoor environment that sweeps the guest somewhere completely different than they can imagine from the outside surroundings and building context. Controlling the atmosphere and screening the things we did not want the clientele to focus on was key to developing an old-fashioned, glamorous, speak-easy feel. The outdoor patio features and landscape create a secluded outdoor room and hide the encroaching parking lot and busy street. It successfully creates a destination that is oblivious to its surroundings and encourages gathering year-round with contemporary fire pits and seating, including rocking chairs for southern-style relaxing. We were able to successfully disguise and transform an extremely dull building designed for a very different purpose into a vibrant, busy, special escape for cigar lovers.
Part of the challenge was creating a space where the lifestyle cigar smoker as well as the novice one both feels at home to indulge. True cigar aficionados feel like Mark Twain when he said, "Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man's enjoyment of his cigar." They feel that the cigar demands respect. This lounge needed to welcome them, but not be intimidating to someone just learning about the cigar culture.
Another challenge was to capture the timeless masculine feel of a smoking lounge while incorporating the humidor retail space. The humidor is the primary source of revenue for the cigar sales, and needed to remain the primary focus. However, we needed to draw as many people as possible in to enjoy the atmosphere socially as well. This meant the flow and environment had to encourage both purchasing and lingering.
The tight budget and timeline were an additional challenge. Our FF&E team chose furniture pieces that not only fit into the design aesthetic but also were readily available. Since seating pieces had to be leather due to the smoke and ash to which they are subjected, it was important to make many different leather pieces work well together. We incorporated other textures elsewhere in the space.
Finally, we had to keep in mind the need for JR Cigar to incorporate different cigar branding items throughout the lounge and retail store. It was important to incorporate them into the design in a vibrant way that encouraged sales.