A new cigar shop is heading to Brightwaters Village this fall.

Friends Chris Carrillo and Evan Stogianos are launching South Shore Cigar Club at 344 North Windsor Avenue in the new Brightwaters Commons.

The cigar aficionados, who have over 15 years of trying different brands and expanding their palates, formed the idea together after several stogie sessions in each other’s backyards.

“We’ve been smoking for years, Evan was really the one who said, ‘Hey, give this a try, and I fell in love with it,’” Carrillo said. “Over time we just kept saying there are places that we have to go, but they are not what we want them to be — so we said let’s come with some ideas of what can make it better.” 

Carrillo said if all goes smoothly, they are aiming to open their cigar store and lounge within a few weeks.

The South Shore Cigar Club will be a 1,200-square-foot retail space and lounge concept where people can walk in and buy some cigars, or spend some time to get away from life’s stresses.

The main feature of the shop that Carrillo and Stogianos want to put in place is a comfortable space where people can watch TV, play pool, hang out with friends, or meet some new ones. 

“We want it to really add a feature where it’s a place you can hang out, not just smoke some cigars and run,” Carrillo said. “A place where you can be comfortable for two hours, kill some time, let your hair down, be yourself, and be around like-minded people that share the same passion.” 

Like many new businesses opening during pandemic times, a lot of thought goes through creating a safe environment for customers. 

Carrillo said the South Shore Cigar Club is doing just that by purchasing a high-end air filtration system. 

“In this current time, how are we going to do this safely, how are we going to make this a place you can go,” Carrillo said. “We did a lot of due diligence and a lot of effort went into looking for proper air purification systems, that not only cleans the smoke from the air, but also the bacteria.”

Stogianos and Carrillo said they grew up in the restaurant business, and coming from that background, they know how crucial it is to provide quality customer service. 

They want to make everyone feel welcome as they walk in, whether they are a cigar expert or a beginner just looking to give it a try. 

Buying cigars is like buying wine, Carrillo said, you have to cultivate a taste and find out what you like. 

“It’s like if you walked into a liquor store and said I want a bottle of wine, well what do you like,” Carrillo said. “A lot of the times, we walk into a cigar shop, it’s more of a this is what they got, buy it, and leave — we spend a lot of time researching different cigars, manufacturers, and how it’s made, we’ve enjoyed the education process, and I always felt that lacked.” 

South Shore Cigar Club’s products are imported from the Dominican Republic and different regions of South America because of the continent’s “prime growing conditions” for tobacco. 

Aside from international cigars, the owners said they also source products domestically — like from companies in Connecticut, which is known for its widespread tobacco farms. 

“There are a lot of small companies putting out great products that nobody knows about,” Carrillo said. “So, Evan and I take a lot of time to reach out to those people, especially over the last three to five months.” 

During this time, the business partners have obtained samples from these small, domestic companies that people wouldn’t find in other cigar stores because they are particular to the region.  

South Shore Cigar Club will hold big brand tobacco names in the store, but Carrillo said their focus is to bring a beginner cigar smoker other options outside of the established labels.

“We want to bring in an entry-level smoker into a place, they just started smoking cigars and want to learn more of what’s out there, not just the bestseller,” Carrillo said.

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Both owners are excited to join the Brightwaters community and as a Bay Shore resident himself, Carrillo said he is always spending time in the village. 

Whether it’s getting food from Henley’s, going to the Brightwaters deli, or picking up something from the local liquor store, Carrillo said he has always admired the tight-knit community and how supportive they have been of businesses during this time. 

“To walk into this little village that everyone knows each other, everyone loves where they are and support local businesses, we are just forever grateful that is the culture we are walking into,” Carrillo said. “We really just want to be a community establishment.” 

The owners are aware of concerns some community members may have of their cigar shop, but they want to assure people their mission is to be a functioning member of the village and not cause discomfort for non-cigar lovers. 

“I’m not just blowing smoke out of my front door,” Carrillo said. “There are filtration systems going in and we took a lot of time to think about supporting people that love to smoke cigars and those who don’t smoke cigars — and that’s our biggest thing to be a functioning member of the community and to really bring something for people who want to get away.”  

Stogianos said at first he was unsure about opening in Brightwaters, but after sitting down with Carrillo one day at Henley’s for two hours — looking at the different businesses, the village’s hustle and bustle — Stogianos knew it was the perfect fit. 

“It’s exactly what we wanted — a small, village-feel, with everybody knowing each other, everybody working with each other in the neighborhood,” Stogianos said. 

Teresa Alessandro, the Brightwaters Commons project coordinator, said she is hopeful the South Shore Cigar Club will be successful as a new business in the village. 

“In the midst of the worst downturn for both the job market and small businesses we are proud to offer a new space for a budding concept and business,” Alessandro said. “There will be an inevitable migration of people from the major cities to the suburbs like Brightwaters, and with this increase in population we truly believe the foot traffic to help the South Shore Cigar Club take off.” 

The South Shore Cigar Club hopes to be a new place for Brightwaters residents to go.

“It starts with a place where you can hang your hat,” Carrillo said. “We already have the Brightwaters Inn and that’s going to be fantastic, we have Henley’s, we have Mama’s Santina’s, I think we just add diversity to the retail spaces there.” 

The owners would like to host various events, like movie nights, and in the future, they hope to expand their location or move into a bigger space. 

“The opportunities are endless,” Carrillo said. “The main goal today is to get the business up and running, and get it profitable, and be able to give back.” 

Carrillo said he and his four-year-old daughter spend a lot of time in the family-friendly suburb, specifically at Wohseepee Park, and he wants to be able to give back to the community in any way that they can. 

He said he would like to propose a plan to fellow business owners to start a rewards program for anyone who shops in Brightwaters.

For example, they would pay $50 and they would get a rewards card, and if they were to walk into any of the businesses, they would get a discount. 

The money from the rewards program would go to community needs, such as hand sanitizing stations in Wohseepee Park or jerseys for the little league team.

“We know that there are challenges when it comes to budget and things like that, and I think local businesses should pool our resources, and come up with a plan to help the community,” he said. “I know everyone is really good about that, everyone has a really giving heart there, so I think in the future that is something we could all do together.” 

“I think it’s a small gesture to the community to say thank you for having us there.” 

For more information and updates on the South Shore Cigar Club, visit the store’s Instagram page

If you have any questions or interest in the Brightwaters Commons project or property overall, please contact rockwellalexanderproperty@gmail.com

Top: South Shore Cigar Club logo courtesy of Chris Carrillo.

All photos provided by South Shore Cigar Club.

Below is previous reporting on the Brightwaters Commons.