There is something comforting about the aroma of cured tobacco, untreated cedar, and leather. Those earthy scents evoke a welcoming feeling of nostalgia and community, especially for a Washingtonian. They are the sensations I get whenever I cross the threshold of Signature Cigars on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda.
Kevin “KK” Kistler & Tony Abdullah are two of the reasons that the smoke shop has become an iconic retail landmark in the Woodmont Triangle neighborhood.
Owner Les Charapp opened the Bethesda location in 1997. The landscape around his establishment has experienced a multitude of changes over that 23-year span of time.
“Caddies was already across the street when I started here,” said Tony, a 12-year Signature veteran. “I remember that a Thai restaurant was there beforehand. Gringos and Mariachis used to be Bangkok One. Pines of Rome used to be Matuba Japanese. Lahey Plumbing was where the consignment store is. We keep going strong.”
KK and Tony love their regular customers, and they especially appreciate new customers who are just starting to learn about the cigar world.
“Nobody is born knowing anything about cigars. Somebody has to introduce you to them and allow you to learn what you like,” said KK. “We want to be here to educate those who are interested.”
No one should ever be hesitant about coming in because they don’t know anything about cigars, they both added. They pride themselves in their customer service and attention to detail.
Signature has hundreds of different cigars from around the world. It is quite an impressive collection.
“They primarily come from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua,” said KK, as he puffed on a fine Nicaraguan. “Cigars are here from Honduras, Ecuador, and other counties as well.”
“We do are best to listen to our customers and direct them toward a cigar that matches what they desire in a smoke,” said Tony.
There are seating areas in the front and the back of the shop. During weekend hours, there is usually a football game or a sporting event on
“People come in and relax and talk. It’s a very collegial atmosphere,” added KK.
“We have a fiercely loyal customer base, the same group of people coming in off and on as far as I can remember,” added Tony. “There aren’t many places in Bethesda left where you can do this anymore. So, people who are drawn to it tend to stay.”
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