My relationship with Paradise Cigarz in Rockledge, Fl began 9 years ago. I was pretty new to cigars and did not smoke as often as I do now. My mom sent me to spy on prices at a barbershop in the adjacent plaza and on my way I passed a sign that said “Cigars” and I was immediately intrigued, so after I left the barber shop I made a stop at Paradise Cigarz to check it out.
The Journey Begins
I was immediately greeted by a salt and peppered head 40 something year old man named Brook Cox. He greeted me with a handshake as I looked around the shop. Back then it wasn’t as put together as it is today, the shop was rather plain but it was a quaint little place. At that time I did not have any money to spend so I made a mental note and left.
A few months later I ended up moving to Viera, Florida just a couple of miles down the road from Paradise Cigarz which is located in Rockledge, FL and I immediately began to visit on a regular basis. I actually forgot my ID during my first visit to purchase cigars and hang out. Somehow I convinced Brook to look at the birth-date on my Facebook page (A move I would never recommend in today’s FDA climate). He took a leap of faith and believed me and I showed him my actual ID the next time that I came in.
During the early years of Paradise Cigarz it was just a small group of guys who sat around in the comfortable black recliners talking sports and whatever else came to mind. Over time Paradise Cigarz began to grow their own faithful following. One thing I remember from the beginning was the amount of “Mike’s” who patronized the shop, me being the youngest of the them. For quite a while Brook was the only one who worked at the shop. Eventually he had a few people work for him over the years, one being “Josh” who is the oldest son of Susan Zook – The current shop manager.
Brook – An Owner Who Cares
Brook is not your typical cigar shop owner, he wants everyone who comes into his shop to feel comfortable and really enjoy the cigars that he carries. You are not going to find all of the mainstream “Popular Cigars” that are all over Cigar Aficionado Magazine, matter of fact Brook won’t recommend a cigar based on a review. Brook has one of the pickiest palates of anyone I have ever known, but that is not a bad thing, because he has great taste in Cigars. If Brook recommends a cigar it’s because it proved to be an enjoyable experience for him and he only recommends cigars that you want to revisit more than once. In fact many of the Paradise Cigarz regulars cut their cigar smoking teeth on Brook’s recommendations and from there have been able to branch out and figure out what they like to smoke.
One of Brook’s greatest qualities is his brutal honesty, no matter what the subject is. Brook always says “I will not lie to you,” which is absolutely true. He may be a hard sell for cigar reps, but once he sees someones character and that they are a person of integrity, that really goes a long way with him and he will support that cigar brand for years. Such is the case with Reps like Alfredo Cruz, Willy Marante, Joaquin Saladrigas, Jefferey Groover and Charlie Lopez. They have all been staples in the shop for years, because as reps they have earned their brands a spot, due to their excellent reputation.
“Z” Mustafa and Emilie Andino from Cordoba and Morales are brand owners that have earned a lot of shelf space as well. For over 6 years they have consistently been the top selling cigar at Paradise Cigarz due to Z being an excellent blender as well as a reliable and honest business man. Cordoba and Morales has done well because they have built relationships over the years and make great cigars. You do not find qualities like that in a cigar brand owner everyday.
The cigar business is a relationship business, so If you are a cigar rep that is not on the same page, unfortunately your brand will not do well with Paradise Cigarz. Even though Brook does not and will not kiss anyone’s ass, Brook has built a very good reputation in the cigar business over the past 9 years. I think the secret to the success of Paradise Cigarz is doing business HIS WAY and sticking to his guns. Paradise is one of the few cigar shops that was built almost exclusively on boutique cigars, with popular brands like Cordoba and Morales, Yayabo Cigars, Illusione Cigars, Aganorsa Leaf, My Father Cigars, Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, La Aurora Cigars, Room 101 cigars and many more in stock. It is safe to say that Paradise Cigarz does not mess around with their shelf space!
Good Times, Bad Times and Everything in Between
In my 9 years of patronage to Paradise Cigarz I have certainly had plenty of experiences to look back on. I was 21 almost 22 when I first walked in the door. From that time on, I have met some of the greatest people I have ever had the chance to know. Early on, the whole shop went on a cruise which I was not able to attend but heard they all had a wonderful time. Over the years Paradise Cigarz has come together to raise money for various charities of all kinds. They have also participated in community events such as golf tournaments and motorcycle rides. I remember one year, there were some people who frequent the shop that did not have a lot of family, so Brook opened up the shop and had a friendsgiving dinner and everyone hung out and smoked cigars and had a wonderful time. There was also one Christmas where the shop was opened after family activities and Brook said “everything is on the house!”
I have been to countless bonfires at Mark Miller’s house on cold Florida winter nights hanging out with people from the shop, super bowl parties at Mike and Susan Zook’s house, and so much more! I have been through many hard times over the years and although I don’t talk much about specific things, just being around positive people has helped tremendously! I have celebrated accomplishments at Paradise Cigarz, I have also been comforted by my friends in the shop during the loss of my Pop Pop. On the day that my Pop Pop died I had an emotional break down and left work. My job at the time was up the street from Paradise Cigarz so I went there and smoked a few cigars and just talked with a few people that were there. I could never fully express what the friendship of people like Brook, Mike Zook, Mark Miller, Al, Paul Frawley and his wife Kim, Susan Zook, Kevin Fain, Justin Chaffiot and so many more have meant to me over the years.
I also cannot forget about Mr. Anthony Vitani also known as Gunny. Although he has been banned from hanging out at Paradise Cigarz due to some of the ways he behaves in public, he is also an intricate part of the history of the shop and definitely deserves a mention. There is no bad blood, he just has no filter and regrettably cannot hang out all the time like he once did. I considered Gunny another grandfather and even went with him on a couple of bahamas cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. Each trip was memorable because his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude made it a time I will never forget. Gunny is a retired Marine Corps Veteran who has proudly served his country. Known for driving his classic Mustang that was decked out in Marine Corps colors, Gunny would spend all day at Paradise Cigarz hanging out, buying more cigars than he could smoke, and just enjoying retirement.
Upon all of this reminiscing, there are so many more memories about Paradise Cigarz and the people who make it home, but I do not have the time to write a book! From 2010 to 2019 Paradise Cigarz has been a rock solid part of my life and the lives of many others in Brevard County, Florida. As I continue on I am now going to recap their 9 year Anniversary party, if you missed it, I hope to help you feel as if you were able to make it.
9 Year Anniversary Party
Let me start out by saying that I have never missed an Anniversary party! There was only 1 year that there was not a party at the shop, but Brook’s wife Theresa threw a surprise party at their home and I was there as well.
This year’s party took place December 6th, 2019 starting at 5 PM. There were a number of cigar brands represented and the only brands being showcased. In attendance was Joaquin Soladrias from My Father Cigars, Jeff Groover from Aganorsa Leaf and Oscar Valladares, Willy Marante from La Aurora Cigars, Pete Hernandez from Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust, Emilie from Cordoba and Morales Cigars, and Alfredo Cruz from Foundation Cigars and Illusione cigars. With so many brands under one roof it was hard to decide what I wanted to smoke.
I bought a cigar from every table and then decided to light up. A little while into the party the food was ready! There was a good mix of food most notably lamb and also tortilla fixings, and you can’t forget macaroni and cheese! There was certainly a wide assortment of food. Throughout the evening I had numerous conversations with those in attendance, especially members of the “Sticks and Spirits Cigar Club”. This is a fairly new Facebook group/social club, started by Terry Mayben who wanted to bring cigar enthusiasts from Brevard county together. Terry posts local events and strives to organize meet-ups at cigar shops to have a local presence.
I sat outside the lounge for much of the night as the weather was perfect for enjoying cigars and conversation. I also enjoyed some dream building with my friend Justin Chaffiot who has recently started his own cigar brand called “The Chaffiot Collection”. His brand is unique because he donates 10% of sales to fight human trafficking mostly to an organization called “Florida Abolitionist.” Even the owners of Executive Cigar Shop and Lounge in Melbourne,Florida (Tony and Erica) made a trip over to Paradise Cigarz to help celebrate 9 years. It is not every day that owners of other lounges actually take the time to congratulate one another, but Tony and Erica are a couple of class acts!
As the night went on I continued to converse with those in attendance and caught up with many people who I don’t see everyday. As I was having such a great time, suddenly it was time for the raffle drawing. This year’s raffle benefited “The Brevard County Enforcers Charity Hockey Team.” The Brevard County Enforcers is a hockey team made up of Law Enforcement Officers, so the raffle benefited their organization to assist with getting to an upcoming match. The big prize for the raffle was a Micallef humidor complete with cigars! There were also other prizes donated to the raffle from Illusione cigars, Aganorsa leaf, My Father Cigar. All of the brnads that were represented donated something.
The winner of the humidor was our Brother of the Leaf and Paradise Cigarz regular “Lee”. He was pleasantly surprised that he won and when I talked to him after, Lee said that he is enjoying his new humidor and cigars. I even won a guardian of the farm shirt! Imagine that, me winning a shirt! There were many other winners during the raffle, even multiple winners but people could only win once to give everyone a chance to win something. After the drawing Everyone went back to hanging out and ended the night on a great note.
Sometimes it is great to reflect on how far you have come, from the beginning until now. Paradise Cigarz has definitely come a very long way. From Humble beginnings to where they are now, they have beat all of the odds. I once heard it said that Brook was told he wouldn’t last 5 years. Brook and his team have defied those odds and have created a uniquely special cigar shop in Brevard County, Florida. A place similar to cheers where everyone knows your name. Better yet, it is tagged “A work free smoke place“. Congratulations to Paradise Cigarz on 9 years in business, and here is to another 9 years! I will be with you all along the way.