I spent nearly every day from January 1999 until September 2008 in a little building downtown on Madison Ave. Day in and day out I sold cigars, pipes and pipe tobacco to people for a nickel, trying to make a living. That little building became like a home to me and the people who wandered in and sat, smoked, relaxed and commiserated like a family.
I sold the business, Memphis Tobacco Bowl, then in its 59th year, last fall because it was time to move on. Other dreams and aspirations were calling and my family needed me around the house more.
I haven't looked back, I love what I'm doing now. I do miss those people, that family, who came in weekly, some daily, to talk about their day or their own families. They knew my kids, they asked about my life outside of work and we bonded there around a little round table over cigars and coffee.
I was a terrible businessman, I'll admit that. I was simply a man who owned a business. I'm proud, though, of what I made there in that little building on Madison. I felt that I created an oasis for people from their offices, their bosses, their employees and the stresses of a weekday. I saw friendships made and grown, deals brokered and businesses bought and sold.
I was in the thick of it when downtown Memphis was thick with possibilities - AutoZone Park, the Grizzlies and their Forum and Peabody Place. It was occasionally exciting, sometimes lucrative and often heartbreaking, yet it defined me, I thought, for nearly a decade.
But, again, it was time to move on and I did.
The new owner of that little business is closing up shop this week. When it's time to move on, it's time to move on. I can't say I blame him, part of the game is knowing when to fold 'em. I probably should have long before. I'm glad, in a way, I didn't have to.
I had my last cigar at 152 Madison in its incarnation as a cigar shop this afternoon among the tile, plasterwork and age. It tasted just as good as any I'd had before, if not somewhat bittersweet.