Connoisseurs in search of the perfect pairing of tobacco and leaf can now sample the finest Montecristo, Cohiba, and Macanudo cigars in the comfort of a pair of custom outfitted mobile man caves. Californian entrepreneurs Dan Marshal and Jack Grant (located at opposite ends of the Golden State) took an unspoken rule of cigar smoking etiquette - that one should never smoke except where smoking is appreciated – and parlayed that belief into two successful independent business operations that paired a love of cigars with classic RVs.
The GMC CigaRV
Bay Area resident Jack Grant took a classic 1977 GMC motorhome, gutted the interior and then - along with two sweat equity investors - remodeled the unit to create a bespoke cigar lounge decked out with leather couches, dark wood cabinets, granite countertops, flat-screen TVs, humidors, and a heavy duty air filtration system. Everything between the cockpit of the GMC and the rear window came out during the refit. The bedroom, bathroom, galley, dinette, closets, drawers and even the gray, black and fresh water tanks were stripped out, though the original roof top air conditioner still remains. An exterior TV is now housed in the outside compartment that once provided access to the refrigerator!
Dubbed the CigaRV, the 26-feet-long mobile man cave has become a popular fixture at San Francisco Bay area events like the San Francisco Vintners Market at Fort Mason. “We do a lot of events like golf tournaments and wedding receptions, events at wineries...tailgate parties...beer festivals...and that sort of thing,” said Jack who went on to provide a fascinating insight into the cigar manufacturing process. “Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic are really the three main areas aside from Cuba that create these excellent high quality cigars,” said Grant, though selecting a good hand-made cigar is a lot like selecting a fine wine, it’s all a matter of taste. “Whatever appeals to you...whether it be something that’s real rich and heavy or whether it’s something mild and not overwhelming. For me personally I like a mid-range medium bodied smoke that will last a good forty to forty-five minutes.”
“We have a couple of humidors on board and we carry multiple brands. We are a licensed tobacco retailer. We work with cigar distributors that are licensed in California and we sell their brands. All the major brands like Arturo Fuente, Rocky Patel, Cohiba, Montecristo and Macanudo... We try to carry a variety that will appeal to pretty much everybody, every type of cigar smoker...We even have stuff that’s flavored... ten or fifteen minute cigars that have a vanilla or rum flavor to them.” There’s plenty of room for the product as each humidor can hold up to 500 each and “the cigars range anywhere from five dollars to twenty-eight dollars,” said Jack. “The Montecristo No. 2 Dominicans we carry for $28. The Cohibas we carry for $23. Then we have the little flavored ones for $5. Most of our cigars are in the $10-$14 range,” he added. The cost of the cigars isn’t included in the motorhome rental fee which will run you $100 per hour plus a fuel fee to cover the CigaRV mileage to the event and back.
In terms of the cigar smoking demographic the CigaRV tends to get “more attention from women than from men almost certainly because it’s named the mobile man cave. As far as the private rentals go we have lot of women that get it as a present for their men,” said Jack. “As far as cigar sales go that’s vastly male...At a beer festival it’s guys in their twenties and at a winery event it’s guys in their forties and fifties that will buy a cigar,” he added. The women tend to smoke cigarillos or small flavored cigars though sometimes a group of women will share a regular premium cigar. Indeed, data supplied by the CDC suggests that only 1.9 percent of adult females in the U.S. are cigar smokers compared to 9.1 percent of adult males.
Although the CigaRV isn’t licensed to serve alcohol, customers can bring their own wines or spirits to enhance their CigaRV experience. “A lot of people like a port wine, a good whisky or a cognac with their cigar,” said Grant. “I prefer a port wine...It’s sweet, it complements the cigar very well...It creates a different experience,” said Jack.
The CigaRV business model has proved so successful that Grant is hoping to franchise the concept to other cigar and RV lovers. “The whole cost of franchising, of setting somebody up fully stocked with cigars and ready to go would be in the 70,000 to 80,000 dollar range. We have everything trademarked and we have our proven business model,” said Jack.
While the GMC is great for destination events where you go and setup if the customer wanted to carry passengers for wine tours and other excursions, which can be even more lucrative, Grant would recommend a different vehicle, probably something more akin to a party bus that’s equipped to carry a greater number of passengers. Whilst the CigaRV can carry seven passengers plus the driver it’s an older chassis, with higher insurance costs and mediocre fuel economy. In spite of these limitations this classic - Michael Lather’s designed - RV icon looks as good today as it did 35 years ago when it first rolled off GM’s Truck and Coach Division production line and, of course, it provides a memorable venue in which to enjoy a fine cigar. Contact Information: CigaRV • Facebook CigaRV • Tel: 1- 925-798-7000 •
The Classic Cigars Timeless Westcraft
Classic Cigars also operate a mobile cigar lounge, though in this case owner Dan Marshall opted for a classic travel trailer – towed by an F-250 - rather than a motorhome. Originally based in Orange County, California Marshall recently relocated the business to the Phoenix-Scottsdale area of Arizona.
Manufactured for Classic Cigars by Timeless Travel Trailers – a Wheat Ridge, Colorado-based vintage travel trailer restoration and remanufacturing company – Marshall’s 2010 Timeless Westcraft – which is fashioned after a 1950 Westcraft (though it also sports elements that appeared on earlier units) – was built from the ground up by Timeless and features a twin-axle, raised “lantern top” roof, and polished aluminum siding whilst the interior incorporates cherry wood cabinetry, cherry and maple lined walls and ceiling, Edelman Italian leather upholstery, 4 flat-screen TVs, a classic white oak parquet floor and a commercial grade smoke eater air filtration system. The moulds and tooling required to build the unit were recreated by Timeless who also added additional structural elements to make the finished trailer more durable than the 1950’s original.
The Timeless Westcraft, which retails for as much as $250,000 and can take up to six months to complete, is an homage to travel trailers manufactured by the former Los Angeles-based Westcraft Manufacturing Company. Another stunning example of a Timeless build is provided by the triple-axle Westcraft custom kitchen fifth wheel which is owned and operated by the Green Machine Catering Coe Inc. Timeless Travel Trailer units like these have helped build the company’s well deserved reputation for quality restoration and remanufacturing work which explains why they were featured in a recent “Tricked Out Trailers” episode of the Travel Channel’s popular “Ultimate Travel Series.” “They did a tremendous job,” said Dan of Timeless when talking about the long hours and not inconsiderable budget required to transfer his mobile smoking lounge from the drawing board to reality.
Because the Westcraft trailer is a dedicated cigar lounge it incorporates a walk in cedar lined humidor stocked with a selection of the finest cigars including; Acid, Arturo Fuente, Ashton, CAO, Camacho, Hoya De Monterrey, Oliva, Rocky Patel, and Romeo y Julieta. “I usually have about 60 boxes in that humidor,” said Dan. “The cheapest cigar I carry is around $3.50 and the most expensive one is only about twenty bucks. These are Dominican and Honduran cigars just like the ones that you can buy at your local cigar shop,” said Dan who also added that “I carry some of the flavored brands. The CAO Vanilla is pretty popular…A lot of women like the flavored smaller cigars.”
The business setup is very similar to CigaRV. Patrons bring their own alcohol and cigar costs are not included in the $200-$300 per hour rental fee. The $300 per hour Gold Package includes two hostesses – Nathalia and Angela Molano, two gorgeous Columbian twins – who tend bar and help with the selection and cutting of cigars.
“When I first started I would do a lot of events, like motorcycle events, just to get the word out,” said Dan. A strategy that was clearly successful if the 2011 invite to be part of the exotic car show at Hugh Heffner’s Summer Solstice Charity Benefit – held annually at the Playboy Mansion - is anything to go by. According to Marshall a number of celebrities as well as scantily clad bunnies took a tour of the Classic Cigars’ Westcraft at the benefit. “Dennis Hof from the Bunny Ranch showed up and spent a lot of time in the trailer. He’s a big cigar smoker,” said Dan. Beautiful women, fine cigars, and a classic Westcraft travel trailer. That’s a business model that might be tough to emulate. Contact Information: Classic Cigars • E-mail: email@example.com •
Given America’s increasingly stringent anti-smoking legislation, the estimated 13.3 million cigar smokers in the U.S., and the $8 billion generated annually from retail cigar sales it’s somewhat surprising that there aren’t more mobile smoking lounges in the continental Unites States, though clearly that’s a state of affairs that current smoking lounge operators would wish to preserve.
For those RV lovers and cigar aficionados not resident in California or Arizona you can find mobile Airstream-based smoking lounges in both Tampa, Florida (Mobile Cigar Company) and Houston, Texas (Styx Lounge).
Classic RV Conversions: