It’s a 5,000 square-foot storefront hard by railroad tracks in a challenged part of North Tampa. Busch Gardens is two miles east along Busch Boulevard. I-275 is a short mile west.
A Cigar Store Indian silently greets you at the front door. You walk in to the rich aroma of cigars.
The staff is welcoming and endlessly accommodating. Coffee perhaps? A cigar recommendation within your budget? Guidance on accessories from humidors, travel cases to butane lighters and cigar cutters?
The semi-circular bar faces two 45-inch TVs, always on to sports or news. An oddly misspelled cigar maker’s yellow electric sign beckons. “Oliva Serie (cq) V bar.”
The bar comfortably seats nine. The Humidor’s gracious baristas are busy behind the counter, offering soft drinks, coffee, water, beer and wine—but no liquor.
The feel is comfortable and welcoming. Quiet readers occupy the 18 stuffed leather chairs and sofa.
The rectangular, 4×10 foot work table seats 8 laptop computer users. They work mostly quietly, sometimes not. (That’s chatty me, sometimes.)
One of the six roundtables, with high chairs, is often the “Cribbage Place.” Cribbage is the Humidor’s signature card game, sometimes raucous, always spirited.
The Humidor opens at 9:30 AM for the coffee regulars (that’s you Golf and Cigar Connoisseur Robert) having their initial cigar of the day.
Activity grows around noon. Lunch breakers enjoy a “stick” after their sandwich, (Pre-made Cubans are always available from the back fridge.)
Cribbage players are a backbone of the afternoon crowd. The evening gang is quite different, many of them young professionals.
The Humidor is a male hangout in tone and culture during the day. The occasional female visitor can expect full attention, respectfully. Pepsi Ron, often there, with wife Lorraine says, couples are comfortable because regulars sanitize profane language to fit the mixed-gender setting.
The never-ending parade of buyers, some staying, some not, run the gamut from blue collar to white, and everything in between. Think firefighters, chefs, nurses, day traders, painting-and-roofing contractors, moving-company honchos. The lawyers and doctors buy, but rarely stay. There is even a retired protestant bishop, who’s a Parkie like me.
Cigar smoking is backdrop to the Humidor’s main but mostly unspoken purpose. It’s a “Cheers Bar” place.
Regulars who still have hair, let it down. The conversation mix at the bar is mostly personal: estrangements, divorces, children, retirement, news of the weird, Bucs doings, the Rays playoff chances.
Politics talk is muted, especially since the divisive election of 2016. The very racially diverse regulars steer away from conversational flash points. Respect is a Humidor shared value.
Humidor camaraderie is medicine for the soul, and sometimes even more.
“I can no longer afford my anti-depressant medication,” says Mikey, the Humidor’s unofficial social chairman. “I treat my depression by being here.”
A Mikey specialty is baseball outings—beer, food, cigars at George Steinbrenner Field.
Conversation is easy. “You never meet a stranger here,” says deputy sheriff Robert.
“We’re family,” says Grandpa Ron.
The Humidor family has tended to me since my Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2014. Dropped pills. Man bag left atop my SUV. Misplaced lighters. They police my forgetfulness and inattention.
That’s you Mike and Mikey, Brian, Shel, Dennis, Harry, Pepsi Ron, Chuck, Coach, Dave and Dave, Todd, Steve, “Bish,” Reggie, Curtis and so many more.
I wrote this to the guys on the occasion of my departure from Tampa to Macon in November.
“You have been there for me, ups and downs, lost gear, withdrawn, exuberant.
“Please select a special cigar as a small measure of my gratitudefor your compassion and fellowship over years together at the Humidor Clubhouse for boys (mostly) of all ages.
“Present this card at the cash register as payment in full.
“With deepest regard,
I love Tampa Humidor and all it represents
For me, the Humidor is a place to write, read, quip. It’s a second home filled with delightful friends.
As my PD has ebbed and flowed, my mates have recovered things I dropped (most famously my wedding ring into a stuffed chair), helped me recover rolling pills and see it to that I leave nothing behind.
As we prepare to leave for our new home in Macon, GA, I know there will never be another Tampa Humidor in my future.
I love it for what it stands for and the many friends who make it so very special.