HYDE PARK — The owners of Hyde Park Cigars are celebrating their new lounge with a cigar.
The three Allen brothers, who co-own the Hyde Park smoke shop, are hosting a cigar professional from the Dominican Republic who will be rolling fresh cigars from 5-10 p.m. Thursday for the opening of their new lounge at 5220 S. Harper Ave.
“It tastes as good as the aged,” said eldest brother Mike Allen, taking a break to monitor the more than 70 brands of cigars going up in the new showroom humidor. “When you smoke a fresh one it's always got a slight ammonia taste to it.”
Crews toiled to put the finishing touches on the lounge Wednesday as Allen checked to make sure the store’s signature brand was prominently displayed in the front.
Allen makes sure the store stocks the limited editions from some of the best cigar rollers in Central America and the Caribbean, but he wanted to offer something other stores couldn’t, and personally goes to Nicaragua to pick out the tobacco for the Hyde Park cigar.
“Every year, we go there and smoke cigars and try different blends,” Allen said.
He said it sounds fun, but smoking 10 cigars a day for a week straight to find just the right blend is difficult work.
“Their heart and soul is in that soil,” Allen said praising some of the tobacco he’s tried from Cuban growers who have emigrated to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
After five years of visiting tobacco farms, the Allens' personal selection now stretches from floor to ceiling in their Hyde Park humidor.
When the lounge opens on Thursday, smokers can enjoy a Hyde Park cigar on the patio or climb the stairs to a former apartment now outfitted with loungers and big-screen TVs.
The Allen brothers built the new lounge in less than two months after their former home was sold to the University of Chicago and their lease terminated.
“We’re still fighting that,” Allen said. He said he still has a five-year lease on the first-floor corner shop at 1465 E. 53rd St. and will continue to run a store there, but will move away from cigars.
Maria Schuster, who sold the building, said the university inquired about buying the building repeatedly over the last five years, and though the Allens always paid their rent on time, she was ready to sell.
Allen flashed a look of annoyance when he said he invested $200,000 into the old lounge only to lose it when the university bought the building. He’s put more than twice that into the new lounge and thinks the investment will pay off.
“With the Hyatt being built, we’re going to be doing phenomenally,” said “Icy” Mike Bliss, who was shelving Hyde Park cigars on Wednesday.
Allen was also confident, adding that he now has room to host a DJ and comedian once a month and jazz once a week.