Where There's Smoke

Third Street Cigar is an aficionado's getaway

Toledo Local Features  |  By Kelly Thompson  |  07/14/2016 9:00 am

Third Street Cigar doesn’t rely on large signage or obtrusive advertisements to bring customers inside. Instead, it’s an unassuming shop, tucked into a small shopping district in downtown Waterville. Featuring a unique members’ lounge, high-quality humidors and smoke filtration systems, they carry cigars for every taste, including lighter blends and cigarillos. They also sell the smokes and accessories you need for a good smoking experience—everything you'd expect from a quality cigar store.

(Top right: The interior of the Third Street Cigar members-only lounge. Photo by Kelly Thompson.)

But aside from the massive cigar selection, what the store offers is a unique and invaluable experience, both for music historians and cigar aficionados. It’s a place that reeks of history, that makes you want to revisit the past, which is exactly what you’re surrounded by when you step inside the shop. 

The building was once Rupp’s General Store, opened by Jacob Rupp in 1904. The store carried everything from wallpaper and blinds to corsets, shoes, and food. On one wall is a mural-sized photograph taken in 1910 of the Rupps, placed exactly where they would have stood that day. The general store closed in the 1970s, but what is left behind is a massive, beautiful space and a retail legacy that continued with Third Street Cigar when it opened in July 2014. 

When you enter the store, you’re greeted by the Rupp mural and black and white John Rockwood photographs of blues musicians, all of them in their element, with their instruments, or appropriately, with a cigar. A large humidor enclosure fills the center of the store, with a humidity that is "kept perfect at all times," according to Henry. As you walk upstairs, you’re greeted by a large portrait of Big Jack Reynolds (1921-1993), a Toledo bluesman who was revered by musicians in the area. His ashes sit in a blue urn next to the portrait, and the lounge acts as a final resting place for the beloved musician.

Henry was a founder of the Black Swamp Blues Society, and his love of music is evident in every aspect of the decor. Along with Big Jack, photos and memorabilia of rock ‘n roll greats pepper the walls—Keith Richards, Dire Straits, Paul McCartney next to an autographed guitar. It exceeds the expectations for a cigar lounge; it’s dim, but not dark, and it feels like a getaway, even for the ten minutes I was there.

“This is really a fun place,” said David Webb, a retired American Airlines pilot and co-partner of the business. “Whoever walks in the door, whether they’re brand new or been here a few times, we welcome them. FedEx drivers, cardiologists, bankers—we all realize everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time, so everyone treats everyone else equally.”

If you step down from the first floor into the members-only lounge area, you enter a space of community and camaraderie. Large leather chairs and couches are spread out in a welcoming formation, and the hum of high-quality air systems keeping the air clear, even while several people enjoy their smokes. Third Street Cigar serves as a cigar lover’s mini-vacation in Northwest Ohio, and its history and memorabilia make it well worth the visit.

“The cigars are very important, and we have one of the best selections of cigars in the area,” Henry said. “But what we’re really selling is the experience.”

On July 30, Third Street Cigar and the Waterville Rotary will co-host “Blues, Brews and Bratson Third Street in Waterville, featuring Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, The Good, the Bad and the Blues, and Johnny Rawls.  

Third Street Cigar, 20 N. 3rd St., Waterville, OH. 10AM-10PM public lounge, 24/7/365 members’ lounge. (419) 441-2200. Get more info and pricing on Facebook or online.

Below, see Toledo’s own Big Jack Reynolds perform, c. 1964.