La Casa Cigar Store Features Private Club
Ann Arbor News | By Stefanie Murray on December 25, 2008

Not only does the new La Casa De La Habana sell some of the most exclusive cigars you can find around here, but it boasts a private cigar club for high rollers.

Ismail Houmani opened the 2,400-square-foot shop earlier this month on Jackson Road in front of the Quality 16 theater. The front of the store is retail space to sell cigars, accessories and lighters to the public. Houmani said he sells a wide selection of cigar brands, including Padron, Fuente varieties Opus X and Anejo and Davidoff. Lighters range from $50 to $4,000 per piece.

Hidden behind an eight-foot-tall mahogany door is the private cigar club. A biometrics security system secures the space, so anyone entering must have their thumb print scanned and approved before the door will open. It costs $100 a month to join the private cigar club, and members get access to their own humidor on site, use of the club's smoking lounge and meeting facilities, two free cigars a month and a 10 percent discount on store purchases.

"We make sure it is perfectly controlled because cigars are very close to wine. You have to age them in Spanish cedar to preserve the aroma of the tobacco," Houmani said.

Houmani got into the cigar business in 1996 after moving to Ann Arbor with his former wife, who was a doctor at the University of Michigan. Houmani is a Gulf War veteran who served in the U.S. Army for five years.

"The cigar business was really booming then. I got into it and started experimenting and fell in love with tobacco myself," Houmani said. "I started going to other countries where they make cigars, like the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua, and started visiting tobacco plantations and manufacturers."

Houmani has two other cigar stores in Plymouth Township and Toledo. Jose Olivera, a musician and Cuba native, will manage the Scio Township store and perform music there on the weekends.

La Casa De La Habana celebrated its grand opening last week with Sopranos actor Joseph Gannascoli, who made an appearance to promote a new cigar released in his name, Houmani said.

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