MONROE – Anthony Hicklin likes nothing more than getting his hands on a good book.
Ernest Hemingway’s romanticized global adventures proved a favorite for the now retired high school literature teacher, but F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pre-Depression era classic “The Great Gatsby” is near the top of Hicklin’s list. The woven tapestry of prosperity, extravagant parties and secret speakeasies Fitzgerald conjured of the Jazz Age struck Hicklin so much it inspired him to open The Monroe Cigar Lounge in July.
The lounge is located at the south end of Main Street in one of Monroe’s oldest buildings and offers cigar enthusiast a place to socialize, relax and have private parties through a membership.
“There was no place in Union County that was doing something like this,” Hicklin said. “So, I have always been a guy who says, ‘Why not me?’”
A cigar connoisseur for 25 years, Hicklin visited many stores, bars and establishments. Along the way, he made notes and talked with others to figure out what he wanted in his own place if he ever had the opportunity to open one.
The chance came this past summer when Hicklin began to develop the rooms in the house to not only match his vision of a speakeasy, but also return the home’s past charm. Built in 1875, the house was initially a residency before converting to commercial real estate office in the 1940s. Hicklin describes the room at the front as the parlor, and it lives up to the name with two upholstered chairs and a leather couch placed directly in front of a large flat-screen television. A chessboard separates two additional leather chairs to the right of the room, which sit on wood floor paneling that fits nicely with the darker red tones that cover the walls.
Across the hall, the pub features black countertops for the bar and matching black wallpaper. Again, dark leather chairs are perched against walls with cigar boxes placed on high-rise tables and bar tops for holding matchsticks, cutters and cider sticks – important tools needed for a good cigar.
Annual membership costs $500 for individuals and $2,000 for groups of 10. Hicklin said he has 10 members and two groups join in the first few weeks of opening and continues to get more interest through his Facebook page. Talking to each other has been the biggest pull for cigar fans to the lounge.
“People wanted me to do X,Y and Z to get people here,” Hicklin said. “But I think keeping with the speakeasy tradition has been the best way and that is through word-of-mouth.”
The room connected to the parlor is what Hicklin refers to as the lounge with its large cherry wood table for card games at the center and four black suede chairs sitting on top of a hand-knotted oriental rug. The right part of the room holds a six-foot cedar humidor that has both local and foreign cigars for people to buy. The back area has a sun room that continues with the wood flooring, which matches the lighter gray that is on the wall. Wicker chairs and a grill sit outside on a stone patio while the upstairs includes a conference area and a kitchenette. Hicklin said future plans include a movie theater, which will also be on the second level.
“This is my way of expressing what I think a cigar lounge should be,” Hicklin said.
The front of the building also reveals another part of Hicklin’s personal past. Set in front of the wrought-iron balcony and four-column portico are stone circles lining the walkway with emblems of each branch of the military. Hicklin spent six years in the Air Force prior to his 28-year career as a teacher.
“I wanted people to know that veterans are always welcomed in my house,” Hicklin said.
Want to go?
The Monroe Cigar Lounge is located at 211 S. Main St., Monroe. Visit www.mon roecigarlounge.club for details.