Downtown Bay City has produced its fair share of success stories, but one might argue that the least likely in a “2017 Society” might be a Cigar Shop - a place where you can not only buy high end tobacco, but sit and smoke it, too. Indoors, of all things. (“Oh my!”)
But sometimes the least obvious stories end up having the most obvious explanations when you consider them. This is the case with Timothy’s Fine Cigars (115 Center Ave, Bay City), which has developed into a cornerstone downtown business and social hub since first opening in 2003.
Timothy’s, which is operated by Tim Socier and his daughter Emily McMann, is an importer of some of the finest and rarest cigars in the world. The majority of these are sourced from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, though you will find that many other geographies are involved in the boutique tobacco trade.
When asked what attracts people to fine cigars, Socier said there are really three parts: “First, they are a unique work of art. Over 250 hands will have touched the various components of a handmade cigar before it to gets the customer. Second, it is about the relaxation. I am a high energy Engineer type, always doing something. It helps me sit down and relax for a while. Finally, it is a sense of community. It’s a family atmosphere here. From ditch diggers to doctors, people can come in here and decompress from their day.”
Sitting in Timothy’s one can easily confirm these points on your own.
First, similar to your favorite coffee house, the aroma can be described pretty inviting. Fine tobaccos have little in common with the commodity grade products burned in break rooms and outside bar rooms everywhere. This place smells sweet. Aromatic. You might even say rich.
Second, it is just comfortable. With large leather chairs and community seating areas, it harks back to times when Masons and other men’s organizations had classy lounges, where they hung out in comfort and style.
Finally, at least to my eye, there really is something relaxing – even mesmerizing – about the smoke. The patterns it makes and the way it floats. My guess, by this point, I was benefitting from the properties of some glorious second-hand smoke of these world class products, even if this tobacco tea-totaller doesn’t want to admit it.
Socier’s path to owning his own tobacco shop was not the most obvious one. In his first career, he was an engineer for Heinz. In a role that allowed him to travel around the world, his claim to condiment fame was in the development of the upside-down squeeze bottle for ketchup. His name is on the patent and, as he will show you, a plaque from Heinz is on the wall at Timothy’s. As he says, “A real plaque, not a plastic one or anything cheesy, but they gave me a real honest to goodness plaque for that idea.”
\It was on these travels however, to the exotic locale of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that Soucier’s boss took him into a cigar salon and he found himself immediately hooked. “It was the art of it. How much went into each cigar.”
As that passion began to take shape, Socier decided to make the leap from corporate life into small business ownership. With a newly acquired tobacco license and a cabinet purchased at American Antiques placed strategically placed in the family living room, he began importing and selling fine cigars.
The business grew quickly before moving into its current Center Avenue location. Daughter Emily has now joined Socier in the day to day management of the business, extending a long family tradition of entrepreneurship another generation.
As McMann tells it, “I always remember my dad pointing out old stores when we were driving around or talking about business ideas that he wanted to start. And then he went and started this.”
McMann expanded on how the business has continued to expand its regional customer base. “The most common way for someone to be introduce to us is through a friend. They come in with someone they know.”
Socier also explained, “Sometimes this can be a little intimidating at first. They want to understand the products. They want to learn cigar etiquette. They need someone to show them around.”
Cigars at Timothy’s average around $8 each, with a range that goes a couple dollar below that up to five or six times that amount.
Around holiday time, a popular purchase is the Arturo Fuente Opus X, which Socier describes as “the most sought-after cigar in the world.” Timothy’s is the only certified retailer between Detroit and Traverse City for the Opus X, which retails for around $50.
Timothy’s is open from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday - Friday and 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Saturdays. You can find out more about the business on their Facebook page or call for more information at 989-894-6673.
16th November, 2023