Nearly 12 years ago Ed Paxton took a leap of faith.
Paxton made the decision to leave his 60-hour-a-week job working for an auto dealership in Columbus and opened Woodland Cigar Company at 46 N. Sandusky St.
“It was conceived on the back porch of my parents’ house the week before Memorial Day in 2005. I knew it was time for a change,” Paxton said.
He opened the cigar shop Sept. 8 that year.
“Our first sale was at 12:28 p.m. to Carrie Patten. She bought about $40 worth of cigars and told her husband, ‘Pay for your own.’”
Woodland carries premium brand cigars, along with accessories such as cutters and lighters.
The downtown Delaware shop’s top selling brands are Padron, Perdomo and Oliva cigars.
“They are what I would consider boutique cigar makers and they still care about quality. They don’t rush their product to market,” Paxton said.
He cites the Padron family for their excellence. “They are the only ones in the industry not to employ outside sales reps. They don’t need them; you want Padron, you call in your order,” he said.
Paxton had worked in retail after graduating from Bluffton College with a degree in communications. He also worked as a disc jockey in Columbus’ largest “oldies” nightclub.
Cigar smoking is a simple pleasure, according to Paxton.
“What people enjoy most is it is a time to relax and just let the world’s problems slip away, whether relaxing by yourself or with your pals.”
Operating a small business presents challenges. Notably for tobacconists are rising taxes.
“Our over-oppressive government makes it hard. From excessive taxes to draconian cigar smoking laws, it’s become harder and harder to enjoy a premium cigar,” Paxton said.
He says the biggest challenge is the 17 percent state excise tax for Other Tobacco Products (OTP).
“If I purchase $10,000 worth of cigars in May, I write the State of Ohio a check for $1,700, whether I sold them or not.”
Against that backdrop, his shop has grown its customer base.
“I think the reason Woodland Cigar will be celebrating 12 years in downtown Delaware is that our motto is, ‘We gather, we smoke, we build a community,’” Paxton said. “It’s one of life’s last affordable luxury items.”
“As cigar lovers we are all on a level playing field. The prosecutor might be sitting next to the plumber; the millionaire businessman might be sitting next to a refuse worker. Nobody cares and we treat each other as equals.”
Woodland also is involved in the community, holding steak and stogie nights with its downtown partner 1808 American Bistro, a golf outing (The Knucklehead Open held last week) with Roop Brothers Bar.
“We have a multi-vendor event in March that brings about 10 cigar manufacturers to town and 200 cigar lovers through the doors,” he said.
Other downtown businesses — Amato’s Pizza, Barley Hopsters, Typhoon and Restoration Brew Worx — contribute to the event.
“I can’t tell you how many people over the years have gained employment from our network, how many have sold cars, bought or sold real estate or hired a new attorney or plumber just from being loyal to our cigar store,” Paxton said.
“I also donate to several fund-raisers each year. I’ve often joked about donating myself out of business.”
Delaware has a heritage of cigar making and consumption.
“There was Riddle & Graff, at one time one of the largest manufacturers, downtown, and J. Hessenauer, manufacturer of fine cigars,” he noted.
When he’s not working, Paxton spends time with his wife, Toni, as they will celebrate 28 years of marriage in December.
He also enjoys fishing.
“That’s where the name Woodland Cigar came from. I made a man cave in my basement with hunting and fishing items, and I wanted the store to have an outdoorsy theme to it,” Paxton said.
Paxton appreciates his loyal customer base.
“I hesitate to even call them customers. I consider them my friends.”
Reach Conchel at 740-413-0900.