CLARION – The first day of summer was also the first day of business for Clarion Cigar & Pipe, a new shop located at 509 Main Street, near the town’s square. In addition to selling cigars, wood pipes, pipe tobacco and related accessories, the shop also features a smoking lounge.

Ahmed Bilal, the shop’s owner, credits his father, Ahmed Ayaz, with the idea for the business.

“There was no cigar shop around from Butler until maybe up north,” Bilal said. “So we decided that we would give it a try.”

Bilal and Ayaz, who between them own several University Korner convenience stores in the area, sell an assortment of products. The shop carries more than 60 different kinds of cigars and 150 types of pipes. Bilal, noting that the store just recently opened, reported there are plans to expand inventory. To date the most popular products have been cigars and pipe tobacco.

“People need fresh [cigars]. If they [customers] don’t have choices they buy from the internet. But we have the fresh cigars,” explained Ayaz, discussing the quality of the shop’s offerings. “The fresh cigar is one that when you touch the cigar you won’t break the leaf. When you are in business you have to follow things in the professional way. Tobacco doesn’t have an expiration date. Once it starts to get crunchy, your tobacco is old.”

The smoking lounge, located in the rear of the shop, gives customers the opportunity to sample their purchases in a comfortable setting. The lounge has a stated capacity of six to prevent overcrowding. In addition, the shop has three air purifiers running continuously to limit residual smoke and keep the ambient atmosphere comfortable.

“Customers can come in, they can enjoy what they want, grab a cigar and relax,” Bilal said.

“Yesterday, I saw two female customers,” Ayaz said. “They sat here and played chess and also smoked cigars.”

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No one under 18 is permitted in the shop.

“Under 18, it’s strictly not permitted in here. We want to make sure we focus on the group of people that this business is intended for. We don’t want minors coming in...and buying the stuff,” Bilal said.

Bilal and Ayaz also honor customer requests, ordering products which might not be in stock.

“We always listen to the customer. What they want us to carry, you know, that’s most important. If we don’t carry what they want, then they’re not going to come in,” said Ayaz, noting that the shop currently has a two-page list of requests that are in the process of being filled.

“We have very competitive prices, you will find we are selling for less than what people are buying online. If they think that a retail store like this on Main Street will be expensive, that’s totally wrong,” Bilal said.

Clarion Cigar & Pipe is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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