THIS ELIZABETH FIREFIGHTER TURNED HIS PASSION FOR CIGARS INTO AN ELEGANT OASIS

BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC

As an avid cigar smoker, Daniel Nina always dreamed of owning his own smoke shop. The Elizabeth firefighter spent years conceptualizing the perfect lounge atmosphere in his mind, building the idea around his own stogie-smoking habits; the décor would be chic, the humidor remarkable, and his house blend cigar had to be an extraordinary mix of exquisite tobacco. In 2017, Nina’s vision took flight.

“I guess you could say I’m a passionate cigar smoker,” Nina said during a recent phone interview from Sticks Cigar Lounge, the elegant address he built for fellow aficionados. “I turned a hobby into a business. Here, I am able to share my passion with others.”’

Located on a bustling strip of Main Street in Rahway, Sticks Cigars is an 800-square-foot shrine to the cigar lifestyle. Leather chairs and sofas are illuminated by the soft light of crystal chandeliers, and a tin ceiling is complemented by an immense granite-topped bar. Guests are greeted by a hostess and led to an all-glass humidor that features more than 100 different offerings.

“The ambiance is masculine but still welcoming for our female members,” said Nina. “That was our goal when we did the build out – we wanted to make the space elegant for everyone who visits.”

Catering to a diverse clientele (because per the owner, “Everyone enjoys a good cigar”), the shop serves cigars on silver platters and offers gourmet coffees, desserts, and glasses of fresh shaved ice. A 600-square-foot outdoor deck with a retractable roof and high definition television is open year-round for al fresco seating and private events. Humidified lockers are offered for cigar and beverage storage.

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“We’ve made Sticks a destination for the city of Rahway,” explained Nina. “Patrons come from all over the tri-state area because we are easily accessible from all of the main arteries. The Rahway Train Station is just a block away.”

Nina, who currently works as a firefighter in Elizabeth, credits his mother as the inspiration for his success.

“She came here from the Dominican Republic when she was only 18 and built a beautiful life for her family. She was divorced and raised three children on her own. She instilled in me the concept of hard work and dedication. Without her, none of this would be possible.”

More than just a shop owner, Nina takes a hands-on role in the development of his product. His El Primero (“The First”) house blend cigar was developed with Cortez Cigars in the Dominican Republic. Nina oversaw every step of the process. “

The El Primero is perfectly rolled, has a great and smokes beautifully,” he said. “It gives a perfect ash and medium strength with a big amount of taste. It’s an exquisite tobacco configuration that keeps you wanting more.”

When designing the ambiance, the owner explained he was keen on creating a spot that would delight every type of cigar enthusiast, from novice to connoisseur, whether they come in to socialize with friends, host a business meeting or celebration, or merely to indulge in a relaxing, upscale atmosphere. If patrons want to treat themselves to a stogie after a big holiday meal, Nina and his staff are there to welcome them. The lounge is open 365 days a year.

“Sticks Cigars is a destination and experience filled with opulence and gentility,” the owner effused. “Our luxurious lounge features a state-of-the-art ventilation system, chic décor, and so much more. This is an escape a place to relax and forget about life for a little while. It truly is my dream come true.”

Sticks Cigars
1513 Main Street, Rahway / 732.540.8500 / stickscigarsnj.com