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Manchester cigars making a comeback

HOOKSETT - The famous 7-20-4 cigar is poised for a comeback.

Kurt Kendall, owner of Twins Smoke Shop in Londonderry and Hooksett, is tweaking his secret recipe to mimic the taste of R.G. Sullivan's famed Manchester stogie. He plans to unveil the final 7-20-4 cigar within a year.

"I always compare (blending tobaccos) to grapes: There's all different types of growing climates that produce different tasting products," Kendall said. "I'm going for a rich, full-bodied cigar, but I want it to be very smooth."

The United States' longstanding trade embargo with Cuba makes it impossible to use the original Havana filler, so Kendall has partnered with manufacturers in Honduras and Nicaragua to blend his perfect product, aging and fermenting the tobacco, then rolling the cuban cigars before aging them again in Spanish cedar boxes for 120 days. That process melds the flavors together to "mellow it out a bit," Kendall said.

Customers in both of his stores have been trying his "secret reserve" for about three years, giving feedback on what makes the perfect-tasting cigar.

"I want to take my time because I want it to be right," Kendall said. "I know tobaccos, but I don't know the exact components to put together."

The new 7-20-4 cigar will retail between $5 and $7 apiece.

World-renowned

he R.G. Sullivan Cigar Co. at 150 Canal St. in Manchester was once the world's largest cigar maker. At its peak, the 7-20-4 plant, named after the company's first location at 724 Elm St., produced more than 54 million cigars a year. The company operated from 1875 to 1963 and once claimed to be the country's largest maker of the 10-cent cigar.

Last summer, Kendall acquired the product trademark, a big deal for the cigar aficionado who's been collecting 7-20-4 memorabilia for years and amassed everything from the classic green ashtrays to signs, from tobacconist tools to umbrellas and a hat.

These days he collects online, competing with his customers and friends on eBay. But once upon a time, he'd drive around looking for items from the Manchester cigar company.

"Someone would say, Hey, I heard there's an ashtray over in Milford' and I'd go driving around, looking for it," Kendall said.

Armed with some of the company's artwork, Kendall has plans to mimic some of 7-20-4's original advertising and use the same designs on his cigar boxes. He's even thinking about reproducing the famous 7-20-4 green ashtray.

Smoke business

Kendall got into the cigar business about 15 years ago, when his twin brother, Kevin, introduced him to premium cigars as the two celebrated their birthday on the patio at Caffe Vittoria in Boston's North End.

The two hatched plans to open their own cigar shop in Connecticut, but scrapped plans when another cigar retailer opened nearby. Kendall soon opened his own shop in Londonderry in 1997.

The business took off, leading to an expansion of the Londonderry store and now a new store in Hooksett. In Londonderry, there are 1,000 varieties of cigars. Including Kendall and his wife Mame, there are six employees -- and he's got a sales team lined up when his 7-20-4 cigar is ready.

"I don't want to sound corny, but my passion for tobacco just kind of took over," Kendall said. "It's a driving passion."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Source: The Union Leader

Manchester cigars making a comeback