BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- For Dorian McKnight, it all started with a trip to The Big Easy and the love of a good cigar.
“A few years ago I went to New Orleans and I was walking around with my family members and we ventured into a cigar shop on Canal Street and it was just like an escape. All the negativity in the world was just so far away as far as everything going on.”
From that day McKnight, a retired Buffalo Police Officer, was determined to bring that positive atmosphere back to his hometown. Teaming up with family and friends, he recently opened Premier Cigars and Lounge on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo’s East Side. McKnight says it was important for him to open the store there so people could see that things are moving forward in a positive direction in the neighborhood.
“This used to be a vibrant business area not so long ago, with mostly minority-owned businesses. Now not so much. But it seems like the city is receptive to putting more investments in the area that we haven’t seen in decades and we just want to be a part of that.”
“There’s so much culture here. We have libraries, a museum down the road, a coffee shop next door, a dance studio, The Challenger Newspaper is just a few doors down from here. It’s a great area and we want to be a part of bringing that back,” said co-owner Gio McKnight.
With an extensive selection of cigars and accessories, the shop has something for everyone from aficionados to novices and the owners made sure not to leave out the ladies.
“We are minority-owned and we have a woman owner as well so we wanted women to feel welcome here to either spend time with their other half or just enjoy a cigar on the same page and level as the guys,” Gio said.
Gio says the fact that they are the only black-owned cigar shop in the city of Buffalo shows the need for this business in the community. After being forced to travel to cigar shops in the suburbs for years, he says he wanted to create a space in his community and remind people that this past time is not exclusive to one group.
“Most cigars wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for people of color. Because that’s where it comes from. I can’t go to Europe and get a cigar that was born and grown in Europe. It just doesn’t exist. Even though you might not see it, there’s a large and varied community that enjoys cigars.”
Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.