You walk through the door looking for a cigar and a cup of coffee and you walk out with a story. J. Nadimi of J’s Cigars and Coffee House has created the kind of place where there are no expectations. Everyone is welcome and although you may have come to search for the perfect cigar, what you’ll find is relaxation and fellowship. J’s Cigars attracts a lot of people of every age, gender, race and background. The reason is because of the philosophies of the shop’s namesake, J. Since 1983, J’s Cigars has been living up to the name „the Friendliest Cigar Lounge in Atlanta.”
Your story starts in Iran. How do you remember your childhood there?
Yes, I come from Tehran. They say you never forget your childhood, but I don’t remember that much of it, because I spent most of my life here. I came a long time ago, almost 40 years ago. I was a teenager when I arrived.
Did your parents decide to move to America or how did that happen?
No, I came here and after many years they decided to come, too. I came here to go to school. And, I don’t know, it could be an accident, it could be act of God, but I got married here. My wife is from here, we have been married for many years now.
What about your parents, where are they now?
My parents are old and retired now. I’m taking care of them, they live here.
Did you know anybody in the US when you arrived here?
No, I didn’t know anybody.
In what city did you go to school to?
It was a private college in North Carolina.
Now let’s get into cigars! Tell us, when did you first start to appreciate cigars?
When I was in college, I had a friend, a great guy who was an expert on tobacco. I used to smoke cigarettes and he told me it’s not healthy, and he offered me a good cigar. Ever since then I’ve loved the smell. And also, a cigar is very natural, it’s pure tobacco, no chemicals, nothing toxic. You just enjoy the smell and the taste, and after you smoke the first puff you can just put it out. You don’t put it in your lungs. I fell in love with this idea of natural tobacco, but I never thought I would open a cigar shop. It just happened.
What is it about the experience of having a cigar?
When you hold a cigar in your hand, you feel like you are doing something that not everybody does. It’s a satisfaction of mind and body, you enjoy it both ways: your body smells and tastes the natural tobacco and your mind is in the mood of relaxation. You are very calm, you don’t want to be bothered and you don’t want to bother anybody. That’s what I like about it.
Also, smoking a cigar is very classy, there are politicians, doctors, businessmen who smoke it, and you have more control. If you smoke one today, in a couple of days you may feel a desire to smoke another one, but you will overcome it. While the other stuff, like cigarettes, drugs, alcohol… those are very hard to quit.
Most importantly, smoking cigars brings fellowship – people come together, they come for a cigar, but they find more. And you meet a lot of nice people.
How do you remember the time you came to America? Did you experience the so-called „cultural shock”? How did you get used to living here?
When you are very young, you don’t have that feeling. I was a child and I’m an adjustable person. I guess I’m different from many people, I adjust myself easily. I used to live in Fort Payne, Alabama, a place where nobody wanted to live. You know, Alabama, 35 years ago. I adjusted in maybe two months and I fell in love with the people there.
If I have go back to Iran now, I wouldn’t have any problem, if I go to South America or Central America, I have no problem. I would get over the language barrier quickly, I would learn it and it would be OK. Because people are people, and they know if you are a good person. For many it would be a big shock, but not for me. I don’t see so many big differences between people. I find them to be the same in all the countries. I’ve been all over the world and I just think we are all human beings, except for the fact that we speak different languages or we are a little lighter or darker, that’s all to me. We should have only one culture, and that is to be good to each other, to get closer to each other. I don’t have any cultural barrier. I get along with white people, black and yellow people, that’s why it was so easy for me to fall in love with people. That’s the way I am.
Tell us about the time you fell in love with your wife.
It was many years ago. I met her, I talked to her and she liked me, I took her out a couple of times and we built up a friendship. It’s always good to build a friendship first, not a relationship. The more she knew about me, the more she fell in love with me, and I fell in love with her. But you don’t want to have a relationship and break up and break each other’s hearts. So that’s what I did, I was a good friend to her.
So you think friendship comes first.
Always. Friendship is more important than a relationship. Unfortunately, most people have a relationship first, they don’t know that much about each other, they find out there are a lot of differences between them and they break up. And that hurts both. That’s why I always like to build a friendship with people, even before we do business or anything.
We know that this cigar bar used to be an electronic repair shop. How did you turn it into a cigar bar?
I got my masters at Georgia Tech (i.e., Georgia Institute of Technology), in electrical engineering, so I was doing electronic repairs. The business was good many years ago. I had the electronic shop here for a couple of years, but unfortunately everything became disposable. Now, if a TV stops working, people just go and get a new one, because it’s very cheap, everybody makes everything in China. So my business was going down. A friend of mine told me: You know, it would be a good idea for you to get into the tobacco business. So I started like that, in the same place where I had the TV repair shop. I started little, with just a few cigar brands, but it grew and grew until it fully became a cigar shop. The business is good, you’re not going to get rich from it, but you’re happy. You meet a lot of people, you make enough money to pay the bills and there are a lot of advantages you could have.
You mentioned about the fellowship of smoking a cigar, but also about the different kinds of people who come here. Tell us about them.
Well, the beauty of this place is that all kinds of people, from different cultures, can come here and feel good. You learn how to get along with everybody. You build up friendships, not confrontation. People learn that they can be together, beside each other, without fighting, that they can be tolerant. Confrontation is never good. I think the more people know about each other, the more they are able to live in peace. The cigar shop is a good example, this environment that we created. There are people who come here with different backgrounds and cultures and they learn that we can live in peace with each other and enjoy life.
Do you have a favorite cigar?
Yes, everybody does! Monte Cristo No.2.
Why do you like that one?
Because it’s smooth, mild, creamy. It’s not harsh, I don’t like anything harsh, I want everything smooth, and I like people to be smooth, too.
How often do you smoke a cigar?
Whenever I’m in a good mood. Smoking a cigar is not like smoking cigarettes, you should be in a good mood. When I smoke a cigar I feel that I’m at peace, I’m relaxing. When you’re not hungry and you want to eat – that’s such a waste! When you don’t have anything useful to share with someone and you just open your mouth and talk – that’s such a waste! That’s why you should be in the mood to relax, to hold a cigar, to enjoy its taste and smell.
What other pleasures do you have?
I mostly like to read books, I like to learn different languages – I’m trying to learn Spanish, it’s my favorite language right now. Sometimes on weekends I go and play soccer. I want to keep myself young, it makes you feel good about yourself.
Do you spend a lot of time here in the shop?
Yes, because it’s not a big business, I’m the only one here. We don’t make that much money to afford to hire someone. I’m used to the people who come here, they are like a part of my family. I have two families: the people I see every day at the shop and the family at home. It’s a double good feeling for me, I enjoy both lives. When I go home, I love to be at home; when I come here in the morning, I love to be here.
Do you see yourself in the future still having the cigar bar and doing the same thing?
You know, I don’t want to be a dreamer and live in the past or in the future. This moment right now, when I’m talking to you, I want to get the most out of it. Maybe I will build a good future for me, but the future is unknown. When I was in electronics, nobody knew I was going to be out of business. But the business was gone, so I had to start something new. In the future, I would like to try wholesale tobacco and if it works for me, that would be great. If it doesn’t work, maybe God plans something else for me. I’m very optimistic that something good will happen.
What would you say the biggest lesson that being in business for yourself has taught you?
It’s a good feeling to not have a boss. You are your own boss and you have more control. Sometimes I say: I wish I didn’t have the business, because I don’t make that much money, I don’t have security, anything could happen, but it could be worse if I had to work for somebody else. So you feel that freedom, and that’s the most important pleasure for me, that I don’t have to work for anybody except myself. The money is limited, but the freedom, unlimited!
Would you say America, right now, is a good environment for business? Since you started, have things changes for better or for worse?
It’s not worse, I hope that „worse” never comes! It’s sometimes good, sometimes bad, then it’s good again. Life is a challenge and you have to tolerate that. Sometimes the economy goes down a little bit, you should be strong enough and your expectations should drop a little, you have to understand you cannot have the fanciest car or go to the most expensive restaurant. So you have to be ready, if anything bad happens, but at the same time, you shouldn’t worry about it. Fear is the worst enemy a man could have. Never have fear, always be optimistic about life and have positive energy. I’m not the only one, if anything happens, it happens to many people. Always have a positive attitude towards future. It is unknown. My future actually might never come, we all live in the moment. This moment I am with you might be my last. So I just want to be happy right now and hopefully the future is going to be good.
Were you always like this, without fear, or did life teach you to be like that?
Many people are afraid and they are always miserable, always scared to do one thing or another. Fear means you don’t have faith in life. If you have faith in life, just do your best and nothing bad is ever going to happen to you. Fear is the worst enemy.
Still, I guess you felt fear at some point in your life. When were you the most afraid?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt fear in my life. I said to myself: What am I going to lose I didn’t have before, why should I worry about it? (laughs) Tomorrow, if I lose this business, I didn’t have it before, 25 years ago! So why should I worry about it? Maybe God plans something different.
Let’s say, if something happens and you have to start again, what would you see yourself doing?
I’d love to be a teacher, I would like to teach electronics, psychology, that’s why I took many classes of psychology. Teach something that someone can learn from you, so that they can become a better quality person. If that gives me enough money to survive, that’s what I’d like to do.
For anyone who is reading this, what would you say to them?
Never give up in life. Always have a positive attitude towards yourself and the future, because the future is going to be a better place for all of us. Never have fear. Fear is your worst enemy.
You can listen to our interview here: