Stoney Chaffin brings handmade stogies to town.
➼ Stoney Chaffin started smoking cigars as a teenager, puffing White Owls and Dutch Masters stogies with his friends in Huntington. “Just cheap dime store cigars,” he says. Chaffin and his pals weren’t trying to pursue the finer things in life—it was more about low-level adolescent rebellion.
He wouldn’t develop an appreciation for nice smokes until years later, after he moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and started hanging around a cigar shop there. Chaffin was working for a first aid supply business at the time, delivering supplies throughout South Carolina. His client list included lots of golf courses, and he smelled an opportunity.
Cigars were booming in the mid-1990s, a fad stoked by macho stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. “Everybody in Hollywood was smoking cigars, and everybody wanted to smoke cigars,” Chaffin says.
Chaffin began placing jars of liqueur-and-spice-soaked cigars in the golf course clubhouses he serviced. He had 90 locations within nine months. “I ended up selling more cigars than I did working on commission,” he says. “The first year I made $30,000, and it just went up from there every year.”
It didn’t take long for Chaffin to quit the first aid business and devote his time fully to cigars. Then, in 2003, he befriended a man who made hand-rolled cigars. The man taught Chaffin the trade. It took about two years of practice before Chaffin felt comfortable making and selling his own hand-rolled smokes. But once he did, the business took off.
He began going to the Charleston City Night Market in Charleston, South Carolina, knocking down hundreds of dollars a night. “It was just booming.” In 2006, he opened the Myrtle Beach Cigar Factory with a business partner. The business eventually had 13 employees and made 500 cigars each day.
Chaffin sold his interest in the factory in 2016, when he moved back to Huntington to take care of his ailing mother. He intended to return to South Carolina after she passed, but that plan was derailed when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2017.
It was then that a friend in Morgantown, Steven Jones, invited Chaffin to live in his guesthouse while he received treatment at Ruby Memorial Hospital. Soon after relocating, he and Jones got to talking about the cigar business. Jones, who’d spent nearly three decades running Boston Beanery restaurants, was retired and looking for a new venture. He suggested they create a cigar business. “He named it ‘Stoney Creek,’ and we started it up,” Chaffin says. “He does the business stuff and I do the cigar stuff.”
Stoney Creek Cigars launched in September 2017. Chaffin finished chemotherapy and radiation in May and is now cancer-free. “Now we’re booked somewhere every weekend,” Chaffin says.
He’s rolled and sold cigars at events like the Three Rivers Festival in Fairmont, the Capitol City Biker Bash in Charleston, the Manassas Jazz Festival in Virginia, and the Thunder in the Valley Motorcycle Rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “People love to watch you put them together. That’s how you get people to stop,” he says. He does private events, too, and his cigars are available at Smoker’s Emporium in Morgantown and Fairmont as well as in smoke shops in Charleston and in Pennsylvania. Chaffin and Jones are now working to expand their business into South Carolina.
Most of Stoney Creek’s cigars begin with a cigar wrapper grown in Honduras. The tobacco used for wrappers is often grown under gauze tents to keep the leaves thin and smooth without many veins. “The wrapper is where you get 80 percent of your flavor,” Chaffin says.
Most of the filler and binder in Chaffin’s cigars comes from the Dominican Republic, although he’s working on a cigar made entirely from Nicaraguan tobacco. He’s going to call it the “Mucho Gusto.” “Blending tobacco is a lot like cooking. You have to know what wrappers go with different tobaccos. It just depends on what you want your cigar to taste like,” he says.
While he acknowledges the cigar world could be intimidating for novices, he says the best way to learn about cigars is to smoke them. “I would just say pick a cigar and try it. It’s not rocket science.”
Besides, it’s not just about the cigar. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to burn a cigar—a perfect excuse to take some time, talk with your buddies, nurse a glass of your favorite spirit, or just think. “It’s an experience,” Chaffin says. stoneycreekcigars.com
written by Zack Harold