Breaking Barriers with A Puff of Smoke

Introducing Kenora and Kay’s Cigar Sensation

Cigars, while in different forms, have been around for well over a thousand years. An article in Time notes the finding of a ceramic pot discovered in Guatemala that dated back as far as the 10th century which depicted a Mayan puffing on tobacco leaves bound up with string. The cigar industry has been a male dominated arena for quite some time; however, there is a woman in the suburbs of Philadelphia that is breaking that barrier with a puff of smoke.

Meet Kenora (Kay), a lifelong resident of Philadelphia who wears many hats as a wife, mother (new grandmother) career woman and the owner of Kay’s Cigar Sensations. Kay explained that between family and friends, she has been around cigars most of her life (and she loves the smell). About five years ago a friend gave her a cigar at a party, she enjoyed it and later bought her own. Reflecting on her first cigar purchase, she laughs about buying a Java mint for a long drive, but she didn’t have a real cutter so it had an interesting cut. As she tried other cigars, Kay would research the cigar she was smoking, where it came from, how it was made, leaf wrappers, fillers, fermentation and flavors. The information fascinated her and was the beginning of her 5-year cigar smoking journey.

Before opening the lounge, Kay started Stogie Sticks by Kay. The stogie stick is a custom cigar accessory designed for holding the cigar past the nub without burning fingertips. Since she would smoke her cigar to the nub, pinching it with her fingers while wearing lip-gloss could get sticky, messy and burn fingers. After searching online for a solution (and finding none) she decided to make her own. Kay researched materials that wouldn’t impact flavor or tarnish and Kay’s Cigar Sensation was formed.

Why Open a Cigar Lounge?

As a woman cigar smoker, not all lounges were welcoming, and Kay said there were places she would be go in and It was as if she walked in and interrupted a private meeting – until she wandered into City Cigar and met Bill. He was so welcoming (as well as the members) that it became her second home where she would go with her laptop to work, smoke cigars and relax with a glass of wine. Soon Kay realized she spent more time at the lounge than in her own home. While thinking ahead about what she wanted to do after retirement, she decided to pair her love for jazz and cigars to open her own lounge. “I told myself, I can do this”, she said.


When asked how the cigar community has been towards her and her new lounge. Kay has found the community, to be helpful and friendly. As an African American woman, it was vital to Kay to create a cigar lounge that was laid back, jazz themed with an environment that was hospitable to all and female friendly. Addressing the disregard by some cigar places that she experienced, Kay wanted Kay’s Stogie Sensation to show respect and value to the African American female dollars that are often untapped, undervalued and overlooked. Local businesses were welcoming and owners of other lounges, particularly ESquared Cigar, City Cigar and Cigar Alley – were helpful. They shared information and were instrumental in helping with the ins and outs of setting up the business. Mike Dixon from Smoker Zone was very contributory in sharing about the business aspect of the cigar industry. Kay also found support from her network and where she is a member of two women cigar clubs – Streamers and Stilettos and Stix, both are groups of cigar smoking women who meet over cigars, network, conduct business, enjoys one another’s company and grow together in their knowledge of cigars.

During the Grand Opening there were about 100 well-wishers who passed through the doors, heard great music as the jazz trio played, relished the lite fare (and of course enjoyed their cigars) as Kay’s Stogie Sensation introduced themselves to the community and introduced the only African American female in Pennsylvania that is the sole proprietor of a cigar lounge. When you are in the Keswick Village (across from the Keswick theater), stop by the mellow jazz themed cigar lounge Kay’s Cigar Sensations with the motto ‘Where grown folks come to pssita” (put some smoke in the air).

W2WT Journalist: Shawnette Jones