HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Brad Mayo's Jameson Cigar Co. straddles two worlds: one new and the other old.
The new, always-on wired world makes a large part of his business possible. Internet purchases are a significant chunk of his trade as he makes sales 24/7 across the continent to people and shops on the hunt for custom-designed cigars.
Plus, there's the iPad, which the 29-year-old Mayo uses as a cash register for walk-in sales and to play the tunes heard in his retail shop at Heritage Village, a stone's throw from the Ohio River.
The old world is represented by his old-school cigars, hand-made in centuries-old fashion in a small factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
"I love cigars. I love everything about them," says Mayo, standing near a tall humidor holding boxes of the various blends and styles of Jameson cigars.
"The main thing I love about them is the handmade aspect and the variety and the passion that people in the business have. This is not a business you want to go into if you don't love cigars."
Mayo launched the company four years ago without a retail outlet, putting to good use his business management degree from Marshall University. He named the business after the men in his family and their sons, himself included -- James is his first name, plus the name of his son, father and grandfather.
In May, he finally moved into a retail space as part of a spate of new businesses at the revived Heritage Village shops across from the Third Avenue floodwall, easily located by the historic black locomotive parked out front.
"Our goal was just to create a brand, a boutique brand, you could say. What I wanted to do is make it available online and sell it myself in the beginning," he said.
As a cigar smoker himself, he would seek out smaller brands. He came upon cigars made by La Tradicion Cubana, owned by Luis Sanchez, first in Little Havana in Miami and then in the Dominican Republic.
"I really loved his cigars and kind of struck up a relationship with him. I went down to visit him. We just kind of hit it off."
Now, he travels to Sanchez's factory several times a year, tinkering with new blends and new cigars.
"What's good about the way we do it is it's such a small factory and I have such a good relationship with the owner, I can basically do anything I want. So, I can do these small runs. I can play around with blends. I mean, these are our blends only that you're going to find from us."
He also gets a firsthand view of his handmade product.
"In the Dominican Republic, rollers works in pairs. So, you'll have one guy who will bunch the filler and put the binder on. Once you do that, you've got to put the cigars in molds, and there are 10 cigars in a mold. It's a wooden mold and clamps together and you press it for an hour each side."