A La Vergne couple is banking on everything going up in smoke with their new business. But it’s a good thing.
Calvin Gatlin and Lovely Lancaster are hosting a grand opening for Southern Flare Cigar & Social Lounge on June 3-5 at 98 N. Lowry St. in Smyrna.
Gatlin and Lancaster first met at a cigar bar in Nashville a couple of years ago. His dream of owning a cigar lounge, coupled with her business consulting and marketing expertise, put them on a path to opening their own establishment.
For more than six months, Lancaster did market research and came up with a plan. They searched for a location in South Nashville, but finally landed on Smyrna, an untapped market much closer to home.
Focusing on a vision
“The vision started to come together,” Gatlin said.
The building had been vacant a while and needed a lot of work. But they both had a vision for what it could be.
Of note is the location of Southern Flare — a gray building located on the far side of the Smyrna Depot District bridge, headed away from downtown. Parking is available on both sides.
“We decided to put a lot of sweat equity into it and it works,” Gatlin said. The couple did most of the renovations themselves on nights and weekends.
Focusing on details has pulled the vision together, from the placement of a cigar cutter, arrangement of the furniture for socializing, and even the location for bathrooms and bar.
The upper level of the building features dining tables and chairs, as well as a big-screen television, and is the location for the bar. The lower level is a lounge area where plush seating provides a relaxed place for conversation and consumption of cigars and beverages.
Moveable cigar ashtray stands are scattered around each section of the bar, some are two-tiered and provide a spot to sit your drinks.
A mirror is located next to the cigar-cutting station so people can ensure they are lighting up for an even burn. “When you are lighting it and you can see it, you never puff it first. When it’s fully lit, that’s when you start smoking,” Gatlin explained.
Any respectable cigar lounge needs a humidor. What was once an office was transformed into a cedar-lined room.
“Cedar creates a certain odor and sustains the humidity right, so it’s going to give the cigar an enhanced flavor,” said Gatlin.
A glass window offers a view of Gatlin’s carefully procured collection of cigars from the Dominican Republic. After touring cigar makers in the Caribbean island nation, Gatlin chose the finest and his favorites to bring back for customers.
“I know everybody talks about Cuban cigars. But the Dominican Republic has really stepped it up with the tobacco that they’re producing. … They take a lot of pride in it,” Gatlin said. “The magnitude of what they go through to produce that cigar is phenomenal.”
Customers can purchase one or more to enjoy at the bar. Southern Flare will also cater to the cigar connoisseur in the near future with lockers where aficionados can store purchases for each lounge visit.
And lounge is the operative word when it comes to Southern Flare. The couple wants their business to be a place to unwind.
There were some challenges to building the business. A beer ordinance for the town of Smyrna was amended so they could serve drinks and interior renovations were needed to bring the building up to codes, such as a wheelchair ramp.
One of the most important functional design elements of Southern Flare is the state-of-the-art ventilation system that keeps a heavy cloud of smoke from hanging in the air. Each puff of smoke is quickly sucked into a filtered air system that purifies and recirculates it within four minutes.
The system also allows non-cigar smokers to enjoy the space without worrying about being overwhelmed. Southern Flare will also have hookahs, which are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobaccos.
Dining and drinks
In addition to smokable products, the Southern Flare owners are creating a simple but chef-driven food menu and handpicked selection of wine and liquor, as well as popular beers.
Everything is a work in progress, too. More features are evolving as they grow the business. There will be memberships available that include perks like boxes of cigars and admission to special events.
The couple’s next focus is the expansion of Sellebrity co-working space located in a separate building next door to the lounge.
“People got scared during the pandemic, but we got excited because we understand… that out of adversity comes your greatest times of prosperity. So we just decided to take a chance,” Lancaster said. “Instead of looking at the circumstances, all we could think about was what’s to come. And because of that we’re able to do something pretty amazing and make some dreams happen.”
Southern Flare will be open daily. The humidor will be open from 10 a.m. to close, but the lounge won’t open until 4 p.m. Closing times will vary Monday through Saturday, but Sunday hours are 2-10 p.m. Prices for cigars vary.
Keep up with happenings for Southern Flare on Facebook. To get on Southern Flare’s soft opening list, visit tinyurl.com/southernflareopening.
To learn more about the couple’s Sellebrity Co-working and Lovely Day c, located next door at 100 N. Lowry St., follow on Facebook, call 615-668-2388 or visit sellebrityco-working.com. Memberships start at $25 a month.