“At the core, I am an experience creator,” Stanley’s Cigar Lounge owner Monica Coleman shares with EBONY. “What I realized from that, is that like to sit back and watch people have a good time. This place is a space where I get to create experiences for people; I get to program it and decide how I want people to feel when they come here. I want them to feel relax, to enjoy themselves, to forget about anything else they may have going on—even it’s while they are just enjoying a cigar.”
Located in Atlanta, Coleman opened the doors to her lounge in September 2021. Using her background in marketing coupled with her somewhat secret love for premium cigars, she’s now gone on to operate one of the city’s most sought-after hangout spots. And, she’s doing it all as a Black woman in a space that’s typically reserved for men.
“I have enjoyed cigars for almost thirteen years now. Funny enough, I enjoyed them in secret since there was such a big stigma around women and cigars. Prior to me owning it, this building was another cigar bar, and I would frequent it often. So, I take this opportunity very serious. For me, this is bigger than me. I hope to empower other Black businesses, especially other Black woman-owned businesses.”
For Coleman, the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in her veins. Her grandfather, Stanley Franklin, was the first entrepreneur in their family more than 50 years ago. Franklin opened his own insurance firm during a time when the American South was heavily segregated. At the suggestion of his family, he left the business and went on to enlist in the Marines before working for the US Postal Service—and according to Coleman, he was one of the first Black postal service in Memphis, Tennessee.
“When I learn more about his story, I always think about what he could have done had he remained an entrepreneur, and what that could have meant for our family,” she shares. “So, this is an homage to him, and others like him, who paved the way for a woman to be in a space like this. I have photos of him on the wall, as well as other members of our family. This is about legacy for me. I’m a mother, and I think about the example that I’m setting for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter.”
Beyond the legacy, Stanley’s Cigar Lounge prides itself on providing a quality experience for guests. Not only does Coleman take her time sourcing some of the world’s best sticks, but she also makes sure that the accompanying food and beverage menu match up.
“We have some of the best wings in this part of Atlanta. People will literally come in their pajamas just to get an order. We have a drunken wing, that is really good, where we use a whiskey in the sauce. We also serve great fried catfish, and people really enjoy our smoked Old-Fashioned.”
As for her advice to other Black entrepreneurs out there, Monica Coleman offers the following.
“Look inward for your validation. It can be a lonely road. But there comes a point when people realize that no matter how they feel about you or your business, you aren’t stopping. You have to always know that you are where you are, because that was meant for you. The best thing you can do with your time is to focus on things that are productive and connect with people who want to see you win.”
The post Atlanta’s Black-Owned Stanley’s Cigar Lounge is More Than a Hangout, It’s a Legacy appeared first on EBONY.