Newly opened Iraqi cigar shop at Q-West
Oct 23, 2009
By Capt. Murray Shugars, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - An Iraqi-owned and operated cigar shop celebrated its grand opening Oct. 14 at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.
Costing the owner more than $40,000 in renovations and merchandise, the Abbas Cigar Club represents a continued Iraqi investment in this remote logistics base in Northern Iraq, said Capt. Allen Legere, officer in charge of the IBIZ retail section, with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, Mississippi Army National Guard, out of Senatobia, Miss.
"In an effort to strengthen the local economy by supporting stability through commerce, the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone retail section assisted Iraqi National, Ahmed Abbas, with the opening of the Abbas Cigar Club," said Legere.
Located on Eigth Street near the Troya Shopping Mall, the store sells cigars and other tobacco products as well as accessories like hand-carved pipes, leather pipe cases, glass hookahs and lighters.
Ahmed Abbas of Mosul said he opened the store because he supports the U.S. forces in Iraq.
"We are happy that the American military is here because life is better now than before," said Abbas through an interpreter. "We want to show our appreciation by offering quality tobacco products at reasonable prices."
Abbas said he has worked at Q-West for seven years, first as an independent general contractor and then as a contractor for a Turkish-owned retail center.
Legere, a Gulfport, Miss., native, said the opening of the business is good for U.S. forces.
"Soldiers have told me that they wanted to shop at a store offering luxury tobacco products," said Legere. "Mr. Abbas has been easy to work with and has complied with all levels of Q-West policy and procedures that demonstrate his willingness to operate with Coalition forces here in Iraq."
The first customer in line to purchase a cigar, Staff Sgt. Tony T. Ware, the noncommissioned-officer in charge of Q-West's Department of Public Works and a Grenada, Miss., native, said he was pleased with the store.
"I was first to buy a Cuban cigar on the grand opening," said Ware. "Next time I shop here, I might get one of these pipes. I give this store a thumbs up for the quality of their products, especially for a cigar smoker."
One shopper was less interested in cigars than in other tobacco products and accessories.
"I bought a cigarette holder with the two-headed Byzantine eagle on the lid," said Capt. Correy K. Elder, the officer in charge of the Department of Public Works and a Jackson, Miss., native. "I think it's pretty good to give a variety of products to the Soldiers, give the guys more options."
Shopper Staff Sgt. Anthony M. Douglas, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mayor cell help desk and native of Cockrum, Miss., said the store offers Soldiers a unique way to relax.
"I'm glad the store opened because sharing quality cigars is a great way for Soldiers to kick back and relax at the end of the day," said Douglas. "I've been smoking cigars for nine years, but I have never had a Cuban cigar to put in my humidor. I am looking forward to smoking a real Cuban cigar."
Encouraging Iraqi commerce is an important part of the strategic effort here, said Lt. Col. William B. Smith, Jr., the Q-West mayor and a Hattiesburg, Miss., native.
"Supporting local business is important, and it becomes more important as our mission transitions," said Smith. "When multi-national forces return COL Q-West to the Iraqi military, we will leave them a better base than when we arrived, one with a military and economic infrastructure able to help support a sovereign, self-reliant Iraq. One way to define our level of success in Iraq is by how well we have nurtured Iraq's developing economic capacity, for this will significantly improve the country's long-term stability."
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