My boss is always going on and on about what he calls "the secret treasures of Lafayette," the places he says that are hidden in plain sight, the places you find when you don't even realize you're looking for them. A few days ago, he took me to one of these secret treasures, a place I've passed a million times but never thought twice about. It's The Cigar Merchant in Lafayette's Oil Center.

After receiving the always delightful Saturday morning wake-up call from my editor, I got up, brushed my teeth, and began my latest adventure with the bossman.

The Cigar Merchant, or "The Merchant" as the regulars call it, is a cigar shop owned and operated by Lafayette native John Nugent. The store features the largest humidor in Acadiana, with a massive selection of smokes ranging in price from around $5, to $40 or more. But as the bossman and I would soon learn, the true attractions of The Merchant go far beyond the quality merchandise and the helpful staff. As is so often the case in Lafayette, the crowning jewel of the store is the atmosphere and the community.

When we stepped into the store, it was painfully obvious that we knew nothing about cigars. That, and we stuck out like an MD 20/20 stain on the bride's dress. I was considerably younger than anyone else in the place, and the bossman looked like such a tourist he might as well have been wearing a fanny pack.

Oddly though, we did not feel out of place. As I would later learn, the store had been meticulously crafted to ensure comfort. The warm colors and comfy furniture made us feel like we belonged. Immediately I wanted to spend all day in the lounge.

A member of the staff quickly greeted us and asked if he could be of assistance. After admitting our lack of cigar experience, we were given a tour of the humidor. From there, the clerk selected two cigars that he felt would meet each of our tastes, and explained to us everything we would need to know to get the most out of our cigar experience.

This is one of the beautiful things about The Cigar Merchant. Whether you are a cigar aficionado, a novice, or just looking for the perfect gift for a friend, the staff at The Merchant takes the intimidation out of the sometimes daunting process of selecting a cigar from the endless rows of seemingly identical items, and ensures that the customer will always find what they are looking for-- whether they actually know what they are looking for or not.

After purchasing our cigars, it was time to see what all the fuss was about. We lit up and began exploring the rest of the building. In the lounge area of the store, there are a couple of the most enticing couches you've ever seen, surrounding a coffee table loaded with magazines, and a high-def TV on the wall. At any point in the day, the lounge will be filled with people from all walks of life smoking cigars and enjoying a game on the TV, a magazine, a friendly conversation, or my sometime favorite thing (which the bossman constantly interrupted), sweet and satisfying silence.