From leading classrooms full of students to “leading an elegant revolution,” Deidre Garrard and Holly Stilley have found their niche as partners in Cigar Row Events, a business that supplies cigar rollers to high end events primarily in the Charleston area. Garrard, a former English teacher, and Stilley, a former psychology teacher, now share a different kind of knowledge with the public. In addition to their fleet of cigar rollers, they work events themselves, putting the final wrapper on cigars and talking to guests about the relative merits of Dominican tobacco and Connecticut shade wrapper.
So how did two former educators make the leap from the classroom to the event business? According to Deidre Garrard, “The series of part time jobs I took after leaving the classroom ranged from Uber driving to elder care to production work in a small factory setting. When Holly Stilley asked if I wanted to learn how to roll cigars, I was intrigued. I trained in cigar rolling and did my own research on cigars and tobacco, much the same as I would research any lesson I taught in my classroom. Now I have my ‘spiel’ and I love to put on a show at events.” Holly Stilley puts it this way: “It’s really not that different than delivering good instruction in the classroom - you have to ‘sell’ the lesson to the students. Same goes with cigars.”
Garrard, formerly known as “Mrs. Brown,” taught at Westview Middle, Westview Elementary and Goose Creek High School in Berkeley County, at Rollings Middle School of the Arts in Dorchester County, and ended her career as an instructional coach in Charleston County. Her focus now is on marketing using social media. “I used to rely on my students to keep me up to date on trends, and now it’s a kick staying on the cutting edge to help the business grow,” she says.
Holly Stilley spent most of her career in the psychology department at Stratford High School in Goose Creek. A member of the College of Charleston’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the six-footer also coached high school basketball for most of her career. Upon retirement from the public school system, Stilley worked a series of part time jobs, as well as starting her own small business selling re-purposed furniture and accessories on eBay and at consignment stores. Her creative flair is evident in Cigar Row’s new look on business cards and social media. Stilley worked dozens of events for the former owner and found an affinity for interacting with guests. She has travelled as far as Montreal to work an event for Louis Vuitton, and looks forward to growing the business in Charleston and other large markets.
The pair of new business owners appreciate the connection between Savile Row in London, England and Cigar Row Events in Charleston, South Carolina. Both emphasize elegance and tailoring a product to suit a particular audience. Now that Cigar Row Events is owned and operated by women, another connection occurs - Savile Row itself is actually a very famous street located in the central London district of Westminster. The street itself is small and strip-like, sprawling casually from north to south. It's known for its fantastic array of high-end bespoke tailor shops and it was originally named for the very famous Lady Dorothy Savile. She was the spouse of the 3rd Duke of Burlington. Deidre Garrard and Holly Stilley are thrilled to be in such heady company!