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Category: Use of Storytelling Exhibitor: General Cigar Co. Inc.  Design/Fabrication: Hill & Partners, Weymouth, MA, 617-471-7990, www.hillpartners.com   Show: International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers, 2014  Budget: Less than $40,000  Size: 20-by-40 feet

PHOTOs: Cole Group
Smoke House
By Charles Pappas

To promote its Foundry brand at the 2014 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers show, General Cigar Co. Inc. gave attendees an unexpected exhibit. "We wanted to blow up the usual way of exhibiting," said Mike Vallone, a designer with Hill & Partners, which conceived and fabricated the $25,000 exhibit.

General Cigar Co.'s booth evoked tobacco's past and predicted its future through a series of vignettes spanning the years 1914 to 2064. The vignette dedicated to 1914, for example, fused Victorian elegance with Jules Verne mad science: A functional cigar-rolling machine was placed next to a surgeon's stand and an antique embalming table, which included rusty medical tools and embalmed cat skulls.

Time traveling to 1964, visitors stepped through a "wormhole" doorway and into a mysterious expanse filled with fog, thanks to an inconspicuous smoke machine. Done in period-accurate colors, the section housed a black-and-white TV with a static-riddled screen playing "The Ed Sullivan Show." After chatting with staffers, visitors rounded a corner for the 2014 room, modeled after upscale cigar clubs and clad in dimensional textured panels and mirrors etched with the Foundry logo.


Completing their chronological journey in 2064, attendees discussed the tobacco industry's future alongside staffers in a room built of opaque panel inserts, translucent Plexiglas, and strings of glowing LED rope. Suggesting an interplanetary spacecraft, the room displayed posters of cigars on Mars, detailing how the company might take tobacco to the red planet and beyond. Exhibit Design Awards judges applauded the exhibit's delicate blend of viewable vignettes and oral-history narratives. In the words of one judge, "This is experiential storytelling on steroids, and it's absolutely spectacular." Talk about smoking the competition.E

Good Times
An extension of past exhibits inspired by steam punk, this design for General Cigar Co. Inc. integrated existing structures alongside new elements to create a chronological journey from the tobacco industry's distant past to its far-off future. Eras came to life through the use of props and futuristic finishes.





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