We recently completed a multiple state multiple shop adventure in the name of discovery. What we found was both disappointing and unfortunate at once. I am, of course, generalizing, as there where some standout shops. Ok, maybe 1 out of 10. Sad. But as we know each man has his own perspective and I am surely not one to make universal claims about how another man runs his business, his business model or his intentions for being in the cigar business. That disclaimer aside, I offer my opinion.
Who am I to pass judgement on these “cigar royals” as one Rep. put it? Indeed, we have only been open just at 2 years. From the outset of entering the tobacconists world and cigar shop owners domain we where inundated with negativity from industry representatives and other shops. At 2 months in we where told we would be unable to buy x-y and z brands of cigars and that we needed to be careful how we conducted business. It was interesting, I had though we would we welcomed with open arms into a new industry. For sure increased access to fine cigars and more customer smoking cigars raises all ships…well…..not so much. As the title indicates Respect is a facet we will explore.
Respect, that’s right, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I asked myself several questions when I was traveling to other tobacco related shops (specifically premium cigar retailers). Number 1, and perhaps most important did they RESPECT their cigars and the cigar culture? David Ludwig of Arturo Fuente cigars visited our shop early on. He noticed that when I put my cigar out I smashed it into the bottom of the ashtray like any ex-cigarette smoker would do. 15 yeard penalty, automatic first down!
He stopped me and explained, “Hey, there is a better way to put your cigar out, simply let it burn out” His reasoning was something that I have carried on with me. You see, PRIMARILY, you are showing a lack of respect for the craftsmanship that went into rolling that cigar. It also fills the air with rancid smelling burning smoke. You take this hand made item, which we all agree is a piece of art, and smash it. This destroys the wrapper and distorts the cigars appearance. Simply said, although you are done with the cigar, there is no need to destroy it. But shit, that wasn’t even the only reason. By, smashing my cigar into the bottom of the ashtray, I now make the ashtray unusable for others as there are flakes of filler, binder and wrapper floating in the tray. At last, someone has to clean that ashtray and it is a pain in the ass to scrub the mess this type of extinguishing makes in the tray. One part of cigar etiquette gives you an opportunity to show respect for the craft and culture of cigar making, the people you smoke with, and any of your staff or helpers.
The next issue any retailer can and should address is appearance, construction and treatment of cigars in the humidor. Traveling, we did not experience a SINGLE Spanish Cedar lined walk in humidor. We gazed upon endless retail display cases filled with cigars and humidified by some sort of Cigar Oasis Excel Humidifier. Lets be clear these where all glass regular retail cases, not sealed, and frankly not humidified properly. The other thing we observed where standalone humidors. While nothing is wrong with these, many shops appeared to have gone and bought some furniture, not suited for cigar storage, and just retro fitted them with shelves. Finally, the few walk-in humidors we came by where are best a re-purposed closet with wood shelves and some sort of drop or plastic glue tile ceilings.
Our view? If you cant spend the money to build and maintain a proper humidor for your cigars, you are not showing the industry or the culture the RESPECT it deserves. You might want to just go sell widgets. The final and most egregious trend we noticed, which compounded by the lack of proper storage facilities and humidification, was cigar presentation. AWFUL. We noticed cigars thrown into boxes, cracked on the floor and a general lack of disorder. We saw open boxes stacked on top of opened boxes, cigars not lined up properly in their boxes and it was just a mess. A box of 1964 Padrons hit me when I saw it on the floor and it appeared as if someone opened the box, grabbed all the cigars in it and then just dropped them back into the box. One thing was for sure, they all had prices on them. Again, widgets, it’s easier.
We will continue our 4 part series in a few weeks. We explore 3rd party Reps, In-House Reps and Cigar Label Owners, the so-called Boutique industry and many many more topics. Stay tuned.
Yes, the makers of the most popular plastic tipped cigarillos has acquired Drew Estate, outright. We saw this coming for a while and yes it is nice that a couple of guys built an empire and then cashed out. I’m sure everyone did very well. When ACID cigars started showing up at gas station checkouts and Liga’s and Herrera Esteli became available to every online discount blowout website, the end was near.
It wasn’t long ago, about (2) years, that we requested to buy some Ligas from Drew Estate directly. We where told that we could not get them. In sort of a nebulous world revolving around cronyism and buying power, some shops got Liga, some didn’t. Then, Drew Estate legitimized the process of getting Ligas and subsequently Herrera’s cigars. It was something that sounded like, 40 facings and (x) amount of dollars a year. This was a move that appeared directed at leveling the playing field for sought after and much hyped cigars.
We gather some shops took this opportunity to buy into Drew Estates new distribution scheme. Oddly, Ligas and Herrera’s starting showing up online for 10% over MSRP. Where did this leave the shops who thought they would have an exclusive arraignment to procure the Ligas?
High and Dry.
Any cigar enthusiast knows there are plenty of great sticks to be had and distributors that want your business.
We seek them each week and we find them. Can anyone spare a box of t52’s?