Monthly Archives: April 2016

Slaughtercigar Three

slaughterForgive me for bastardizing the title of your book “Slaughterhouse Five” Mr. Vonnegut, but I had to find the right words for the post and the ones above I think are quite apropos.

This morning, after a particularly difficult and tense Thursday spent with cigar shops and changes at the facility my Mom is at; I felt it was the right time to reduce the number of cigars I represent.  And for good reason, I have too many cigars.  So I had to start somewhere, so I took those that I thought I could do without.

Now, I will not reveal the names of these cigars, they know who they are, but your need to know is a moot point.  The point is I would not have been able to adequately represent them, plus some mitigating factors with one company in particular made the decision of which ones to drop quite easy.

So I wrote text messages to all three, it was quite early so calls were out of the question, plus I strike when the iron is hot – the iron being me.  So I finished and sent all three and waited for responses.  But, I just didn’t sit there; I was preparing to go to the pipe show.

text notes

So I hop into the car, back out and get going. I’m on my way when I heard the dink on my cell.  I thought maybe it was one of the cigar manufacturers.  I pulled over noticing that it was from my brother.  I read his email having to do with the situation I had to deal with on Thursday regarding my Mom’s care.  I read it and was quite pleased with what he had come up with.  His idea would give us the leverage we needed to change the situation I experienced the day before.  I sat still in the car on the street, motor humming, basically running the idea over and over in my head to figure out if it would help or hurt my Mom’s plight.

After nearly ten minutes weighing the pros and cons I quickly turned around, drove the car into the driveway, got out, ran up the stairs, opened the door and made a phone call.   I spoke at length to the person I needed to contact and discussed our idea.  She told me I may have something, but she would have to ask her superior.  She said she would get back to me as soon as possible.  I asked her to place it on the top of her list of things to do because we were in a time crunch and we needed an answer today.

But I didn’t think a phone call would be enough so I changed.  I took off my jeans (the pipe show is very informal), donned a white shirt, tie and dress pants and got myself ready to meet with her personally.

Now, in the rush, I heard two dinks on my phone.  They were from two of the companies I sent text messages to.  And I was shocked at how the one owner ripped me up and down.  And how could I even think of dropping his line.  He used some pretty strong language.  Well, I thought to myself, the real man has emerged.  I wrote back, added my two cents and thanked him for the opportunity to meet his true self.  I asked for a call tag, samples would follow.

Coincidentally, right after him, the other guy came through with his opinion of my decision.  He called the fact that I sent him a text “unprofessional.”  That really hit me the wrong way so I sent him a text back questioning his reasoning for attacking my reputation.  I must have said something right because he sent a text back to me and in a slithering way apologized.  He confirmed that a call tag would be sent for the samples.

Gibbs and meThe third cigar manufacturer apparently doesn’t care one way or the other; I have yet to hear from him.  This was the first time any manufacturer had reacted in such a manner.  I have always been civil, polite, and very professional in the way I word a missive to end a representation relationship.  But in these two cases, I have no regrets.

I still have two other companies that are dangling at the bottom of a silk worm’s thread.  I will wait because I have more faith in their cigars, and the owners have been reasonable.  Plus, I believe I can move the cigar.  So I am done with the carnage for now.

I quickly gathered myself and got into the car to head for the facility to get that situation cleared up as quickly as possible.  And wouldn’t you know it, I head in and the person I needed to speak with was walking right toward me.  She said come with me.

We headed to a conference room and she gave me the good news.  Our proposal had been accepted.  I was so relieved.  Are we out of the woods?  Not by a long shot, but the first phase is in place and we can now move on to the next level.

kevin in handSo needless to say I was in a grand mood when I got to the show and immediately ran into a couple of guys that I know from Michigan and they were interested in buying some of the new meerschaum pipes I now handle.  So I may have been late, but I sauntered in and made the first sale of the day with a promising tomorrow.

Oh, the pizza is here.  I need to go.

 

 

 

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The 2016 Pipe Show!

pipe1Every year at this time I attend the pipe show in St. Charles.  I carry a variety of pipes both briar and meerschaum along with the cigars.  Pipes, believe it or not, are going through a renaissance albeit it a quiet one.

I’m not at all sure what the next three posts will be.  I know my audience is mainly interested in cigars so for today, take a look at these beauties and I can only imagine what is waiting for me at the show.

meerschaum

2016 Pipe & Tobacciana Show

THE CHICAGOLAND INTERNATIONAL PIPE & TOBACCIANA SHOW

SHOW DATES: APRIL 30 & MAY 1, 2016

SHOW TIME: SATURDAY, 10AM TILL 5PM

SHOW TIME: SUNDAY, 9AM TILL 5PM

ADMISSION: $15.00 (FOR ONE OR BOTH DAYS)

LOCATION: THE MEGA CENTER, PHEASANT RUN RESORT, 4051 EAST MAIN STREET, ST. CHARLES, ILLINOIS 60174.  FOR ROOM RESERVATIONS, CALL 630-584-6300 OR 800-999-3319.  MENTION THE SHOW FOR SPECIAL RATES.

THERE WILL BE TOBACCIANA SEMINARS ON FRIDAY EVENING.  DON*T FORGET OUR FREE FRIDAY EVENING CPCC WELCOME DINNER.

THERE WILL BE A CPCC, FRIDAY APRIL 29TH, *SWAP AND SMOKE* (BUY/SELL/TRADE EVENT) THAT WILL START AT 9AM AND RUN UNTIL 4PM.   WE WILL ALSO HAVE A *POST- SHOW* MONDAY, MAY 2ND, 8AM TO 12PM, AS A LAST CHANCE TO BUY/SELL BEFORE GOING HOME

WE HAVE 300 + SHOW EXHIBITOR TABLES AVAILABLE FOR OUR SHOW.  ONCE THE EXHIBITOR TABLES ARE SOLD OUT, WE WILL START A WAITING LIST FOR THOSE STILL WANTING EXHIBITOR TABLES.  THE COST OF AN EXHIBIT TABLE IS $140.00.  OUR SATURDAY EVENING CPCC DINNER WILL COST $70.00 PER TICKET.  ATTENDEES WILL GET *TOBACCIANA* GOODY BAGS.

THERE WILL BE A 6000 SQUARE TENT FOR SMOKING, WITH FOOD AND DRINK AVAILABLE, FROM 1PM WEDNESDAY OF THE SHOW WEEK TO EARLY MONDAY MORNING, NEXT TO THE MEGA CENTER.

THE UNITED PIPE CLUBS OF AMERICA (UPCA) WILL HAVE ITS NATIONAL SMOKING CONTEST (IN THE TENT) AT OUR SHOW, ON SUNDAY, MAY 2ND, AT 1 PM.  CONTACT MIKE “DOC” GARR OR DAVID BULL OF THE UPCA FOR MORE INFORMATION. WWW.UNITEDPIPECLUBS.ORG

THE CHICAGOLAND PIPE COLLECTORS CLUB (CPCC) AND PIPE SHOW HAVE THEIR OWN WEB SITE AT WWW.CHICAGOPIPESHOW.COM OR CALL CRAIG COBINE AT 630-236-6202 OR EMAIL PORSHCIGAR@AOL.COM FOR INFORMATION.

It’s a great change of pace.  Come on and enjoy!

 

 

Razor Sharp Reality.

born with teethI just finished listening to “Born with Teeth: A Memoir,” by Kate Mulgrew.  (Little Brown & Co.) I have to say I was floored, knocked over, overwhelmed by the life she has led.  You might remember her as Captain Kathryn Janeway on the Star Trek Voyager series, or as Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope, or more recently, as Galina “Red” Reznikov on Orange is the New Black.

She left home for New York at seventeen to pursue her dream to be an actress.  She studied with the legendary Stella Adler.  It was her immersion and absorption of Adler’s philosophy that “she learned the lesson that would define her as an actress – disappointment. ‘Use it’ Adler told her.  Whatever disappointment, pain, or anger life throws in your path, channel it into the work.” (Dust Jacket)

And without going into the details of the book – the one skill she possessed that allowed her to endure some of the most horrendous disappointments in anyone’s life was persistence.

I can’t limn all the joys and hardships she experienced, you have to read or listen to the CDs, but I could literally feel her skill through my speakers in the car as she narrated the book on each disc.  It’s also available in hardback.   Whatever way you decide, this is a business handbook for cigar manufacturers.

The cigar industry has become so flooded with competing brands that the old adage, “Only the strong will survive” cannot be ignored.  It’s not the amount of money available, the marketing, the exposure, but it’s the person behind the cigar that has to have the skill of persistence in order to trudge through the detritus of cigar brands that are available today and continue on until the brand is established.

padilla box openSo what brands make it and what ones go by the way side?  It’s up to the individual who makes the cigar who will determine that.  A perfect example is the Padilla brand.  Ernie has been through ups, downs and sideways.  But he’s still in there plugging away no matter what has been tossed into his way.

He’s made some great cigars and some duds.   He positioned himself in many markets, one being the internet that has haunted him more so than others.  He’s made some business decisions that I’m sure he would chisel off the granite block of life, but they are embedded there for all eternity.   Yet, he’s still around.  He’s still here.  He’s still blending and manufacturing some great cigars and this time in the well-known Raices Cubanas cigar factory.

In fact he’s introduced four new blends (Corojo-99, San Andres, Criollo-98 and La Pilar) that are sensational and will make their way into the market as hot lava oozes across cold rock and begins to solidify, and they will be there for a lifetime.  He’s been in business all these years because he has perfected that skill Kate Mulgrew honed to define her as who she is today despite her many disappointments.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have two new cigars – Cornelius and Daddy Mac that have just been introduced to an already flooded market.  The cigar company is known as Cornelius & Anthony and is the brainchild of S & M Brands.  It is owned by Stephen Bailey, whose family has over 150 years of experience in the tobacco business.   “S&M Brands offers a vertically integrated and complete line of products from cigarettes to little cigars, cigarillos, cigars and electronic smoking options.” (site)

dmfiThe question is, “Will either of them make it?”  Being in business for 150 or 300 years means little if the skill of persistence isn’t ingrained into Mr. Bailey, and I would think so considering the fact that he’s part of a lineage of five generations of business disappointments that are as common as late payments.

But he’s still going to have to go through the gauntlet of cigars to make his brands standout.  He’s already made a smart move by introducing a very limited line – only two premium blends.  Adding any more now would be like pouring water into a sieve.  Cornelius & Anthony has no pedigree, S & M does, but that’s not what we as brokers are trying to establish here.

The cigars are competitive.  They are sophisticated and made by two of the finest cigar manufacturers in the industry: the Cornelius by El Titan De Bronze in Miami, and Daddy Mac at La Zona in Esteli, Nicaragua.  It is almost inconceivable neither cigar will be successful.  One or the other, or possibly both will be in many a cigar smoker’s rotation in a short time.

But, it’s up to Steve to match or exceed Kate’s skill of persistence and her use of disappointment.  She learned to change.  He will have to learn to change.  If one blend doesn’t work (i.e. one cigar fails), another blend will pop up.  But he must remain open to ideas and take chances.  No one knows how long S & M has been around.  No one cares.  That won’t sell his cigars.  But his persistence and how he will deal with inevitable disappointments will.

I was saddened when the CD came to its conclusion but happy for Kate.  What would I listen to next or read in order to help me cope with the razor sharp edges of frigid reality.  I will find it.  This is how I stay warm – melting the edges.  I’m constantly managing my disappointments and always sharpening my skill.

Feeling and being ain’t the same.

I returned home tonight after a busy day and had time for one cigar at R & B Cigars in Elgin.  I sat about and talked to Sarge and his buddy. A customer came in and took over the conversation for a bit.  But despite the cigar and despite the good fortune of the day, I felt slower than when I started.

lone dlion

Being solo is good.  I thrive on it.  But it’s when you feel solo – that’s different.  And it was one of them days.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N7H64IrfGY

 

Is it who you know?

swan2“Truman Capote was the darling of an inner circle he called his Swans—Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli.  He was their baby wizard, their bitchy sister, their father confessor. They told him who had slept between the Porthault sheets and where all the bodies were buried. The day he published a fraction of what he had learned in their company in “La Côte Basque, 1965,” he created a new art form: social suicide.” (VF)

I bring this up to illustrate a point about the world of cigars and how some react when they get to know a “Cigar Star.”  And we know there are many, and if you don’t believe me just ask them.  And I will refrain from naming them in deference to their belief that they are indeed demigods of the industry.

socrates-last-interview-with-his-friends

And of course this phenomenon is not at all new.  The disciples would gather around Jesus Christ to hear His wisdom.  Socrates drew impressive crowds as well.  Even some politicians are known for their magnetic attraction that draws hundreds, if not thousands, of people to theaters and convention center halls throughout the country.

What is it about the personalities of some that pulls an individual toward these people?  In one case I can ascertain it was simply the knowledge of the individual that whisked a person into his airspace.  But often times, you have to wonder what it is about a person that is the attraction.  Maybe they will become friends or close acquaintances.  But it could be said that is a trust, an inner belief that they are drawn to someone because they will receive something back if they get close enough.

babe and truTruman Capote had this charm, this power, this sanctity of savoir faire, this bone fide charisma that drew in a small group of ladies he called his “Swans.”    And the way he drew them in was his special social association with none other than Babe Paley (Yes.  That Paley, cigar smokers).  “Through Babe, Truman gain(ed) an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle.” (From the jacket cover of “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” by Melanie Benjamin 2016)

And for those who know of Truman Capote (the author of “In Cold Blood” among other classics), he was a diminutive little creature that somehow was the black hole who was able to attract these high-powered ladies into his closet of trust.  Little did they know he would betray that trust.  My point is why were these intelligent women so mesmerized by a novelist who had neither the looks nor the money to be in their tight, affluent circle of the day’s society elite.  But there they were, all in stitches when he told a story or begged to hear what really was going on behind closed doors.  They couldn’t get close enough.  Yes, he was a known novelist by this time, but why the fascination?  Could he have been using his swans for his own fascination of the rich for his work?  The day he published a fraction of what he had learned in their company in “La Côte Basque, 1965,” he showed the public his reason – Truman.  He used his Swans.

rocky groupMethinks it is the reason guys flutter around the cigar makers of today.   He or she has this notion that being around the “star” will imbue them with the life of the celebrity.  They who are in the circle are now superior to the other cigar guys who don’t have this intimacy with so and so even though in reality the association is a vicarious one at best.  They believe their friendship is real.  And in their minds it is.  They talked to so and so and even get his autograph and now they are friends – close friends when in reality they are forgotten before the pen slides off the box.  But they have this guy going around “ga ga” about such and such cigar.  Everyone’s being used.

But this happens with chefs, movie stars, musicians, poets, writers etc., why pick on the cigar celebrities?  Perhaps it’s because I’m closer to the truth among the “stars” than the average Joe and when I see a fan dance a jig when they get an autograph, I do know just a smidgen more about their hero.

 

 

 

 

 

Watching a miracle

asa ticketAfter my wife and I were patted down by security, we headed upstairs to watch my son and his band, A Semester Abroad, perform at the House of Blues on Dearborn in Chicago.  Not a bad venue for a 19-year-old drummer playing out his dream.

hobmiles

See, I watched my Dad as he trudged through corporate America and I knew that wasn’t for me.   Oh, I tried it.  I met my wife in corporate America.   But that’s the only positive I can come up with.  No one could ever convince me that the way to make money is to work for another man.  Be told what to do, how to do it and when.  I saw my Dad work himself directly onto a gurney, and I decided long before then that corporate America may be suited for some – but not for me.  Noxious stuff that corporation environment.

And I’m pleased to say that my son has apparently either seen his Dad work at it alone as a cigar broker, or he was born with the same gene I have for being an entrepreneur.  The freedom to be your own boss is the independence to be who you really are – in the flesh.  Oh, sure, he’s going to school to earn his degree in sound production, but his ultimate dream is to be in a band.  And as hard as he’s been working at it, I can’t see his vision ever fading away.  He’s too damn determined.

elwood

So, two guys living in the same household who have tasted freedom and devour its nourishment.  We love it.  We simply love it.

How to sell cigars.

bored guyI listened to a radio show today that featured a lot of ads for cigars.  The show is out of Atlanta and it’s called Smooth Draws: Cigar Lifestyle Radio Show (http://tunein.com/radio/Smooth-Draws-Radio-Show-p714664).  This week, Franca Comparetto, the founder of CigarSense  https://www.facebook.com/cigarsense/?fref=ts was interviewed. (In short, Cigar Sense is “The most innovative and easy-to-use source to discover new cigars that fit your unique preferences… to get the most from your cigar budget.”) (Site).  But before she aired, a rush of cigar commercials flooded the airwaves and I almost turned off the program!

My point, (and the one reason I can assure you I probably will not be asked to be a guest), is the radio station, which is streamed live, runs boring cigar commercials.  Now that’s not the radio show’s fault, so maybe I’ll get a reprieve, but for Pete’s sake, this is 2016.  People want verve and vigor, not milk paste and Pablum.

I will not mention any of the sponsors, but how in the world does anyone bring customers in a store or lounge when you hear the  start of the commercial and you ignore it for the simple fact it didn’t catch your attention?  These shops are paying for these spots.  Bone up!  The advertisers have to develop savvy spots.  They want to see some results.  Well, I’d be curious if someone with a little time on their hands would make a study and see if the radio spots are adding to the traffic or not.

And the same is true for the magazine ads.  Holy moly.  Please.  No one smiles (nor do the beautiful people in the fashion magazines, but we know why?  Don’t we?  Yes.  I thought so.)  But I digress…

poutyExample, there’s a new cigar out there and the guy who makes the cigar is the centerpiece of the ad and he has this scowl on his face that would frighten a child, let alone attract the attention of a possible buyer.  Some will criticize and say “It got your attention.”  Yeah, the first time, but I just pass by it now.

Look at the ad for “ndkghoiusis” cigars, the fellow in the ad is a reprint from a 70s ad!  Now that will grab your attention.  Too many ads are just plain bad.  And that doesn’t have to be.  Know why?  The best ad is the one that’s seen or heard and repeated through word-of-mouth, Say did you see or hear the ad for such and such cigar.  Why?  Because it grabbed you by your cojones and pulled you in so you want to tell everyone about it.

And that, my friends of the cigar world is called marketing.  There is a cigar brand that has the glorious reputation of being one of the best cigar brands out there today.  It started out small and the company was a dead fish when the guy bought into it.  You know how he finished first?  He visited the stores, he made personal appearances, and he gave away (gasp!) his cigars to the guys that were hanging around the shop.  He worked like a man possessed for years to get where he is today.  (Though I think he forgot about how he got there.  The air does get rather thin at the top.  But that’s another story.  I am giving him the highest of compliments for achievement.)

The ad has to make your heart beat faster, your pulse race quicker, and your adrenaline spurt wildly into your bloodstream!  Now some say sex will do that.  And I will say that sex does do that, but that’s when it’s used properly!  I’ve seen these ads with the swanky models holding cigars and I can only say to the cigar manufacturers GET PROFESSIONAL MODELS!  You can tell the gals in the ads know nothing about attracting the viewer to the product.  Just a scantily clad woman seductively holding a cigar will not sell it.

So what’s the solution?  Take a look at this trailer and let me know if you want to go see this movie…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4gJsKZvqE4

Enough said.  I’ll get that one.