What I do, I did with aplomb these last two days while on the road. I put in place the opportunity for several shops to build a brand’s name. And you know, it feels pretty good to be at the beginning of what I know is going to be swift and strong growth for both brands. I believe it with my whole being.
I opened three Cornelius & Anthony accounts with the Daddy Mac. And, I sold hand-carved meerschaum pipes that were good enough to grace the cabinets of one of the oldest and most respected pipe shops in the state of Illinois – Jon’s Pipe Shop in Champaign, Illinois.
It’s a challenge to introduce any new boutique cigar to shop owners. They never know if the product is going to sell or not. But with the relationships that I’ve built up over the years, some will take the chance and put the cigar on their shelves IF they feel it is good enough. No one will buy just because they like me (though it helps if they do).
For the Daddy Mac, the one reason it sold was the taste. True, the construction and the appearance were spot on, but each and every person who smoked that cigar would take it out of their mouths, look at the burning stogie, and mumble to themselves, “This is an excellent tasting cigar,” or some form of accolade. The price wasn’t even questioned by any of the owners. They wanted to sell that cigar! They knew they had – HAVE – something unique.
The cigar is now in four shops and the brand is beginning to receive recognition. The company has placed ads, but you can’t smoke an ad. And there’s really no proof that any ad in a cigar magazine is worth its salt. But you have to do it – even if the ad is subliminally seen. That’s the nature of this business.
What’s really going to get that brand going is word-of-mouth and we’ve talked enough about that. And let me tell you, that cigar’s taste is going to spread like wild fire.
Pipes are even more difficult to get on the shelves of shops that have any reputation for selling only the best. Pat at Jon’s, and his manager Mike, are two of my harshest critics when it comes to pipes. I’ve been trying to get the briar variety in Pat’s shop since I took on the additional revenue generator. So it was with some trepidation that I had the moxy to bring the meerschaum pipes I now represent and flaunt them to a couple of very persnickety experts.
I took out the cases and immediately Mike opens them, takes the pipes out and gives the pipes an overview. The tension builds. He’s testing now. He begins by gently running a pipe cleaner through the stem to see if the stem’s opening and the pipe’s shank is exact – the true sign of a well-made pipe – briar or meerschaum. I just stood back as he went through the entire selection I brought in with me.
In the meantime, Pat walks in and notices that Mike is busy with the pipes. We say hey and he gets down to business doing to same thing that Mike is doing. They look over the finish, the artistry of the carving, the proportion, and test to feel if the pipe is balanced in the hand. Pat puts a few aside and looks at me and says “Can I have these?” I almost squealed!
What a coup, I thought to myself! Not only did he like a few of the pipes enough to purchase them, but this is the beginning of seeing Celebi pipes in the Midwest – or to be grandiose – in the United States. You see, Ismail, through the distributor I use for pipes, never had his name associated with pipes outside of Turkey and now he has pipes on the shelves at Jon’s Pipe Shop!
This is how a brand is built. Slowly. Bit by bit. These manufacturers that think they can saturate the market with their cigars and/or pipes and build a brand are sadly mistaken. Sure they may sell cigars and/or pipes, but that isn’t brand building. That’s selling a widget. Brand building takes time – sometimes a very long time. But every well-known brand of cigars or pipes was once a Cornelius & Anthony or a Celebi. Every single one.