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  • Writer's pictureBen Balliro

Cigar Events, Are They Really Worth It?

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

I’ve been fortunate enough, as many of you have, to attend many cigar events from diffferent parts of the country. Some I thought were better than others, but are some events worth it? And why?

I was reading an article written by Tobacco Business Magazine back in May/June 2017. The article talks about how some tobacco retailers are finding that cigar events are just not bringing the clientele that they used to. I.e. just having a “cigar event” every week or so for special deals isn’t really cutting it anymore. With the price hike of regulations and taxes to buy at B&M’s even with the discounts people can still buy them online for the same or cheaper, and have it shipped right to their door. On the right is a photo of just a few friends I’ve made in attending a cigar event [Alan “the cigar Savant” Friedman and his wife Marli, Darlene and Jerry Garrett of Tre J Cigars, and a few others].

In the article it talks about Blue Ridge Tobacco, a store located in Winston-Salem NC. Frank Armstrong President of Blue Ridge Tobacco says,”We started out in 2016 doing traditional cigar events every Wednesday and typically three people showed we make it monthly”. Frank also mentions that in addition to doing cigar events at this store less frequently, he will also create off site private dinner events with drinks and appetizers. This brings anticipation and excitement for the event and also gives other incentives to sign up. It’s not just enough to have discounts on cigars, cigar retailers are sweetening the deal for new and loyal customers.

I tend to agree with this philosophy, in order to stay competitive you have to be creative and innovative. We all love a good smoke, that’s no question. But for a nominal fee I get to enjoy cigars, food and drink? It’s the man-cave effect away from home surrounded by likeminded people who are having a good time.

Bob Roberts, president of Smoke em based in Scottsdale Arizona told TB, “ takes a lot of imagination to do something different...people come because there’s a deal...but that doesn’t help with customer loyalty...some of my competitors have liquor licenses and are doing pairings with scotches and are very educational...”

I can tell you from my own experience having been to former Chattanooga Tweet-Up Events in Chattanooga TN a few years ago. Now normally I would never wake up early while on vacation, however, with nothing but free time and a perfect excuse to smoke a couple cigars in the morning with breakfast and a couple Bloody Mary’s to start the day, I coudn’t resist. When a consumer is in that zone, like I was, cigar discounts and “deals” became less of an issue. I didn’t really care if I saved $1.50 off a cigar because I was too busy enjoying myself. Although that event was mainly held at the Chattanooga Billiard Club, in conjunction with CBC Cigar Shop, I got to hang out with a few giants in the industry. I attended a small-group Q&A with Fred Rewey, former owner and founder of Nomad Cigars and author of Be the Lime. I got to watch Michael Herklots (brand ambassador of Nat Sherman) play drums on stage with bass player Pete Johnson (Tatuaje) next to Matt Booth (Room 101 cigars and west coast jewelry designer). It was incredible! I got to smoke a cigar rolled personally by Willy Herrera, I even once got to bribe Pete Johnson to change a call while playing a kickball tournament with him and Matt Booth. Nobody really cared who won or lost, it was just a great time with some of the coolest people in the cigar industry, I mean real down to Earth entrepreneurs.

These experiences are some of the gems of why I love the tobacco industry so much, it brings us together and as long as retailers continue to be innovative and fluid, our industry will continue to grow and thrive no matter how the economy fairs. In short, my experience tells me that yes cigar events are worth it, and we need to enjoy them as often as possible, while we still can.

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