It was about a year ago when I was sitting in Kevin Paige’s Butthead’s Tobacco when I got the call to the big leagues. I had been in negotiations with my friend, and now, boss Jason Wood, Vice President at Miami Cigar & Company to handle marketing and advertising for the company. The negotiations started with discussion of me becoming a sales representative in the Southeast, and then again the the Northeast. Both of those failed to pan out. As Jason always said, he had something bigger planned for me. The day I accepted the position, Kevin offered to buy this website on the spot. Originally, I was going to give it away, and even offered to give to to Kevin, but he wouldn’t accept that. His generosity gave me a nice little cushion for my relocation. Our relationship remains solid.
My last post was my top 15 cigars of 2011 and I faded away from acigarsmoker.com. It was announced on Twitter and Facebook that I would be giving up the blog. I found that so difficult to do that I never wrote an official goodbye post. In fact, for the first few months, I couldn’t even bring myself to read this website that I had grown from scratch. But Kevin has taken to the next level and time heals all wounds. I came to terms with this part of my past at IPCPR 2012 when I got to see Kevin and Peter, attending as store owner and now blogger, and I was now representing a premier cigar manufacturer, the goal of my dream as a blogger….
People ask me all the time how my new job is. I thought it would be a good idea to give a year in review from my side of the industry and tie it into a contest which Kevin will fill you in about soon. The simple answer is that this job has been everything I expected and even more than I could imagine. But it wasn’t easy. Some older friendships back home have become strained, and some of the behind the scenes items can be frustrating as all hell, but I wake up every morning eager to get to work.
It wasn’t all peaches though. When I left New York on January 1st, I was told by Jason I would have an apartment ready for me to move into. I made tremendous time to Jacksonville Florida in just over 13 hours, but it was already dark and I wanted to see Florida in the daylight. So I stopped for the night before continuing to Miami in the morning. Along the way I had many text messages and tips on twitter about speed traps, places to eat, and the advice to get off of I-95 and continue down the turnpike in Florida. The cigar community is special and very supporting so I thank you all.
When I was on the outskirts of Miami, I called Jason to let him know I was in town and since the office was closed he invited me to his house. Once there I was greeted by him and Tatiana and told that he had good news and bad news. I opted for the good news (welcome to Miami!) and then I got the bad news. He didn’t have an apartment for me and Miami Cigar & Company would be paying to put me up in a hotel. Over the next two days he drove me around town to find a place to live, only to have too many apartments look like a converted motel or not to my liking. On the third day I found an apartment that made the move to Miami complete.
Some highlights of Year 1:
- Two weeks after moving to Miami, we had our sales meeting on a cruise to Cozumel. We discussed our marketing plans and ideas, some of which were implemented and some which will make their debut in 2013. While in Cozumel, there was a tremendous rainstorm and the drainage on the island is very poor at best, so there was some flooding which was a site to see. Our cruise back to Miami was on rough seas. We road the storm all the way back to Miami. It took me a few days to get my legs back after that trip.
- I got to go with Jason to the My Father Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua with Eddie Ortega along for the ride as well. He was working on his cigars, while Jason and I worked on the blends for our 2012 releases. When we got back to Miami, the blends were all approved by Nestor Miranda. It was cool to no longer be a blogger as Jaime Garcia took the time to teach me about tobacco and welcome me into his house for a luncheon before heading back to the states. In Managua, the night before we headed home at 9pm at night, it was 95 degrees, but for some reason it didn’t bother me. I was relaxed and at peace and living the dream.
- Once the cigars were approved by Nestor, I was given the task to pick a name for a new cigar. We had a direction to go with the blend, and it has reached our expectations but we didn’t have the name. To be honest, this is the most difficult part of my job. Every name I thought of was taken by another company or smokeless tobacco company and it became frustrating. Then one day Nestor mentioned a word in Spanish and I asked him what it meant. He explain Añoranzas means a yearning or longing for that took place in the past. The name stuck and the task I was given was completed by Nestor. Thankfully this year for our 2013 releases the job was a lot easier.
- IPCPR was the next item on the agenda and the amount of work that goes into setting up the show is mind boggling. Add to the fact we thew a party called Noche Caliente one night and it was almost more then I was prepared to handle. Setting up the dinners, the food, the music, the beer, the rum, the dominoes tables, and the models was amazing. It has also caused me to rethink my view on bloggers at the show. I’ll say the majority deserve to be there, but the amount of times some of the same people came back for samples or cut me off while I was speaking to a retail shop was amazing.
- One of the greatest aspects about my job is I get to lead the retail groups on their trips to La Aurora to tour the factory. Something I was involved with from the consumer side as a blogger. I’ve formed a lot of great friendships with the crews from UPdown Cigar, Big Star Cigar and Burns Tobacconist. But the funniest moment of all came on a trip with the crew from Burns. We went to Costambar, which was the scene of the crime 3 years ago. We were all sitting around a seaside restaurant when the owner of the restaurant came over to us and in English he goes to me, “I know you!!! You are the guy who got married here 3 years ago”. Thankfully, my Dominican wife was nowhere to be found.
- So now the end of the year is at hand and we begin to work on what 2013 will bring. I am being sent to the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks to learn about the factory side of the business so I am growing in my position.
When I came here I didn’t like the fact that everyone spoke Spanish first, English second but I have since adapted. I love how acigarsmoker.com has thrived without me, I love to play Dominoes on a regular basis, drink Cuban coffee and wake up every day happy. I’ve even picked up a little bit of Spanish.
Below are a few pictures that sum up the year…