My life in the 203

Recently, Barry Stein shared a glimpse with us about his first year at Miami Cigar & Company (Check it out here). It includes some wonderful thoughts about his transition from blogger to marketer of cigars. I thought it might be fun for me to do a similar post about my first year here at A Cigar Smoker’s Journal.

It was about a year ago now that I was having breakfast in a deli near my house when I ran into Kevin. I was just graduating college and was in the middle of pitching a fun little project I had to the Deli owner, a friend of mine, when Kevin overheard my ideas.

I’d worked for Kevin a few years back, and when he heard my ideas and saw my passion he asked me to come down to his shop, Butthead’s Tobacco Emporium, and talk with him. Luck would have it that at the same time he had just bought a blog, A Cigar Smoker’s Journal, and was looking for someone to help him manage the blog, his social media, and help with running his in store events. I accepted almost instantly, as this would be a job that combined a few of my passions; fine living and social media.

Delving into the world of cigars was a new experience every day. Prior to working for Kevin, my understanding of premium cigars was minimal at best. From the first day, I was meeting new manufacturer reps and, of course, trying lots of different cigars. I already had quite a developed palate, craft beer is a passion of mine, and I’m even an avid home brewer. Cigars proved to be just as refined and complex. It wasn’t difficult to try something different everyday when you work in a shop with nearly 2,400 facings in the humidor! Soon I was writing my own reviews, doing pairings, and running events weekly at the shop.

It would be hard to describe all the big moments of the past year. I’ve met so many amazing people, made new friends, and learned more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve found cigars are more than just leaves of tobacco rolled together, they are the times you share with friends, those moments of celebration, and even at times a way get through a rough day.

Here are some of the moments that stand out most in my mind:

  • One of the most patient people with me, and the most informative people I’ve met in the industry is the North East rep for Drew Estate, John Hart. A few months into working for Kevin we had a Drew Estate event which John was hosting, and he took the time to explain and answer all the questions I had. He had a way of teaching which caused concepts to really “stick” and stand out. Basically he helped you understand something, rather than just know it, which is a huge difference. I’m still very thankful for the time he took the day to go over everything with me.
  • Meeting Michael Herklots (@MichaelHerklots) from Nat Sherman was also a real pleasure, he is a joy to talk to and truly a class act. We had him in our shop to help us launch the new Timeless from Nat Sherman. Every time I’ve seen him since he has gone out of his way to make me feel welcomed, always walking up to me with a smile.
  • Getting to run an event with Terence Reilly (@TerenceReilly82) from SAG Imports (The makers of Casa Magna, Fonseca, and Quesada Cigars) was also a total blast. I don’t think I’ve met anyone with quite as much energy, drive, and passion as Terence. He just tends to light up the room when you are around him, very personal, and quite knowledgeable as well. He is always willing to take a call, and quick to answer a text with any questions I have.
  • Producing an online tasting seminar with Jose Blanco of Joya De Nicaragua cigars was another fantastic experience for me. I had the honor of having Jose in-store running a tasting seminar with 50 of our customers, plus many more watching it live across the globe during the seminar. Jose created a cigar with 5 different wrappers exclusively for his tasting seminars, and it was very educational to see how much each wrapper affected the smoking experience. It was also truly an honor to meet Jose, and since this seminar he has become quite close with Kevin and myself.
  • Going to the IPCPR in Orlando, Florida was a real highlight of this past year for me. I was actually raised in Dade County in Miami, Florida, so going to Florida is always like going home for me, it was just sad how short the visit was. During the IPCPR I had a chance to see all of the manufacturers I’d met over the past months, and meet all of the ones I had yet to meet. On top of that, I got the opportunity to sample new releases. The entire trip was a joy, I took literally hundreds of photos, shook hundreds of hands, and smoked a multitude of new cigars. Looking back it seems like the entire trade show was just a brief blur.
  • Most recently, I had a chance to attend the NYC Big Smoke 2012, which was another great event, one which makes work feel like fun. While the event was much shorter than the IPCPR (only 3 and a half hours long) it felt like it lasted much longer since there were fewer manufactures present. It was another great chance to get to speak with the people who make this product we all love. I got to hang out with Rocky, Nimish, and Nish during the smoke and afterwards at the Hustler Club (no photos taken) as well as other manufacturers. Face to face conversations open your eyes to the world of cigars and inspire my continued passion for this industry.

The past year has been filled with challenges and wonderful opportunities, and I look forward to 2013! The thing that has struck me most, much like it did Barry, is just how welcoming the Cigar world is to newcomers. Everyone I’ve met so far has gone out of their way to make me feel welcomed, like one of the family, and I look forward to continuing to see my family grow.

Here are some of the photos which sum up the past year for me best: