Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Miami Cigar Heaven

I just returned from five days in Miami, and for those of you who don't already know: Miami is Cigar Heaven. In South Florida even people who don't smoke cigars enjoy the smell of them. I suppose it is part of the culture and tradition. In addition, people are not as obsessed with limiting others' freedoms in a place where they have gone to escape oppression.

I did the usual cigar rounds while visiting: Little Havana, visited the Padrons, and smoked amazing cigars! I'm just about to light up the Padron 80th Anniversary 1926 Diademas/large-perfecto that the Padrons made to commemorate Jose Orlando's birthday. It looks too good to be true: the absolute picture of perfection... I'm hesitant to cut it... but I will. I am reminded of being in Nicaragua with the Padron family a few years ago and seeing the Anniversary Torpedos being rolled. There were finished bundles of Maduro Torpedos sitting on the roller's table. The cigars had not yet been box-pressed so they looked like rounded and tapered black shafts of steel. They were so oily they looked like they were sweating!!! I have never seen any cigar look as beautiful as those.... and maybe I never will again (unless I get invited back).

My trip was refreshing, to say the least. There is still hope in this country. Our cultures, freedoms, and acceptance of others (who are different) continues to be preserved in South Florida. If you are a disillusioned lover of luxury tobacco who feels your rights are being trampled upon and slowly revoked, take a trip down south and you will receive a breath of fresh, aromatic air.

Great Cigar Makers continue to be the most honorable FREEDOM FIGHTERS in America. They labor tirelessly to make some of the world's most extraordinary delicacies, while the society they live in demonizes them. My only hope is that we can get these American heroes to speak up a little louder and project their Credibility a little wider so that we can preserve this great industry for generations to come.


Well,,,,, the New Hope, PA Smoking Ban has been pseudo-repealed since the state court determined that it violated the Clean Indoor Air Act and municipalities, other than Philadelphia, have no right to enact laws that supersede the reach of state laws. Blah, Blah, Blah... But the New Hope Borough Council knew this when they passed it. Of course they wanted, and got, all of the feel-good publicity that seems to go along with "protecting the health and welfare of the population".


“There's still the threat of the smoking ban,” said Jorge Armenteros, the president of A Little Taste of Cuba cigar store on South Main Street. “There's still the momentum for that among politicians who want to enact oppressive laws.”

Its funny, and TRAGIC, how politicians perceive their repressive laws, actions, and mentalities to be heroic. They believe they are SAVING you, me and the general public. In reality, they should sit down once a week with a great cigar and think about how they can improve their own lives while not ruining ours.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


It's official! The RTDA has announced that Tobacconist University will be giving the final Seminar at the 75th Anniversary show in Houston. The opportunity to introduce TU to RTDA's Retail Tobacconists will prove to be a historic event. A University for Tobacconists, by Tobacconists, is long overdue for this venerable industry. And it is an honor and privilege to unveil Tobacconist University to such an esteemed group of professionals. Ultimately, as TU advocates, Retail Tobacconists are the cornerstone of this industry.... the absolute key to preserving our health, wealth, and survival. Retail Tobacconists are an essential and extraordinary part of our culture which must be preserved for generations to come. On Saturday August 4th at 4pm, Tobacconist University will address the best of the best and drive our mission forward: "To set the highest standards of excellence in Product Knowledge, Appreciation, and Professionalism in the luxury tobacco industry."

While we cannot teach all of TU during a one hour seminar, we will use our web site and other educational materials to teach Tobacconists how Education can be leveraged as a Sales and Promotional tool. TU will illustrate exactly how Retail Tobacconists can strengthen relationships and add value to consumers, increase loyalty and sales, reduce turnover, and increase their competitive advantages!


RTDA Seminar in Houston
Saturday August 4: 4:00 PM - 5:00PM
Seminar 3 - The Value of Retailer Product Knowledge and the Importance of Today's Tobacconists
Presented by Jorge Luis Armenteros, CMT, President and founder in 1996 of Tobacconist University and owner of Little Taste of Cuba retail stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jorge puts into context the importance of what we do and illustrates how valuable we really are ways to get more societal acceptance in today's environment. TU's introductory curriculum is an in-depth academic study of tobacco, its history, agriculture, processing, manufacturing, and marketing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The FOURTH-Sector

The NY Times published a great article entitled Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World on May 6th. I just got around to reading it and I am glad I did. We have some big Tobacconist University announcements coming up in the next few days, weeks, and months so this is an exciting time. With all of this activity, it can be difficult to get perspective on things. After ten years in development, we are now in the debut year for TU. I have no idea what I am doing, yet I know exactly what I have to do: or maybe it's the other way around. It sounds funny, but it feels true. To quote the article: "Companies like us have no conventional road map to follow in building our businesses and thus are greeted with a lot of skepticism".

The Fourth-Sector is "composed of organizations driven by both social purpose and financial promise that fall somewhere between traditional companies and charities. The term 'fourth sector' derives from the fact that participants are creating hybrid organizations distinct from those operating in the government, business and nonprofit sectors." In a sense, the Fourth-Sector is private companies with nonprofit missions! In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting socioeconomic opportunities of modern times. It is the highest form of capitalism because ideas and values carry more weight than money!!!

I am excited to see that we are part of a bigger trend. And frankly, I feel validated to not be the only one believing that viable companies can create social change and put principles before profits.

some other good quotes ...

"The social benefits that fourth-sector firms seek to unlock are not easily quantified and often take decades, not quarters, to attain."

"Investors, customers and consumers are developing a more holistic approach and focusing on the longer term..."

"Companies themselves are beginning to understand that what appears to be an expense today may in fact produce lucrative long-term benefits..."

"...business relationships between for-profit and nonprofit players are increasing..."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Smoking Bans & Windmills

Well, I'm quite disappointed with myself. I spent the last few months writing, speaking, and acting passionately to help stop the Smoking-Ban in New Hope, PA. In fact, I have been fighting these Bans since before 2000 when they tried to pass one in Princeton, NJ. I have spent thousands of dollars and hours fighting Smoking-Bans on the local and state level, to no avail. Sure, the New Hope Ban is not the worst one that I have seen: it is limited to eating and drinking establishments, for now. But, in my mind, that does not justify the erosion of business owner, customer, and individual rights. I have always felt compelled to fight these restrictive laws. Ironically, Smoking-Bans have never adversely impacted my business, but I contest them on principle.

On this occasion, I prepared no less than 3 different speeches. One of them kept me up till 5am a week ago: they were beautiful, I swear. Yet tonight, when I arrived at the New Hope Borough Council public hearing, there was no wind left in my sails. None of the effected parties were there to voice their discontent; yet they have been complaining and lamenting in private for months. The Borough Council President made a point to say that the only letter in disagreement with the proposed ban came from an "unaffected" party (that is me). Based on the lack of turnout, he must not be kidding. I guess bar and restaurant owners are too busy, apathetic, or resigned to the "feel-good" momentum of these Smoking-Bans.

I quickly, and off the top of my head, delivered the most monotone and dispassionate speech imaginable. Something about liberty, blah, blah, blah, personal choice, blah, blah. It was brutal. I just wanted to leave there and go back to work. I'm sorry. What did I expect? I expected more business owners, customers, and people with opinions as well as support from trade organizations and maybe a libertarian or two. There was no such support. But as usual the "clean air" people and attorneys were there: illustrating the effectiveness of being a well funded health crusading organization.

I must give credit to our local ice cream vendor who has never smoked, yet delivered an eloquent and intelligent argument against all of the so-called "health statistics". He clearly understood the consequences of legislating health and restricting freedoms. I knew there was a reason I love ice cream!

I was miserable all day, but couldn't quite figure out why. Subconsciously, I dreaded going to this meeting. I guess in my heart I know it is like jousting windmills. An uphill, thankless, fruitless endeavor. I feel like there is a moral imperative to fight these restrictive laws: no different than protecting an old lady from a mugger or calling 911 after you see an accident happen. Am I angry? I keep asking myself. Maybe. I'm angry at all of the individuals, companies, and organizations with the resources to fight these things that have chosen not to. It is easy to be short-sighted, stay out of the fray, and simply concern yourself with your profit and loss statement. Or maybe I'm angry at myself for not focusing on my profit and loss enough; and jousting windmills because it seems like the right thing to do.

Tomorrow I will go back to work, focus on my customers, sponsors, students, and leave all of this angst behind me. I will not be angry tomorrow, I will go back to being passionate. I will focus on my little part of the world and try to make that bit better. Fortunately for me, being a Tobacconist is a THANKFUL job.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Not A Vice !!!

Here are two seemingly contradictory definitions of VICE, from Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1. "moral depravity or corruption"

2. "a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcoming"

I would argue that the word "Vice" is highly over used in modern times. Perhaps because we like to make an enemy out of one thing or another. Many people consider chocolate a vice, yet chocolate can be a healthy and delicious treat. The reality is that almost anything can be a vice in extreme doses. Even drinking too much water kills, but we haven't gotten to the point where we call water a vice, thankfully.

Well, I don't consider moderate consumption of luxury tobacco a vice. It is an organoeleptic delicacy: luxury tobacco is a sensory pleasure, like a great sunset, glass of wine, soak in the tub, or even chocolate. Ultimately, the dose makes the poison, and even the National Cancer Institute says that there are no known negative health consequences from the enjoyment of less than one cigar a day.

So what's the point? ............... Stop calling everything a Vice: unless it is a moral depravity, corruption, or a habitual defect. And stop trying to turn every healthy human indulgence into a Sin or Vice.