Box Press Podcast

Why in the Hell is the Vice Principal Selling Cigars (Feat. Los Caidos Cigars) | Ep. 52

He’s been a coach, a teacher, a vice principal, a financial advisor and a Jersey Shore cigar shop owner. So with a doctoral diploma on the wall, why is Steve Zengel running a cigar company for a living? Um, because it’s awesome. Hear the whole twisty-turny origin story of Los Caidos Cigars from its founder who sat down with Box Press Host, Rob Gagner at 2021 PCA in Las Vegas.

Learn how neither sleet, nor rain, nor gloom of night stopped Steve’s motorcycle ride across the U.S. for Life of a Ride Time, a non-profit organization he started to raise funds for the families of fallen first responders. (And why Steve will stick to regional rides from now on!)

“I lost my best friend on 9/11. So every September 11th, I have a cigar in my backyard. I’ll talk to him. [And say] Still pissed you left me.”

Los Caidos Cigars protects its premium cigars that honor fallen heroes by packaging with Boveda, 2-way humidity control.

– I feel severely underdressed right now. I had jeans, I should’ve put them on.

– You wanna go change?

– No, but I better, I don’t.

– There’s no peek-a-boo going on. You might be big, but you’re not that big. Come on, look at this guy! Elephant trunk coming out of his shorts. What the hell.

– You said I had long arms. I mean, it wasn’t an arm he was looking at.

– Big hands big feet.

– He didn’t know that.

– You know what that means.

– That’s when I realized I was wearing shorts when he said that. I was like, “Oh my gosh, he thought that was an arm.” Like I better move that down a little bit.

– There’s an arm coming out of your shorts, Steve. Cross your legs or close it up. And that’s how we’re gonna open the show. There’s a story inside every smoke shop, with every cigar, and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle program. This is Box Press. Welcome to another episode of Box Press, I’m your host, Rob Gagner. I’m at PCA 2021, and I’m sitting next to Steve, from Los Caidos. Steve, thank you so much for joining me.

– It is an absolute pleasure and it is I who thank you for the honor. I’m extremely humbled. You’ve built this thing from nothing to everything. And just to be included as part of your work is extremely humbling. So thank you for letting me be here, Rob.

Is there a difference between the tobacco blends in Los Caidos’s blue band and red band cigars?

– You’re welcome, man. I have to tell you guys a story. Los Caidos has two colors, a blue and a red. And before I got Steve on, I said, “Steve, let’s smoke one of your cigars.” And you go, “Yeah.” You pull it out and I said, “So what’s the difference between the blue blend and the red blend? And can you fill me in because there’s a big difference. Huge difference that I wasn’t aware of.

– Yeah.

– What’s the difference?

– So there is no difference in the blend. It’s the same exact cigar, the difference being, and it comes from a couple of different things. So when we first blended the cigar back in 2015, I was there to honor family members of fallen law enforcement officers, right? Because two had been brutally murdered in my hometown. I had a local retail cigar shop. So we got to be the guys called to do the picnics, casino nights, golf outings to try to raise money for some of these guys and their family members. So that grew from my county to two counties, to New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the first customer after I did, so that was really with the house cigar, that guys in the industry were nice enough to let me put my own band around everything else like that. And then basically, the guys from Jersey Mike’s Sub franchise said, “Hey, get a set of balls, shut all this down and go national and give back like we do through sub sandwiches.” So I did, I stopped being a vice-principal.

– What’s interesting about that is I didn’t know that about Jersey Mike’s and you office right next to them, right?

– Yes.

– Like your office is right shared with them.

– Yeah, so two guys I used to coach, Matty Catania, John Helm, you probably saw John, his beautiful blonde wife and four or five kids on a national television commercial recently.

– [Rob] Sure.

– So that guy with the large family is my former player, John Helm, and they have a very large office. So when I got started getting distributed by Sutliff Tobacco, they said, I coached them in high school. They said, “Coach, what are you gonna do now? “Where are you going?” I said, “I have no idea. My wife took the garage as a gym. My kid took my office as a homeschool place because COVID, I have no home”, right?

– [Rob] Yeah.

– So they’re like, “You got one now, come on and we’ll share an office space.” So I said, “Thank you so much.

– [Rob] That’s awesome.

– So I’m very, very close to the Jersey Mike’s sub franchise.

– So your whole business plan kind of sprung from what Jersey Mike’s does, which is interesting because I didn’t know that about Jersey Mike’s. I just saw it pop-up one day in a strip mall, went in and tried a sub, but I didn’t know that they give a dollar of every sub sale to a charity.

Cigar company inspired by Jersey Mike’s subs philanthropy  

– Yeah, and that’s not, I don’t know if that’s their specific give-back model. They have an annual day of giving, month of giving. I think it’s March every year, but basically, they’re strongly philanthropic, they’re very deeply involved in the community. Peter Cancro, Mike Manzo, all the guys at the company have just been phenomenal because where I coached and taught all these guys, Point Pleasant Beach High School that’s where Peter founded the company, in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

– [Rob] Okay.

– At Point Pleasant Beach. So, you know, I’ve been around them for a long time. Grew up with the franchise, grew up with the brand, I guess, company product, whatever you wanna call it. And then my best friends were coming in, hanging out, smoking cigars, talking, they all own Jersey Mike’s, or worked there. And that’s when my best friend to this day, Matty Catania said, that’s, he gave me the advice. He’s like, “Dude, just shut the down and give back like we do through subs.”

– Because you were making a ton of money. You said in one interview on KMA that you were like, I would sell a bunch of cigars at event and I could donate 200 bucks to the cause.

– Yeah.

– And you were just like that just didn’t feel fulfilling enough.

Every time I rode home from one of those cigar events, I was like, what could I be doing better?

– And that’s a really good word, fulfilling, because I used to feel like a prostitute, right? So it’s like, I’m going out to honor the life of a fallen officer, trying to help their family out, selling cigars, selling a product, giving them 100 and walking home with 200. It just didn’t feel right, and sometimes it was like, you know, when you get that nasty feeling, you just feel like I have to take a shower or something like that, that’s what I felt like. I was like, and so mentally in my mind, every time I rode home from one of those events, I was like, what could I be doing better? This doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. And that’s the discussion I would have in a cigar shops with these guys. You know like, “Hey, what’s up, what’s go..?” You know how you just engage in conversation-

– [Rob] Right.

– So that’s when I was lamenting about that over and over and over again. That’s when I think Mattie had heard enough of it and he’s like, “Stop, just stop.” You know, I’m done hearing it. So I said, “All right, good.” And that’s what I did. So, gave up my vice principalship, shelved the doctorate degree, shut the shop down and came out with Los Caidos.

– But that vice principal job was really what helped you bridge the gap between you owned a retail store. You got hit by Hurricane Sandy.

– Yup.

– Then you opened up another store.

– Yes.

– And what made you walk away from that store? Just you wasn’t feeling it anymore or what?

– Oh no, no, no. So, we got, so I went from nine facings of Cortez Cigars. He’s a local guy, has own national brand, but he also has a retail store. So when I opened up the retail store in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, 500 feet off the ocean, I, you know, was trying to build it up, and I said, “Hey, I need cigars.” So he said, “All right, I’d be more than happy to.” Because nobody else would carry Cortez, because he had a retail location. So Cortez opened up a retail shop and was going to all the other retailers saying “Carry my product.” Like bro, you’re in competition. You have a retail store. I guess like, what the hell are you thinking? So I was like, dude, you’re 45 minutes away. No, one’s gonna say, do I go to Shrewsbury or Seaside to buy the cigars? Like please, just give me nine boxes. So I built it from nine boxes to then 400 facings of every major national brand, right?

– [Rob] Wow!

– So that was done in eight months because of the strong summer crowd, right?

– [Rob] Okay.

If Steve Zengel had a doctoral degree, why was he selling cigar at the Jersey Shore? 

– So, I was feeling really, really good. Invested every dime back into the company. Never took a profit. Never took anything, right? So after Sandy hit late October 2012, I had nothing. And that’s when a guy came in and said, he goes, “Hey man, I gotta ask you a question. “That doctorate degree hanging behind your register, is it real?” And I’m like, “Yes, it was real. Like, I didn’t get it at the ShopRite bubble gum machine. Like what the hell?” He’s like, “Well, what the hell are you doing having a cigar shop with a doctorate degree?” I was like, “Why can’t I?” You know, like, so it was my way of like F you to everybody.

– [Rob] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– Like you don’t think I can have a cigar shop with a doctorate degree? I’m gonna hang it right up behind a register. I’ll show you I could do it, right? So anyway, that resonated with me. So he called and said, “Well, if you’re not doing anything, “I need you in my school system.” I was like, “What do you mean your school system?” He goes, “I’m superintendent.” I said, okay, cool. What do you need me for? So they were having a big problem because it was a small community. Everybody knew everybody. You know, the principal learned under the teacher’s mother. You know, that kid’s going to school.

– [Rob] Yeah, yeah. You know the whole, right? So that was going on. And then you had some teachers saying to the kids, “Here’s a ditto, do it. Don’t make any noise, put your head down. I gotta go home and meet my plumber.” And nobody was saying about about it.

– [Rob] What?

– Yeah.

– [Rob] Teachers are leaving their post.

– Well, yeah, I don’t wanna put them out there like that. No names, no names.

– Because they gave me a great opportunity but that’s what they needed a little help fixing, right? And nobody was fixing the problem because it was like a sick incestual relationship where everybody everybody know who was gonna say about it.

– You didn’t want to offend your friends?

– Yes, so then I came in from the outside.

– [Rob] Oh, the enforcer?

– Yes.

– So how tall are you?

– I was a kind enforcer?

– 6’12”

– What’s that?

– [Rob] 6’11”.

– I’m not, could we please note that he just said 6’12”?

– Yeah, I wanna see if they’re paying attention. That’s seven feet for you, if you guys are paying attention. I love it.

– 6’12”.

– Rob, you’re always on your game

– Yeah, why not?

– But I gotta say you’re always on your game.

– If I said seven feet, they’d be like, oh, seven feet they glance over.

– They’d know right away. But 6’12” made them think a little bit about 11 o’clock in the in the morning, right?

– Does Rob know that he just said 6’12” like you just said?

– [Steve] I love it.

– I got their attention back.

– Yes, I love it. I love it, absolutely love it.


– Psychological games here we’re playing.

– Yes, oh, there are many in this industry. There are many.

– And we’ll get to those. Teaser, now I really get your attention.

– So yeah, I went in and but I earned everybody’s respect. I was hated at first because they had 10 or 12 people with admin certs that all could have had my job and they were passed over. I got brought in, so it pissed everybody off. And I got hired on January 4th of 2013. So, in the middle of Sandy, we were a Red Cross safety site, you know, and everything else like that. So it was crazy. So I just would go into the classroom and say, “Hey, you gotta go home and meet the plumber? I’ll watch your class.” You’re gonna do that? Yeah, I’ll watch your class. So I’m meeting kids who need to get suspended because they called the teacher a . You know, I’m trying to do everything out of a classroom. The other kids are trying to do. It was just crazy. So but I earned, I think I earned everybody’s respect. You know, they appreciated it, so I did that. But what the importance of that was that I started making 110,000 bucks. I was also the basketball coach. So it was really nice. And then, because I had that income, I could then state on, I had documented income to go apply for credit cards to build a second shop after all that was going on.

– Sure.

– [Steve] So after I built

– So, you needed the income to get credit?

Working as a vice principal helped him rebuild after Hurricane Sandy

– Yes, needed the income to get credit. Because at that time it was like, all right, you just lost a $100,000 bucks in this cigar shop. You have no money, you have no income. Like, nobody was gonna say, here’s credit. You know, couldn’t go to a bank, couldn’t get anything,

– [Rob] You don’t look good on paper.

– Not, it wasn’t good at all. So, I was very fortunate, very blessed to get that job. And I really worked hard at it. I was very thankful to God for that opportunity. I mean, without that opportunity in my life, I don’t know where I’d be today. And then I had another huge helping grace from Scott Regina of Emerson’s Cigarswho was my first boss in the industry in Virginia. So when I came back, he gave me his blessing. And then after Sandy, he had been born in Freehold, CentraState, where my kids were born. And he said, “Hey, I heard what happened, what do you need?” And I said, “Scott, I need a whole new shop.” And he starts laughing. He goes, “No, seriously, bro, what do you need?” I said, “Scott, did you see the picture of the ferris wheel like, in the ocean?” “Like, I was 500 feet away from that. I need everything.” So a couple of weeks he goes, “Send me a list of what you need. I’ll see what I could do.” I sent him a list. And when I say list, I meant laundry list, everything I’d lost and everything new I wanted for the new shop. He sent me about $28,000 worth of retail inventory, with a handwritten note saying, “Pay me back when you can.”

– Wow.

– Yeah, yeah.

– So this guy really helped you?

– Oh, I mean, I might even cry, but I’m getting goosebumps here. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.

– Because you can’t just go and ask the bank for a bunch of money to go buy inventory that you can’t sell.

– Correct. And you also, when you document income and apply for credit and you know that you need to show that for three months. So, I just got hired

– [Rob] Right?

– In January, so I would have had to wait until like March, April, May.

– [Rob] You wouldn’t have made any money.

– Yes.

– [Rob] Interest would’ve killed you.

– Yeah, so it was good that Scott, it was great that Scott was there. I could not be here, have been here today without him. And then that coupled with the credit, everything else had just started looking better for me to reopen a shop. So then I reopened and during that time is when the police officers were, needed help and their families needed help. And that’s when I started doing, Beach House Cigar was the Ashton Premium House Selection Chip Goldeen, let me put my Beach House Cigars band around it, called them to ask for permission. I said, “Listen, I’m selling a ton of these out of my cigar shop.” I was doing about 14,000 of those cigars a month. And I was like, “They’re flying off the shelves. Can I please use it to raise money for the families, put my own band around it?” He said, “Absolutely go do it.” So that was a huge help for us as well.

– And it wasn’t this band.

– It was not that band.

– And it wasn’t this blend.

– It wasn’t this, that blend at all. It was cheap.

– It was shop.

– It was right off

– Like a typical shop.

– The shelf product that you could buy.

– Cigar.

– Yeah, it was

– You can only get this here. It’s blended for me, blah, blah, blah.

– Well, actually I don’t mean to correct you, but that wasn’t the case. So Ashton Premium House Selection, is one of their regular retail lines of products. You get them for $1.50 wholesale. It’s a great house cigar, everybody sells it for five. So they get increased margins. It’s great, but what they do is they come blank.

– Ah, so you put band on that?

– So I asked him to brand my cigar retail shop. I put my own band around it. So I called Jason of Action Label, said, “No problem, let’s do it.” So that was the cigar that got me out to all the casinos, picnic nights, golf outings to help raise money for the families.

– [Rob] Got it.

– And then when we started building that reputation, because now I was a vice-principal, I needed to hire somebody to help me run it. And that was Frank Lancelloti, a retired Wall Township police officer. So through his connections is how all that interest came in for me to help them. And then after all that, we started Monmouth County, than Monmouth and Ocean County, and then all New Jersey, then parts of New York, then parts of Pennsylvania. And that’s when my guy said, “Enough, you got to shut all this down. You can’t serve two masters well. You should shit or get off the pot, VP, you know, whatever.” And that’s when the conversations all started happening about just if you feel that bad about it, you wanna do more, stop talking, take the step. And that’s what I did. So, you know, at the time in my retail store, I was smoking everything, Casa Fernandez.  It wasn’t Aganorsa Leaf at the time, right? So, I loved everything. I mean, they were doing great stuff with Dion. With Luciano, Andre at, oh, I can’t believe it. Viaje, Nick Melilla went over there after Drew. And then I just loved all the Casa Fernandez stuff, right? So I was like, these are the people that I wanna make my cigar of. If I’m not, if I’m gonna do this, it’s them or nobody, period. That’s how I felt so strongly about, I thought their leaf was phenomenal. I thought it was the most flavorful cigar. Everybody was like, “Why the are you smoking that Casa Fernandez? Who ever heard of Casa Fernandez?” You know, it was like, “Well, maybe you should smoke this.” Tell me what you think, you know?”

– [Rob] Right.

– So I was huge supporter of Casa Fernandez from the beginning. So I called Paul as that was happening, like February, March when I realized, okay, I got the income, I got the credit. I’ve had these conversations. These guys telling me to grow a set of balls. Like maybe I’ll start looking at it to see if it’s a possibility. I called Paul Palmer, and I said in February, January I said, hey, yeah, it was probably February, March, a couple of months after I had gotten the job and as a vice principal and I said, “Hey, would you make my cigar for me?” I’m thinking about coming out in my own blend. I’m getting some here to do this and really getting encouraged. And he goes, no. And I said, why not? And he goes, “We don’t know you. You’re nobody, you’re a retailer. You’re a hobby with a hope.” A lot of guys in this industry do that, not happening.” Okay.

– Wow, nice!

– So, yeah.

– Just socked right across the cheek!

– I mean, you know, I’m cutting to the nitty gritty. It was a longer no.

– Yeah, yeah.

– And a longer like, we don’t respect you, but it was still there.

– You understand where he’s coming from I bet, huh?

– I absolutely understand where he’s coming from, because there are a lot of one and dones. There are a lot of people hobbies with the hope. They’re not real business guys.

– And for a manufacturer to set aside tobacco, and do the whole blending process with somebody…

– [Steve] Yes.

– It’s not a light process.

– No, no, and it’s costly too. And it takes time and energy from them building their own brands.

– So how did you get around that?

– I called them every month on the 15th at 10:00 AM.

– Oh my God.

– [Steven] So I called them. So here’s the guy who just won’t quit?

“There are a couple of things you should know about me. I’m from New Jersey, I’m 6’6″, 270 pounds. I ride heavy in the motorcycle world.”

– I called him in March, no. April, no, May no, right? So this continued into August. I called him, I said “Hey, Paul, there’s something I’ve really, we’ve never met, and you’ve never seen me.” I said, “I’m from New Jersey. There are a couple of things you should know about me. I’m from New Jersey, I’m 6’6″, 270 pounds. I ride heavy in the motorcycle world.” And I said, “The next time you’re gonna have to say no to me is in-person in Miami. I’ve scheduled flight to see you next month.” And he #*! his pants, because there was not another word on the other side of the phone. And I’m laughing like hell inside, laughing like hell, because I’m totally like, I’m being serious with everything I said, but I was totally kidding around. I had no intentions, I didn’t buy a flight ticket.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– So all of a sudden I start cracking. I’m like, “Paul, I’m just kidding.” He goes, “Oh, I knew you were.” I was like you lying, you did not.

– He’s going, who’s coming to the office? I gotta go get some security detail.

Throwing an impromptu cigar party to blend a cigar for a cause 

– Yeah, there was no way he knew I was joking. So then he surprised me that September. He was on sales calls in New Jersey with Max, Eduardo’s son who was just getting into the industry. And Bob Morrissey, who’s the sales rep for Casa Hernandez in New Jersey. So they showed up to Beach House Cigars, my little ass retail shop. Totally as a surprise. And I was like, “What the hell are you doing here? This is awesome!” So immediately, right, they don’t know how to work the register, and I wanted to throw a party.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– So what the hell do you do? Because I wanted to leave. And I was the one working that day. So I’m out, right? So I leave and he’s like, “Where are you going?” I was like, “I’m here.” He’s like, “Well, I don’t know how to use the register.” I was like, “No kidding.” So I brought all the Casa Fernandez Cigar products out. Anybody, right? So I brought Viaje to the table, Luciano, all my Casa Fernandez. I mean, I had probably more Casa Fernandez facings than any cigar I carried, because I loved it that much.

– [Rob] Sure, it’s what you liked.

– And it’s shameful, right? So, I’m a retailer-

– [Rob] Right.

– And I was totally that guy. I’m gonna make you smoke the I like, because it’s my store.

– [Rob] Exactly!

– I was totally that hobbyist, right? So, I put everything in the middle table, and I hand wrote a sign free for the day. Thanks for coming in, whatever. So, I put that there and Paul’s like, “What the hell are you doing?” I said, “Paul, I don’t care who comes in. I’m gonna text right now and post all my guys. I’m sending out an email to everybody. You know, all my customers and everything else, like, come in today, party. They’re gonna start showing up, just give them free cigars. Hang out, talk to them, I’ll be back in an hour. So I go out and I try to find any open liquor store to get beer, wine. I’m going to Starbucks, I got coffees.

– [Rob] Are these guys sitting at your shop?

– What’s that?

– Are these guys sitting at your shop?

– They’re sitting at my shop while I’m gone the whole time just to meeting customers coming and grabbing free cigars. Lighting up and bullshitting.

– And you just put out the APB on free cigars in a smoke shop?

– APB, come meet my guys, Casa Fernandez. They’re here, hang out and smoke, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.

– [Rob] And you’re going to get alcohol.

– Gone, I was gone for an hour.

– I would love to have seen these guys’ faces, as people start coming in and grabbing. How you doing, how you doing? Oh, yeah. Oh my God, what’s going on?

– My guys told me like they walked in, and my guys are like birds of feather flock together. So a lot of my guys are like me. They don’t give a #*!, whoever you are, like, “what’s up, man?” How you doing, let’s just talk. So my guys were walking in-

– [Rob] You’re from who, Casa who?

– Yeah, exactly.

– Who’s that?

– And Paul is totally the opposite, right? That really like, they’re rigid like, how are you today? Like he could have won the lottery. “Paul, congratulations, I just heard you won $20 million.” Yes, thank you. You know what I mean? So it’s like

– [Rob] Polar opposite.

– Oh it was horror. So my guys are running in or smoking free cigars lighting up and Paul is just, I imagined, but they were telling me like, he, they could tell, like he didn’t know what the hell was going on.

– Stuffing the cargo pants shorts. That is a free huh, yeah. Take a few more!

– Yeah, It was just fun. So when I showed back up-

– You got the alcohol.

– Oh, I procured some, not from a store. From a friend’s house.

– [Rob] You couldn’t find any alcohol?

– Not at that time in the morning.

– [Rob] where do you live? In a dry town? What time was it?

– It was like 9:30, 10:30.

– [Rob] Yeah, you’re not gonna find any alcohol.

– Yeah, and I also didn’t wanna take. I knew my route, right? So I knew I was gonna go up 35. I had the Starbucks right there. There was a liquor store there, but it was closed. And then I was just, you know what? I got two guys, I called them up. I said “Listen, man, whatever you got in your cabinet, I need a couple bottles of it.” I’m going there like, “Steve, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, are you okay?”

– This guy fell off the wagon, man! He’s calling me at 9:30 in the morning.

– That’s what it was.

– [Rob] Steve, are you all right? Do you have a loaded firearm on you at all? Do I need to frisk you?

– And I don’t even know why it was important for me to get the alcohol, Rob. Because I didn’t realize that, like I just wanted to party. I forgot it was that early in the morning, like nobody was reaching for the vodka at 10, you know? So it was just funny.

– You could’ve bought bagels and orange juice and hit more of a crowd.

– That’s probably what I should have done, but it was just, I didn’t know what to do. I was so freaking excited. So I come back…

– Did anyone drink at this party?

– Oh, yeah.

– [Rob] Oh, they did, okay.

– Oh, well, the party lasted a long time.

– Oh, so you knew how to prime it?

– It was a long time. I mean, I wasn’t letting those guys go. I mean, it was on, everybody came. It was so beautiful because-

– How late? Four or five o’clock in the morning.

– For whom?

– [Rob] Anybody.

– Some of us, no, no, no, I would sometimes close at two in the morning. So it was probably a two o’clock in the morning day.

– Oh wow.

– Yeah, from what I…

– Did the guys from Aganorsa stay that late?

– No, hell no, no, no, no. They left at like three or four day afternoon, but they were good. They were a good four, six hours.

– [Rob] Well, that’s good.

– Yeah, it wasn’t like a one and done. Like people just started talking to them. They just started talking to people, and it was like, so at the end of all that they’re like, “All right, we gotta go, we gotta go.” I said, “Before you go, sit down, I wanna talk to you.” So he sits down I go, “Paul, what do I have to do, dude?” Seriously, what do I have to do? I don’t want you to leave you, like have you leave out of here, saying no, but I would respect it, but what do I gotta do? He goes, “You just did it.” And he looked tired. He looked physically beat up from a Mike Tyson fight. And I go…

– From all your clients haggling and hassling him. He’s like oh dang, it’s 9:30 in the morning, what are you guys doing?

“You are the crazy uncle at our Thanksgiving table. And that’s the best way I can say it to you.”

– So I just said, “What do I have to do?” And he goes, “You just did it.” And he looked beat up. He looked physically beat up. And I said, “Are you serious with that right now?” He goes, yes. I said, “What made you change your mind?” He goes, “You are the crazy uncle at our Thanksgiving table. And that’s the best way I can say it to you.” I said, I’ll take it.

– [Rob] At least he’s honest!

– So I go, woo hoo, and then all of a sudden it was like we a won Super Bowl.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– People are spraying. Like everybody got dumped on. I mean, it was nuts, it was nuts. It was the best decision because I knew, I knew the second he had said yes, it meant I was off and running with reputable product, which is hard because a lot of new guys they’re willing to go to anybody to do anything. But when you have Arsenio behind you as a blender, Eduardo Fernandez is an interested grower. Paul Palmer, like are you #!* me? Like I felt like I had the A team, A team.

– [Rob] Right.

– But not everybody knew that. You know, so now everybody, so anyway, that’s how it happened. So they agreed. We go down a few lines, you know a few more months down the line. And then that’s when I called the five largest police union presidents in country. Hey, I’m coming out to honor your fallen officers’ lives. Help me design the box, help me do all this stuff. So I engaged months of long months, months, months long.

– Who helped you design the box?

– So I reached out to Patty Lynch in New York. Johnny McNesby in Philly, Ray Hunt in Houston, and Tyler Izen, coming from Los Angeles

– Are these like known cigar designers or who?

– No, police union presidents.

– Sorry, what?

– They’re police union presidents

– [Rob] Oh, gotcha.

– A couple of them like Ray Hunt was a big cigar smoker in Houston. Tyler Izen was big cigar smoker from Los Angeles.

– So these are the police guys that are gonna help you guide the brand so that it’s on point.

It’s horrible what people do to market cigars

– Yeah, and I mean you’re honoring life of fallen officers. It couldn’t be cheesy. And so much of the marketing is girls with #!* and #!*. It’s horrible what people do to market cigars. I think that’s my personal opinion. I don’t care, come talk to me about it. That’s fine. But I just think we’ve taken incredibly wrong directions with stuff like that.

– [Rob] Right.

– And I wasn’t going down that route. So I wanted their opinion of how they think this cigar…

– Yeah, sex is not gonna sell this cigar.

– It’s just, it would have been horrible.

– [Rob] Right?

– It would have been horrible. I couldn’t do anything like everybody always says, oh, you need these girls at your event. You need them bring these people. We’re honoring the lives of fallen officers. Do you really think a wife wants to come up for cigar honoring their husband’s life stuck between a woman’s bosom saying, hey, buy me, no.

– Sexy police officer is not for this event.

– Never gonna happen. Never gonna happen in our company, never. So

– [Rob] Love it.

What does Los Caidos mean in Spanish?

– That’s how it really all started. And you know, and then afterwards we decided like hey, let’s go. We’re gonna you know, do a blend, cigar Los Caidos, Spanish for the fallen. And it just kind of went from there, you know.

Los Caidos is Spanish for the fallen.

– [Steve] Yes.

– And so the blue band is for police?

– [Steve] Yes.

– And the red band is for firefighters.

– Yes, and it’s the same exact cigar. So going back to the original.

– Totally different blends, same exact cigar.

– Totally different bands, you said correct?

– I’m just seeing if they’re paying attention.

– [Steve] I like that.

– Totally different bands.

– Yes, well, my hearing, I’m going..

– Same blend.

– [Steve] Yes, my hearing has an issue?

– [Rob] same blend?

– Yes.

– It is the same blend?

– That is a great way to position it.

– But here’s the thing, I’m gonna give you a marketing tip. It’s not the same blend. You should buy one blue and one red to support both foundations.

– Yeah, and I appreciate you saying that. And then, you know, Paul and I engaged in a really conversation because I only did, so in 2015, we came out with a cigar, the first customer, before anybody picked it up, they were still in boxes. Having just been delivered from the Miami via Nicaragua. Somebody, you know, we’re a big vacation spot in New Jersey. People come by all the time to golf, boat, you know, and all that stuff go to the beach. Like we’re seven minutes from the beach, right? I was in actually Manasquan. So my cigar shop was in Manasquan, which is a beach front town, right?

– [Rob] Sure.

Cigar brand for fallen first responders picked up by Cigars International 

– So people come in on bicycles with the baskets of cigars, beer, and all that #!*. So that got delivered to the store and somebody I guess, was vacationing and was one dude came in. I didn’t know who it was. And he was asking all of these questions, what’s in there? What’s that about? Can I see a box? I was like, dude, that like, literally Rob, when I can’t tell you, they were in a cardboard, I had to get a knife and open it to see them for the first time myself, they had just been delivered. So I was kind of getting almost pissed off the guy, like, dude, like I wanna see this. Like I haven’t even seen it’s my gosh #!* baby. Like, I’m not. So I was like, I was kind, polite. I said, you know what? Let’s see it together. So I opened it up, I’m showing him the box, I’m looking at it for the first time. He was like, those are really, really cool. Can I get one? I said, sure. I have no idea what the pricing is. You wanna do 100 a box? He’s like, sure. I was like, all right, there’s 11 cigars in it. Let’s figure nine bucks a cigar. He said, that’s great. I said, all right, let’s do it. So I sold him a box. And then a couple of weeks later, I get a call from Laura Barlow at Cigars International. She says, “Hey, one of my guys was in to your shop to buy cigars for the weekend vacationing. And then I guess he came across this thing called Los Caidos

– That was a great sale.

– Oh, listen to this.

– Wow.

– So she goes, so you wanna kind of come in and further talk about it. So I said, sure. I didn’t know, yeah, sure. So I go out there sometime later and I meet with Jeff Coker, director of marketing, Laura Barlow, the chief buyer now very, very close friend and Craig Reynolds, CEO. And they bring me to this meeting and they open up the box and there’s a story card in it. And he goes, oh wow, who did this? And I said, I did. He goes, I know you did, but I mean, who’d you call? Did you, Jason at Action like who did the card for you? I said, sir, Steve Zengel, YouPrint. And he goes, you’re kidding. I said, no. And he goes, I wondered because none of the coloring matches like it’s all off. He goes and I don’t know, Craig wants to put me out there. He’s now retired so I could say this. And this is quote verbatim, not me. Steve Zengel, New Jersey talking. And he looked at me and it, and then mind you, this was my first real serious business meeting minus the Paul Palmer episode ever.

– [Both] Right.

– And I had been in meetings before, but this was like at a higher level.

– [Both] This is CI.

– This is big level.

– This is CI and I’m at little Steve Zengel Beach House. I just got wiped out.

– People begged to get into their catalog.

– It was crazy. So he looked at me and I’ll always remember this line. And Laura, Jeff, they could swear to God, this is truth. And Craig cannot deny it if he was sitting here. But I don’t know if he wants me to put him out there, but I have to tell the story, he looks, he goes, you don’t know what the #!*  you’re doing, do you? I said, no, not a clue at all. I said,

– Honesty baby, don’t fake it.

– That’s right.

– Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Just be honest.

– And I think he appreciated that.

– I try, you didn’t like it, let’s fix it.

– I really did, I was completely honest. I said, man, I’m just trying to find my way. This is the story. This is how it all happened. I told him the story. I told him what was I was on. He goes, I love it. He goes, I love it. And he’s, they smoked the cigars. And they go, these are phenomenal. He goes this, and he goes you fix this you’ll have something. He goes, but right. He goes, how many did you make? And I go 500. And he goes, that’s smart. He goes, you didn’t do too many. You’re not gonna get stuck with a ton of them. I was like, ah, thank you. And he goes, we’ll take 300 of them. And I was like, are you serious?

– [Both] Right.

– [Both] Yeah.

– So I didn’t even, I had, I really didn’t even unpack them out of the box. Because I didn’t have to store it.

Who has a first edition Los Caidos Cigar?

– Does anyone have one of these first edition Los Caidos?

– Yeah, so pictures.

– Post pictures if you do.

– So some people I will tell you, there are some guys really strongly supportive of close friends now through the cigars, Richard Zarrillo, retired Colts Neck was an EMT for the New York Fire Department. I think it’s the NYFT, I forget how they grouped the EMS and EMT services, but he was a technician and served at Ground Zero. So he bought a ton and has not let them go. So he has three or four boxes of the original still.

– Pictures, we need pictures. We wanna see first edition all the way to final edition.

– Yeah, but there are some people out there who definitely have them and it’s, you know, what’s beautiful, what’s really cool sometimes? Is like, I’ll be in an event and somebody will come up and be like, “Hey bro, you want a cigar?” And they’ll hand me my own from that first edition.

– [Rob] Nice.

– And like I’m a soft guy. People know that. Like, yeah, kind of act tough like, don’t #!* with my family or friends that were good. Like that’s when you’ll see like so some guys home call me chief from like…

– That’s when the 6’12” comes out.

– Yeah, that’s when the 6’12” comes out. Like just leave him, don’t be bullied. Don’t be an #!*. Especially to my friends or family, other than that, I’m a softy. Like I’m an emotional guy. Like you tell me a story that touches my heart I’m not embarrassed to cry or show it.

– How cool is it to get your own cigar back aged?

– So that’s why I tell the story. Like it is so touching to me, it’s like right away, it’s like, holy #!*. Like I’m so taken over emotionally. It’s like, wow, this guy thought and cared enough to hold onto it and give it back to me years later, it’s just, it was a really, really cool thing. So that happens every now and then, I’m not gonna tell you it happens all the time.

– [Rob] Correct.

– But the one or two times a year, it does happen it’s like, wow. It just grabs you, it touches you.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– It makes you feel like to your point earlier with the thing, it makes you feel like you’re doing something better than just suspending a few kids and watching a classroom.

– [Rob] Right.

– You know what I mean? Like it feels something. So that’s just incredibly proud of it and happy about it. And that’s the path we’re on. So then during that time, when it first came out and whatnot, I, that’s, when I learned quickly about this thing called profit margin. So after I sold to CI, they put in a magazine, it was gone in a few months.

– Profit margin?

– Yeah.

– There’s a profit margin scheme?

– No #!*, right? So it’s

– You gotta be profitable you’re not a charity.

– Dude

– [Rob] Give to charity.

– Well, that’s the thing, that’s the thing, right? So listen, I, CI did not, they were great. They honored a no discount policy for me because I said no family member, I don’t wanna family

– Your cigar is not gonna end up on CigarBid Thank God.

– It may, I don’t know, Well, hold on now, Craig retired. Craig is no longer there. And Laura is no longer there. So I don’t know where the existence is.

– But they honored that for you to say, we get it, it’s not a race to the bottom, we’re trying to do something better.

– Well, it’s not even a race to the bottom. Or are about profits at that point. I did not want a family member. Same reason we talked about the #!* and #!*, right?

– [Rob] Yeah.

– With the women. They, no family members should look at a product honoring their father or mother who served this country with a huge red line through it. Because what is that saying about their life? Not happening, not under my watch

– Now you’re schooling me on marketing, I love it.

– So not ever happening.

– It’s not even about the price and the profit margin.

– Yeah, and I’m not gonna gouge you. I’m not gonna put it up to 20 bucks, but there’s no damn way. It’s a $10 cigar. If I see a red line through that, we’re done, we are done done. And I don’t care who you are.

– Because then you’re dishonoring them.

– Yes, is you’re totally dishonoring a life.

– [Rob] Right.

– It’s like, hey, we’re honoring and remembering you. And by the way, nah, 60% off, 40% off. It’s just horrible, horrible. So that, I never wanna see that on a retail site. Now, I will discount it to the retailers who were selling it so they, I can help them make a little more money. Like the pandemic, like I’ve discounted myself all the time so they can try to make money.

– [Rob] That’s wholesale.

– Well, that’s wholesale, it’s much different. So I’m allowing them to get 70% instead of keystone 50%, et cetera. But I don’t wanna see the MSRP go down to nine or eight or whatever, not happening. And if it does, hey, it is what it is. But we’re done. I’m not gonna work for you in future.

– [Rob] Right.

– So a lot of guys have been great.

– You gotta mention them.

– Scott Regina, Abe, like all the, Lou is at Neptune. Like I could just go down the list. Dave Kepler, Smoker’s Choice, Keith Rumbo Club Humidor. Like all those guys, they get it. Like we did an event with Keith Rumbo, probably did 6,000 in sales. The very next day we gave $1,000 to fire station, one for Greg Garza.

Evolving the Los Caidos Cigar’s Giving Model

– So I gotta ask, are you giving? So when you get these made, are you given the money right away? The dollar right away? Are you doing it once you sell them?

– Great question. So in the beginning I did the lump sum, right? So I was doing nothing, but now it’s gonna be an annual thing. And we’re coming out with a lot of new product, hopefully for next year’s PCA. And we’re changing the model from a dollar on every cigar sold to family members of fallen officers and fire fighters only. We’re gonna do veterans and a couple other groups, and we’re gonna give 10% of net to a number of different groups. So the marketing’s changing. So that’s why I’m here to show, trying to tell all the retailers help me get rid of this because in every box, every package we have talks about that dollar give back and that model is changing. So I can’t come out with any new stuff until all that stuff is gone.

– [Rob] Why are you changing the model from a dollar to 10%?

– Because I think more people need help. I think, you know, I was on a ride.

– You think you can give more of that?

– Yeah, I was in a ride on San Diego and you know, the guy said, “Hey, are you ever going to do a cigar for vets? And I said, they got some Cigars for Warriors. They got an, he basically said, so do you think you’re doing too much for vets? I froze, I had no answer. So we went on a ride and that’s all I could think about all day. So after the ride was over and I’m friends with him to this day, I’m riding with him in Los Angeles on Saturday, his name’s Mike Brown, and he rides with the Green Knights. And I said, you know what, Mike? I thought about what you asked me all day today on the ride. And I got to tell you subconsciously, yeah, I probably thought we were doing too much. We’re already doing enough for the vets in the cigar industry. And he goes, hmm. And that was it.

– [Rob] Nice call out. That was it, he’s like, hmm.

– [Rob] Are we doing too much for the veterans?

– You sit with that thought And then I was like, he’s 100% right. How could we ever do, we have homeless vets. How can you ever do enough for veterans? You can’t, not. So that was a really, really good learning experience for me So now we’re gonna do vets. So the reason why we’re going 10% not a dollar is I’ve learned that dollar is really, really hard, especially with rising prices what consumers want to pay for cigars. What we’ve taught cigars to expect. We’ve commoditized the whole industry, we savor premium. But Christ Almighty, if you sell your cigar for more than $12, it’s like, hell freezing over. So it’s just, we’re figuring a lot of stuff out, but I thought it was way better. Instead of saying a dollar goes back to one, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and all that messaging, we’re getting 10% back to whoever we want. And it’ll probably, it’ll be amongst these groups. But that’s what we decided to do because I also learned you can’t give back what you don’t have and I need to survive as a business. So that dollar was, it was eating all. Like I thank God, my

– Cash flow.

– We, yeah, so we, I made some good decisions in real estate. My wife’s a medical professional. Without her support, it would have been very, very hard to sustain that business model. So we had to change it. So it’s kind of like a, you know, I studied Toms, the shoe company, one-for-one. That you know, that wasn’t sustainable. So if you go back in history of some businesses that tried that one-for-one model, it’s all, it’s very hard to sustain long-term unless you’re getting a constant inflow of VC money and the stuff like that. So we just, that’s, I don’t wanna do that. I wanna be self-sustaining. So we had to change to the model to be more profitable so that we can continue to give back.

– You’re looking out for the profit margin for giving back?

– Yes.

– Good.

– Yes. I’d rather that than say, you know what? We did good for a couple of years, we gave the dollar, but I realized I can’t make any money. So I’m shutting the company down. Then what are we doing, right? So Steve Zengel could go back. I could go work in any port.

– But you had a brief hiatus in between. So you started out the gate to get attention?

– [Steve] Yes.

Cross country tour of cigar shops to promote cigar brand for fallen firefighters and police officers

– Riding your Harley across America?

– [Steve] Yes.

– From New Jersey to San Diego.

– Yeah, Los Angeles, and then we looked down and so I went to New York, and I have visited all those cigar shops. So Nat Sherman, Cigars International, and then Pittsburgh.

– So you didn’t even point the motorcycle due west. You like went up the coast and back down and then went west.

– Yeah, so I did New York, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Denver. Like I went north rim, you know, we basically call called north rim, going out, hit Los Angeles, went down to San Diego, then came back through Houston, New Orleans, Miami and up. So 7,726 miles, 13 days, I did about 770 miles a day on a bike.

– And it’s ridiculous. You said you were riding through hailstorms?

– Yeah, and I, was showing a guy from Outlaw Cigars last night that yeah. I was showing him all the pictures because he rides as well. So yeah, there’s a couple of good pictures of me in like three or four inches of snow.

– Cops were shutting down roads and you were trying to talk your way through it.

– Yes, how do you know that?

– I know much stuff.

– How do you know that? So I was just telling him last night at the Palazzo cigar bar about the same story, like the police had shut the roads down to Denver. It was just a sheet of ice. So I was like, bro, I got it.

– Sheet of ice?

– Yeah, it was bad.

– And you’re gonna take your motorcycle out?

– I did, I had somebody behind me in a truck if I went down over there they would call the hospital.

– [Rob] How fast were you going?

– Oh, not 10 miles an hour, five miles an hour.

– Just to keep getting mileage.

– I was just out of the friction zone because it’s hilly, right? So I don’t have to go fast if I was in neutral, going down the Denver mountains, I would, it was just hard.

– [Rob] you were doing about 70 miles am hour?

– Yeah, so you, so what happened was I was actually looking for snow on the shoulder to go through for traction.

– Get your traction.

– Yeah, so people who ride can understand that. So I needed that traction.

– It’s like going over one of those grated bridges. Every time I go over a grated bridge on my motorcycle, I’m like, hold on, baby. It’s just the tires grab and shakes. You’re not gonna slip, but it feels like you’re gonna go down.

– Yes, and if, and please just talk about the tires and bike shaking because what you just did, I don’t ever need to see again, but that was really good bro. Here’s, here let me help you

– for those of you who don’t watch us on YouTube, you can now watch us on YouTube.

– You had some good flow there. That was pretty good, Rob.

– I’m a dancer. I am really impressed, that was very nice. That was very, I really wanna see some of that come out the next two nights here.

– I’ll shake my tail feather.

– So yeah, so we went cross country. I thought #!* it was getting sideways in America after the downtown ambush in Dallas, in July 16 were five guys were killed, nine were injured and I just said, you know what? Something’s gotta be done. So at the time I was teaching, you know, I went back into the classroom. So after CI bought those and they sold out, I say, I learned about profit margin. I didn’t have enough money to buy new inventory and still pay the lights and employees and the cigar retail shop and everything else. It was just a #!* show. I was learning a ton at the time. So I took a year off. And in that year I went back to being a teacher, get in the classroom, make a little money, figure things out and that’s when that happened. So I looked at the school principal and I was like, fire me if you want I gotta go, I’m taking two weeks off. So she’s like my husband’s a police officer. I got you covered. Just pick, you know, it was a very large Jewish dominated community. So we had a lot of Jewish holidays off in October. So my two weeks off only meant that I missed school for like four or five days. So it worked out perfectly, but I was gone and that’s why I did it in only 13 days because I had to get back to work. So it was, yes.

– And you will never do it again.

– I’ll never do it again like that, never. I will take, that same ride, I would take at least a month to do if not more.

– Now the idea is to land somewhere, hook up with a Harley dealership, rent a bike, do a day ride.

– Yup.

– Way more enjoyable.

– More people will join in and have a fun time.

– So yeah, so now, like for instance, we’re here at the show, but on Tuesday after the show, I fly out to LA, gotta see some shops and everything else. But we have a major event at 8 Eighty-Eight cigar lounge of Roger Steinke’ Orange County, Harley relieving Saturday, closing down 100 or so bikers, block party raising a #!* load of money. We’re gonna give out checks that day to local firefighters because they’ve had a really, really tough in California this year and it just feels great. And then I’ll fly back home on Sunday.

Life of a Ride Time motorcycle cigar events 

– So if people wanna get involved in the events, where do they need to go?

– So the name of the nonprofit, which we give the dollar back on every cigar sold is And now I’m gonna say what it’s not so you know why you need to look for what you need to look for. So we wanted to do ride of a lifetime, but it was taken by everybody. And I got a bunch of letters like, and my lawyer said, there’s no way you could do this to it. The IP on this is already protected 50 times over from 20 different places. So I said, well, what if we just switched it? He goes, what do you mean? I said, make a Life of a Ride Time. He goes, that sounds stupid. I said, no, but I like it. We’re gonna go with that because it’s easy and I don’t have time.

– [Both] Life of a Ride Time.

– So that’s what I called it.

– You’re from New Jersey.

– Yeah.

– [Rob] Yeah, that makes sense to me. You know what’s up.

– It was the easiest thing to do. And honestly like all the thinking I do in a day, I was just mentally drained. I didn’t want to spend time on it. It was like, we’ll make it Life of a Ride Time. So he’s like, you sure? I said, yeah, yeah. He said, but no one’s going to like, everyone’s going to mess that up and you’re gonna look for ride of a lifetime anyway

– Can I go to and find out where to go?

– Which is even harder to say and spell. I’m batting a 1,000 here.

– [Rob] So how do you spell that line?

– So yeah, so they..

– You’re doing so great on the marketing front by the way. You’re knocking out the park. 

-I’m doing everything you shouldn’t do, right? So they now, so life of the ride time, the is where I wanna everybody to go to learn about those events. I have to be very, very careful because that is 501(c) registered public charity, right? As determined by the IRS. So I was giving so much back. I was the sole donor of to it for a while through Los Caidos that they said you’re dangerously close to becoming a foundation. And that’s not what you put on a paperwork with the IRS. So now we’ll have events for Life of a Ride Time where we feature other people’s cigars, not only mine. So I’ve definitely like left it. Like I serve as president of company. I’m looking to step back from that as well. We have a cigar social committee. I’m not on it, right? So now we have a board of 10 people from all throughout the country, first responders who help me run that organization so that I could be kind of arms distance away. I don’t wanna using that as a vehicle to fund Los Caidos. I need an arms distance away so anybody is welcome to partake, have fun, do it. So we, and we got some good, you know, we have Wawa came on board to help us out, Manasquan Bank, a local bank, Jersey Mike’s. We have a good national presence of support as well so.

– So that’s where you can find out where the next ride is?

– So yeah, just a ton of great things going on. I’m really excited about it. I was just talking to Greg Zimmerman, about maybe doing a ride out in Harrisburg, PA, in early October because they lost a firefighter.

– Let’s do one in Minnesota.

– What’s that?

– Let’s do one in Minnesota.

– Yeah, in June or July, I’d love to.

– Yeah, not in the winter.

– Not in the winter.

– We’re not doing ice and snow. Hey, find the snow guys.

– Yeah, I would absolutely be down for that. I would do that.

– All right, I got a bike. I’m ready to ride.

– What do you ride?

– I have a Yamaha Bolt. It’s like a sportster.

– What else do you ride?

– Yamaha Bolt.

– And you say that online, you admit make that?

– Yeah.

– Okay.

– I’m not ashamed.

– I’m kidding.

– There’s not just one bike out there.

– Listen, I know. I can’t stand people who are like, listen, I’m a Harley enthusiast through and through. All right, I swear by him. I love him, company’s great. And I’ve had a lot of support.

– Says the guy who rents them by the way.

– Yeah, no.

– He doesn’t even have to maintain them. That’s why I own a Yamaha Bolt.

– No, but it’s so funny when you talk to people who like, I don’t wanna go ride with that guy because he’s got this thing or that thing. And I’m like, are you serious dude? Wheels are wheels just ride, just go

– Yeah, wheels are wheels.

– So I do, if anybody had a Yamaha Champion, one of these energized bicycles, it’s like, if you could keep up, let’s roll, man, let’s go. So I love riding. I’ll ride with anybody anytime

– We leave the Vespas in the dust.

– Huh?

– We’ll leave the Vespa 50’s in the dust. Sorry, guys there are scooter clubs out there for you.

– Come on now, no, no, we care. No, for us to truly feel that way you have to bring in the Vespas come on man.

– Okay. They’ll just be six hours behind us, but it’s fine.

– We’ll be in Los Angeles, they’re just getting out of Vegas. Beep! Beep!

– Clean up crew on the back, yeah. Get it guys. We appreciate you and your support. A lot of stuff going on, man. That’s a lot.

– [Steve] Yeah.

The cigar cause for a cause that isn’t a marketing scheme or an attention grab

– But it’s not a lot because it’s a simple cause. You know, and the one thing that we talked about before is the kind of marketing and hey, we’re for a cause, we’re for a cause. But it’s like a marketing scheme or attention grab.

– [Steve] Yeah.

– But you, this is a core value.

– [ Steve] Yeah.

– This is what you founded the company on.

– [Steve] Yes.

– This is what the mission is from day one.

– [Steve] Yes. Yes, so we’re really yeah, so, and again, so we all, to your point, we only came out with the police cigar because it was needed. It was out of the demand when CI was, blessed me with the relationship and I sold out quickly and then had to go back to the classroom, really sharpen the sword, business acumen wise. It gave me perspective. Like during that time we had a lot of guys, right? Long Branch Firefighters, Buchy Guzik, Tommy Sossano saying, hey bro, we got guys down on, you know, Ryan Delit from Manasquan, sending me emails, right? Facebook messages, “Hey Steve, I know you’re a local guy. You do this for police, but we have guys dying in line of duty over here too. You ever going to do anything for firefighters,” and really called me out of my #!*. And they’re like, if you really believe in it, would you, you might consider or wanna consider, would you consider? So it started those conversations. When I came back, I said, you know what? We’re gonna do something for firefighters too. And now it’s been very interesting without going too deep down a rabbit hole, or telling too much until I can absolutely be sure I could do it, We’re definitely gonna do some for veterans because that’s, again, based on Mike Brown’s conversation, on May 18, that’s been out there for way too long. I need to get something done with that. But also I took 17 rides in ’19. Pandemic happened to ’20, Sutliff started distributing me October 2, 2020. So, so much is going on. You had the #!* going on in Nicaragua. So I’m on my own time path. I know people are really pissed off. Like when is something new coming from Los Caidos, right? He haven’t done anything new with three years.

– What do you mean new? New new blend?

– Oh, yeah, new sizes, new blends. Like people are just.

– Why do we need to create a blend?

– Well, listen, brother, I’m with you. I haven’t but

– This is a great blend.

– It’s no, no, no. It’s a great blend. But what I’m saying is people wanna see me do more for veterans. So I can’t come out with the same cigar and just put a green band around it and say it’s for veterans are probably good.

– I thought you’re just switching it to 10%, no matter what, or do you want each? So it is specific. Like all of these blue bands are going to police.

– [Steve] Yes.

– All so it’s not just like 10% to any cause.

– Right, so we’re getting requests. So the two things, right? Every, a lot of people are saying, you need to do something for veterans. So that’s number one. So we do, we have an option, make the same exact cigar. I know it’s gonna be fine with the FDA, right? Which is why we did the two bands on one cigar, because this was done in ’16.

– But now with FDA now being a big play.

– Correct, but that was the other shoe to drop.

– [Both] Right?

– So that’s why I’m on my own path. People don’t know the reasons I’m waiting to do all this.

– [Rob] All the back doors you gotta open.

– Right, I have. So there are five things going on that I’m waiting for to drop, to be clear to move forward.

– [Rob] Right.

– And all they say is I want something for vets or listen, I’ve been smoking the same #!* from Los Caidos, not the same #!*,  but the same cigar, like, are you gonna come out with anything new? Or are you coming out with the Maduro? A lot of people want a full-bodied Maduro cigar from me, they think this is too mild for them. Some others think this is too strong for them. They want, you know how everybody has opinions.

– This is great. Perfect cigar for anybody.

– I think it is. I think, I mean, we’re smoking at 10 o’clock in the morning.

– Decent amount of sweetness in it, great amount of flavor. It doesn’t have a ton of complexity, but that’s perfect for me because I just want a cigar that’s gonna be good and consistent.

– And let me give you this other perspective, right? So I’m the only guy in the company. And with Sutliff’s help on distribution, you have brokers who wanna get involved. So I’ve talked with independent sales reps who represent a number of different products. They’re not in house. They said, Steve, I’d love to carry you. You’re one box of 20 cigars. You don’t even pay for my gas money to go to the store.

– [Rob] Oh, right.

– So that’s, so some of that self motivated, like selfishly motivated. They want, those brokers wanna see me come out with new stuff so they could get paid and feel like they have something to sell. You know, retailers are saying, Steve, you’re one box, you know, like, do you have anything more? Like, I want to pep it up.

– We talked about these things.

– I wanna give you more shelf space.

– Because Jersey Mike’s, you know, with that business model of like, hey, we give back a dollar, a sub or whatever. When you go into Jersey Mike’s you’re not looking at Subway and other companies that do subs and trying to figure out well, what sandwich do I want? Oh, wait, this one gives to charity, I want that one.

– [Steve] Right.

– In a smoke shop you got your box and somebody else’s box and another box here and another box and another box here. By the time I look at a five inch radius, I’m already going, oh, that one looks better.

– [Steve] Yeah.

– That logo looks cool. What is that?

– [Steve] Yeah.

– So now you’re competing for visual aesthetics.

– Yeah, and that’s what I tell my, so a lot of like, to that point is I’ve had this conversation with them, right? I was like, listen for me to go to a Jersey Mike’s or use any store, right? I don’t want this to, I don’t want it, because the Jersey Mike’s guys really don’t. I don’t even know if they’re cool with being so closely related to a tobacco company because they’re healthy option and whatever, but is, but we can’t talk about them because they’ve influenced me so much. But when you go to a store like that, you physically have to walk out of a building, move over to another strip mall because a lot of them have non-competes to go into a Subway or Firehouse or Jimmy John’s, something like that. And I tell people all the time, when you’re in a store, when you’re in a humidor, my competition is less than a half inch away.

– [Both] Right.

Paying zero attention to Los Caidos Cigars competitors

– So, and then if you read a book like a famous VC guy, PayPal Mafia, Peter Thiel’s Zero to One (Competition’s For Losers). So I pay zero #!*s and this is where I’m bad. I probably need to get better. I pay zero attention and could give two about what anyone else in this industry is doing. They’re on their respective paths, I’m on mine. Why should I do anything different to my company based on what someone else is doing? And if you look at others, like I think golf is especially true of this and some other sports. When you start looking at what the competition is doing, right? It messes with you.

– [Rob] Oh, yeah.

– It almost takes you off your goal in your game plan, right? Look at so,

– [Rob] Exactly.

– Conor McGregor, the fight was last night. Great example, he’s taking his eye off the goal. Got his #!*s kicked twice. Like, hey, he could kick my #!*s probably.

– [Rob] Oh, yeah.

– Who knows? But you notice that with some great guys who just take their eye off the prize a little bit, and I think that happens a lot when you’re focused on others in competition. Just focus on you and do you really, really, really well, let the chips fall where they are. So I’m not the guy who worried about what anyone else is doing. I bless them. I think all boats rise in a rising tide or whatever that saying is. I think I hope everybody out, the pie is big enough. I mean, there’s enough money out there to support every cigar shop here at the show. Right, your cigar, brand line, whatever you wanna call them.

– I feel like people wanna try different stuff.

– Yeah, so I, hope the best for everybody here. I hope they all succeed, right? But nothing they do zero impact on my thoughts, my philosophies, my timeline, what I’m gonna do. I’m on my path. And I owe, only owe an answer to the big guy and my wife. That’s it.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– And then sometimes the consumers, you know, like, I owe good service to retailers.

– [Rob] You need quality.

– I need to be a good servant leader, I need quality. I need to be a good servant in some capacities.

– I wanna spend my hard earned money on this. I want it to taste good.

– [Steve] Yeah

– Even though it’s for a good cause.

– [Steve] Yeah.

– I’m, yeah, you know.

– [Steve] Well, that’s the other thing too.

– I wanna enjoy.

– That’s the other thing too that was huge, right? So like anyone could come out and say, I’m a good cause. If you were a good cause, I, you’ve probably heard me talk about this on David Cigar Authority and everything else. Good cause gets you the first sale, right? You gotta be a good cigar to sustain it.

– [Both] Right.

“I called Aganorsa Leaf in 2013.”

– And that’s why I’m so blessed with Casa Fernandez. Because now everybody knows I’m all Aganorsa Leaf. It’s the best #!* in the world. Aganorsa, I love Aganorsa. I love Aganorsa. #!*, I was there before Terrance got there. I don’t want to hear #!*. I had the taste for the flavor. I called this #!* in 2013. Y’all can just back up, just stop talking about it. Aganorsa, Aganorsa, like it, Casa Fernandez, we’re good. You know, so anyway, I’m very happy about the fact that I called this #!* way before anybody else did.

– [Rob] Good stuff.

– But Terrance did damn, we know, we know this. I could talk about their family. Terrance completely single-handedly changed that company, changed it.

– [Rob] Absolutely.

– So I have a tremendous, tremendous deep respect for the work that Terrance put in and does every day. I mean that, that if anybody listening to this wants to see work ethic and how to build a brand, go study Terrence Reilly at Aganorsa Leaf.

Why one cigar is missing from a box of 50 Los Caidos Cigars

– Steve, the cigar is amazing. I love it, it’s definitely box worthy. The box is interesting.

– [Both] It’s not a wood box.

– So that was an experiment I did because boxes are expensive and I’m trying to do everything I can to find margin back, to give that dollar. So we did 49 cigars in a cardboard box being the 50. So in our boxes, we always leave it open space for the person that we’re honoring, remembering. Thinking of having a cigar with us upstairs. So that’s a 49 count box, not a 50. I’ll always be one less than a regular account.

– That’s the story behind one missing cigar?

– Yeah, we always smoke with somebody like, you know, like before I lit up today with you, I’m quietly thinking of somebody I’m having a cigar for today. So I am, that’s very personal to me.

– Cool concept.

– Very personal to me.

– Cool mental thought process behind that.

– Yeah, I lost my best friend on 9/11. So every September 11th, I have a cigar in my backyard. I’ll talk to him, I don’t care. I mean, my wife and kids, my son was named after him. So my wife and children know how important he was to me and my life. So every September 11th, I always have a cigar. And I talked to him in my backyard like, Hey man, how you doing? Still pissed you left me. Yeah, no.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– So, but yeah, very dear. So I just want people to have that same experience. When I went to Arsenio and Paul to blend a cigar, they’re like, oh, what do you like? You want Corojo? You want Criollo, blah, blah, blah. You know, I said, no, this is what I want. I said, we’re gonna have people to honor and remember a loved one lost. We’re gonna have people there who seldom smoke cigars, but just wanna remember a loved one. And it might be the first and only cigar they ever have in their life. And I’m gonna have this on a shelf at cigar stores and guys who were regular smokers, everyday full-bodied Maduro smoker, you know, heavy smoker. Not that Maduro has to be full-bodied, not make it. I wanna be clear on that. But full bodied, full strength, cigar smokers. I want this to be something they can enjoy too on everyday basis. And if they come to the ceremony, I want something that they’ll enjoy as well.

– [Rob] You’re right.

– So how do you bridge that person that seldom smokes cigars? It might be the only one in her life.

– [Rob] It’s tough.

– With a full bodied cigar smoker and have it be an everyday presentation on a retail shelf, right? Have it be a great cigar. And because the FDA was breathing down everybody’s neck, have that be my only cigar.

– [Rob] Right.

– So Arsenio nailed it. And everybody, like, I went up to see the cats up at Cigar Aficionado, not at one time just to shoot the and talk. And they were talking to me like, oh, who blended your cigar? Like, how do you blend? How do you blend? I said, I didn’t. I gave everything to Arsenio. I told them, this is the environment we’re gonna have it in, blend me a cigar for that occasion. And they’re like, you admit that? I was like, yeah.

– So you didn’t taste any samples. You didn’t try.

– No, I did. So they sent, he sent 22 times two, right? Because you always want two to verify. So he sent about 22 blends to Casa Fernandez factory in Miami. And at the time I was still working in a school. I didn’t have, I couldn’t go to Nicaragua. So I only had like four days. So I went down, smoked everything with Paul Palmer. We went through and through and through. And finally, when I found the one that I was like this is it, immediately, so it was about the twelfth or thirteenth one in that we found this blend.

– [Rob] Awesome.

– Yeah, so I didn’t go to the farm. I didn’t go to the field, like..

– You weren’t picking up tobacco. You let them do it.

– I live in New Jersey.

– [Rob] Right.

– I like, do you know how long it would take me to be good, as good as Arsenio, or half the blenders in Nicaragua? It would take me a lifetime. And I was still wouldn’t be as good, ever.

– And if you went down there to go have them walk you through it.

– [Steve] Yeah.

– You’d just be taking a valuable time.

– Right.

– Yeah.

– Right. So I just turned over the reins. I said, this is the environment in which this cigar will be smoked.

– [Rob] You nailed it.

– And he, I think he did. I said that, and it’s hard for me to say that, Rob, because everyone’s gonna say that about their own cigar, right? And I’m going to say, oh, I think he nailed it. You know, it’s a great cigar.

– [Rob] Try it for yourself I guarantee you know.

– I got to tell you brother, I think he nailed it. I really do. I’ve seen seldom occasional first time cigar smokers, light this thing and it doesn’t give them a headache. It doesn’t knock them on their #!*. They might get through half of it and say, okay, you know, it’s my first one ever a little time, all right, I get that, great.

– [Rob] Right. But they still smoke a half to three quarters of it.

– [Both] Right.

– So they got their and they honored and remembered a loved one. So they got their money’s worth for 10 bucks.

– [Rob] – Right. And in the everyday cigar smoker, they go to it all the time, are very, very happy. So we’ve grown from my little retail shop to now 171 stores in 39 states.

– [Rob] Awesome.

– And I’m really, really proud of that. So we’re with Famous, we’re with Atlantic or Best Cigar Prices, JRC are with all the big guy. So I’m blessed, I’m blessed. And they wouldn’t do that unless

– [Rob] Right.

– The cigar was good.

– Yeah.

– Unless it was selling. So I’m, I’m very happy with that. I’m very happy with that.

– Because you don’t get in the door just because you have a cause.

– [Steve] No, not at all. Everybody knows

– They gotta sell it.

– Everybody knows it’ll be one and done. And that’s where I have to grow and get better as a person, right? So I’m the only guy in the company. I only have, Aganorsa, their guys helped. So Brett Bauer Sox, one of their reps is helping us in New England and doing a fantastic job. Same as Jeremy Wilson. He’s an Aganorsa rep out West. He’s doing a fantastic job. And they believed in me, thank God that I have Aganorsa sales. Because again, I don’t even pay for the gas money to go to a guy and visit them to make sales. So I’ll forever be in their debt. And that’s the thing is like, I really wanna get out there. If I don’t have a sales team. And now with Sutliff that has an inside sales team of four to six people, who’s visiting the retailers on a regular basis. So I got to get off my. But again, to that point, I’m trying to get out there and they’re like, we’re closed to pandemic and I’m not using an excuse. That was real #!*. The people who said come out and do an event. We did an event during a pandemic with them.

– [Both] Right.

– So I would go to cigar shops during the pandemic and we did events together. And then the other ones I wanted to see were like you can’t come we’re shut down, right? So we had a multiple hundred motorcycle ride events scheduled. Scott Regina, the police, Portsmouth police called and said, “Bro, you ain’t leaving out of that Harley dealer.” We love what you’re doing for us. We wanna let you ride,

– [Both] But you can’t.

– Gotta shut you down. Dude, the whole place is closed. So that type of stuff was happening. Now that we’re back, I’m ready to hit the road hard. I’m ready to hit the road hard. Thank everybody for their initial belief in me. Let’s keep going. And that’s why I’m really, really excited. Everything from this moment on after the show is ever about coming out with the new stuff, help more people, answer the call from the consumers, to have different blends. So my whole focus after this on the 13th on, is next PCA show for me.

– Love it.

– Yeah. How are you doing? Let’s, can we talk about you briefly?

– No, we can’t.

– Okay.

– It’s not that kind of show. It’s not that kind of show.

– But let me just say too, I don’t know how much we’re gonna go on, but really you should give some props to yourself because I’ve been with Boveda for a very, very long time. And going back to the box, you know, this is something funny because I think I gave you a cigar and you said,

– Yeah, and I just about…

– wow, look at the age on this, right?

– I was like, holy cow, what did, you pulled them out of his khaki cargo pants. I said, man, were these in there for six months? What’s going on here? The cellophane looks like it’s been there for a year and a half.

– I’m not from there but I pulled them from the Sutliff booth. So everybody knows, to defend myself the Sutliff Tobacco. So if you had, maybe this camera can grab it. The Sutliff, I’m not asking you to move it, Matt. The Sutliff Tobacco booth, where I am being distributed out of now, is right there with all the pipe drawers. We could literally see it from here. It’s about 80 feet away. So I throw two in my pocket and I brought them down. So what am I gonna do? Bring a whole case down and open it up? So I throw them in my pocket, walk them down and gave them to you. And Rob was like, really dude? You’re giving me a cigar out of your khaki pocket?

– [Rob] Khaki pocket.

– Yes I am, yes I am.

– All right, this is gonna be a good cigar, really.

– So when he opened it up and it was, the cello was a little brown on it. He was just, he was like, man, I don’t know.

– I forgot about the cigar before the pandemic. Hey, buddies, talk, time is tough. You gotta smoke what you’re given.

– Did this go through the wash?

– [Rob] Yeah.

– But, oh, your facial expression said so much. You said everything without saying anything.

– Yeah, you were reading my face, boy, oh, boy, what am I getting myself into?

– Oh, so funny. But so what, you know, I’ve had a great relationship with you guys. I don’t know if you know the history, but we created the first Ellie Blue Humidor with Boveda packs inside . I did a special one-off project. So six, I have one, I think Sean has one and then the other four went out there. But I did that as a special product as a testament to Boveda because you know, people could talk about innovation. All I changed the coloring on my box. That’s really innovative. I’m like, are you #!*ing me? Like, that’s the best you got? You change the color and the band and you think that’s innovative? So I think the biggest innovations were like ACID with the infusion. You guys totally change the game on humidification. I think Bugatti Lighters with the interchangeable cartridge and all that stuff. I don’t know how that’s gonna go. But initially it was like, “Hey, you got to applaud the effort.” Like they’re trying to make it easier for everybody. And then that, hey, so give me that CigarMedics thing. So that new CigarMedics toy, I don’t know if anybody heard about it. Rob showed me this yesterday. So it’s a little thing. It just, it’s got two end points and you just put them in a cigar and it tells you if it’s ready to smoke or not. And this is ready to smoke. So I’m pretty excited by that. And so really, I, you know, last decade or two, you’re looking at four innovations. If you truly define a word innovate, right? So how people use innovation in this cigar industry, I think is overused and totally misused anymore. But they need to do it because they have no differentiating quality about the cigars. Cigar is a cigar. So what are you gonna say? Oh, we innovated. We change the color, we change the package or we painted the inside of the box. Oh, really, that’s fine, it’s cool. But as far as the cigars are concerned, what I loved about this box is we did the 49-count box. We put one of your big boys up there, like 60 gram or 80 gram, whatever the hell it was. And then when you open this box, all of these, like, I don’t know if the camera can catch this, can the camera catch this, Matt? That camera right there? Okay, what’s up everybody.

– They find the white box.

– I know, I didn’t realize there was a camera. Hey, how are you doing? Has that been on me the whole time?

– [Rob] Yeah.

– Like can people, oh my God, did I?

– [Rob] We got you from al angles.

– I swear to God. I hope I didn’t like pull one of these or anything. But if you could see the setup.

– [Rob] Touching your arm.

– I know, let me just tuck in. Sorry about that. So this is really, really brown. And every time I give somebody a cigar, you know, or somebody pulls it out they’re like, wow, this is really aged, how long, like do I have one of your original one’s like, you kind of pull that too a little bit. And I was like, I really, you are special to me. I want you to feel special to me, but it’s not age. I said, that’s the testament to Boveda to working because it’s cellophane. People might not be aware. It’s a porous.

– [Rob] It breathes.

– Yeah, it breathes. It’s a porous element, I guess to say, it’s a…

– It’s a vegetable-based polymer. It can’t really be called a polymer because it’s not fake. So it’s a vegetable-based packaging.

Proof that Boveda is working to humidify cigars

– That’s a great way to say, vegetable-based packaging, which is porous means things can get in and out of it. So the reason it’s brown is because the Boveda is working, right? It’s taking humidification out, adding it, out, adding it. And all of a sudden that’s what you get. You get some of the coloration from the cigar with that humidification coming in and out. So I opened up, like if you wanna see that is Boveda working or not, yeah, it’s working. Look at this.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– This is the best testament, as far as I’m concerned, as far as the Boveda product. But you guys know I’ve been in the boat with you since day one, I swear by your product, love your product, always use your product. I, my motorcycle, you know, I got my traveling Xikar, throw cigars in it, and it’s always got my Boveda pack in, I pitched at Sean for years. Like, dude, make me a traveling case with the drop-in Boveda pack. Just come on, man, you know? So I’ve asked you for, I think I probably pitched Sean 10 to 15 Boveda ideas over the years, because I just love the product that much. I know I’m not saying that just because I’m on a show, but I mean, anybody who knows me knows that I’ve pumped Boveda forever and I always will, because you’re nice people from Minnesota who don’t curse on the show.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– You’re very nice. But now, but yeah, I really do. I appreciate, I value our friendship, our relationship, and you’ve always been there anytime I needed something and I just really, really humbled and thankful for even being here today, Rob. Not that we’re done.

– Thank you, man.

– I’m just saying you really do a nice job. You worked hard. You built your own brand yourself. I mean #!*, you came from, I remember you, first couple episodes, right?

– I know.

– I mean, you have totally built this thing.

– It’s rough.

– Well, forget rough. It is what it is.

– Yeah, you gotta tell how it is somehow

– You were building.

– You know what, so that’s the other thing that really pisses me off. So many people stand on the outside and criticize, right? Others, right? And they’ll talk bad about this brand and that brand. Man, #!*, until you get in their shoes, then you could talk.

– [Rob] Right.

– But if you haven’t tried to do what they have tried to do or accomplish what they’ve accomplished, sit down and shut the #!* up, right? Like don’t say anything, right? I hate that about people, I hate that. Until you’ve done anything, just sit down and be quiet.

– [Rob] It’s easy being a critic.

– It’s so easy to be a critic. And that really gets my goat. That really gets my goat.

– Empathy and respect go a long way.

– They do, and I, that is a big word. And I hope people don’t really use it. Like if you’re truly empathetic before you even speak, put yourself in so, nobody knows everybody’s problems. Nobody knows, like you can meet a guy and he could be like, just pissy, instead of calling him an how do you know that his kid wasn’t in a car accident in the hospital, but he feels obligated to be at a cigar trade show?

– [Rob] Right.

– Because he’s gotta make money, he’s gotta do this. You don’t know anybody’s situation.

– Yeah, man.

– So instead of judging, try to be empathetic, maybe the guy is just, you know what I’m saying? So many people are so quick to judge and I just wished that there would be a little more empathy and understanding in the world and respect, you know? But what you’ve built, I’m honored to be here, very, very humbled. And thanks so much.

– I try to make it.

– I hope I didn’t talk too much.

– At the last IPCPR, PCA, but you know, schedules got cut. Things gotta happen, you know? So this has been a long time coming, but I wanna do a ride in Minnesota. I wanna be a part of it because it’s just experience. It’s the experience that I wanna be a part of. And we’ll just have such a great experience.

– What’s a shop out there? Do you got the Tobacco Grove?

– [Rob] Yeah, Tobacco Grove? Is there, so Tobacco Grove, and who has that place? I know the guy, gentleman’s name.

– Yeah, Jeff, right over here from Crux Cigars.

– [Steve] Okay.

– Right next to us here.

– So that’s a person that I’d wanna work with, and you get the Harley dealer involved in that. It could be a good ride.

– [Rob] Let’s do it.

– It could be a good ride. We’ll do it, we’ll do it. But I’m not dressing up like that.

– All right, we’re gonna these cameras and go talk to Jeff right now.

– Alright, let’s do it.

– Steve, I appreciate you. Thank you for being on the show.

– [Steve] Rob.

– Thanks for coming out with this, this is a great cause. Absolutely love it. I can’t believe that we’re even a part of it, but more importantly, we support you 100%. Keep doing the great work you’re doing, man.

– Yeah, thank you, Rob. Thank you for putting the work, effort and energy to make these shows great. I hope I was decent. Matt, thank you very much for what you do over there. You’re smiling like, bro, you do a lot of work.

– Matt loves this.

– You’ve got this whole setup and keep up what you do. You’ve built this from nothing into a beautiful show and keep at it, brother.

– Appreciate it.

– Keep at it.

– Coming from a guy who had his own show. So I appreciate it, man.

– Oh, no, man. It was not as nice as this, trust me.

– [Rob] Yes, it was good.

– All right, everybody. Thank you for your time. Like I always say, Rob, let me just close out. I’m sorry, and I’m not closing. It’s your show, I want you to close, but I do wanna say this. You can, you know, burn a house down and rebuild it. You could get in a car accident, go buy another car, but we are all, you know, as long as you live, you’re getting closer to death, right? So the most valuable thing I’m learning at 50 years old now and over that bridge is time. And it’s the one thing, no matter what happens, no matter how much money you have, I don’t give #!*, but you cannot get back. So the fact that the viewers listening to me, I don’t know how long Matt’s going to bed. This is gonna be a two minute show. It’s gonna be like a commercial. Matt’s gonna to edit it down.

– [Rob] You keep all this hour and a half.

– No, but what I’m saying is like that’s a long time. So I really appreciate you, I appreciate Matt. I appreciate Boveda for giving me the floor to me for this long and inviting me to be part of this. And especially, I appreciate those who were taking the time to sit through for a cigar. Listen to this, you can’t get this time back, man. You are now an hour and a half closer to death, and you spent it with me so that I cannot thank you enough. I really appreciate you getting to listen and learn my story. And if there’s anything I can do for anybody out there who is listening this, please reach out. Let me know. I don’t know what, if anything I can do, but I’ll certainly try to find a resource to help. And just thank you so much for your time, thank you.

– Well said, Steve. What a great show this was. If you need to find out more, you know where to go because that website was.. for the charity, for the cigars. You’ll never be able to spell it or say it, so good luck. Google it.

– Los Caidos, L O S C A I D O S. Again, we appreciate you. Thanks for listening. Drop comments, drop photos. We wanna hear more from you and as always, protect those cigars with Boveda. Thank you.

Back the Blue or Reinforce the Red

For Steve, a cigar is more than just a smoke—it’s a connection to a fallen friend who was a financial advisor and victim of the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (Los Caidos translates to the fallen.). Currently, $1 from every Los Caidos cigar sold goes to support family members of first responders. Cigar smokers can choose either Los Caidos Blue for a fallen police officer or Los Caidos Red for a fallen firefighter. The Nicaraguan cigars are crafted at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA), which was chosen factory of the year twice by cigar blog, halfwheel. Los Caidos protects its premium cigars by packaging with Boveda.

Listen to the Highlights, But Put on Your Earmuffs (He’s from New Jersey!):

  • (1:36) Is there a difference between the tobacco blends in Los Caidos’s blue band and red band cigars?
  • (3:33) Cigar company give-back model inspired by Jersey Mike’s subs philanthropy  
  • (5:22) Every time he rode home from his tobacco shop’s cigar events, he wondered how he could do more
  • (7:02) With a doctoral degree, why was he selling cigars at the Jersey Shore? 
  • (9:52) Working as a vice principal helped him rebuild after Hurricane Sandy
  • (14:40) Throwing an impromptu cigar party to blend a cigar for a cause 
  • (21:37) The crazy uncle at our Thanksgiving table
  • (22:56) It’s horrible what people do to market cigars
  • (32:40) Evolving the Los Caidos Cigar giving model
  • (36:09) Cross country tour of cigar shops
  • (40:13) Life of a Ride Time motorcycle cigar rides
  • (52:33) Why one cigar is left out of the cigar boxes
  • (62:12) Proof that Boveda keeps cigars fresh

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