“Opus X was so good, I wanted to eat the cigar. I don’t know what you guys have or what you do, but this is unbelievable.”-Carlos Fuente Jr., Chairman of Arturo Fuente Cigars and early adopter of 2-way humidity control
2022 marks Boveda’s 25th anniversary! Hear the Boveda origin story from two of Boveda’s founders, Sean Knutsen, CEO and Tim Swail, EVP of Sales, who sat down with Rob Gagner in two very special episodes of the Box Press cigar podcast. Starting a company is challenging. Creating a product that revolutionizes a legacy industry like premium cigars takes grit. Tim and Sean’s cigar talk about the early days of Boveda (formerly HumidiPak) inspires entrepreneurs to never, ever, ever give up. They also share practical guerrilla marketing tips for start-ups and the reasons why humidity has so much to do with getting full flavor from cigars.
Boveda’s 25th anniversary, Part 1: How Did Boveda Get Started?
– There’s a story inside every smoke shop, with every cigar and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle at Boveda. Box Press.
[Rob] Welcome to another episode of Box Press, I’m your host, Rob Gagner with Boveda, and I am sitting across the founders of Boveda. This is finally happening. We are celebrating 25 years in business, and we have Tim Swail and Sean Knutsen. Thank you guys for joining me.
– [Tim] Thank you.
– [Rob] Can you believe this is actually happening now?
– [Sean] Thank you very much.
– [Rob] Turning around, you guys are on the other side of the camera. Typically you’re behind me watching me interview Karl Malone or some other famous person that I have no idea who they are and laughing at how much I’m squirming in my seat because I don’t know what I’m doing.
– [Sean] Yeah. It’s interesting.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Sean] Well, Tim and I, by the way, correction there, we are two of six original founders. So we’re-
– [Rob] Correct.
– [Sean] Not the two founders, but-
– [Rob] Thank you.
– [Sean] Two with four other guys.
– [Rob] Let’s get into that, too, because the way you guys even got into this business was very unique. You met a gentleman that made wood humidors, small ones, and this gentleman had made you guys some humidors, and then you ended up inviting him over to your house. So, take us back to that first interaction.
– [Sean] First of all, if you take a look at the six guys that got together and formed a company, it is nothing short of miraculous that these six individuals coming from totally different walks of life, hardly knew each other except for Tim and I knew each other, so that connection was there, and other than that, one of the main individuals was an acquaintance with the other ones. And so here are six people who had no idea who they were, never even really got to know each other very well before we formed a company. It’s kind of a dominoes of destiny scenario that happened, that’s, I think, really kind of remarkable.
– [Rob] That’s amazing.
– [Sean] Starting with a guy who loved cigars trying to capitalize on the cigar boom in the mid ’90s making really cool humidors in Minnesota here, and trying to market those at the big industry trade shows, the RTDA show, and so on, trying to get interviews and trying to make it happen. And if you remember in the ’90s, cigars were the thing. And so Wall Street was taking companies public, people were getting into the industry to capitalize on it, much like they do in the cannabis industry now where it’s like a influx of so many.
– [Tim] Hollywood glamorized it, you had all of the aspects, you had the financial, you had the social, all coming together to create this market that everybody really got behind and created a boon in it.
– [Sean] Yeah, restaurants and everything. So this guy was trying to just sell his humidor. And so he was on the Joe Soucheray Show, and-
– [Rob] And that’s a radio show?
– [Sean] Yeah, that’s a radio show in the Twin Cities. I don’t even know if it’s still on anymore.
– [Tim] I think it’s still on. Been around a long time, but Garage Logic was kind of their theme. You see the GL and the little round stickers on people’s windows. So he had quite a following.
– [Rob] I know Garage Logic.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Rob] Yeah, that’s famous here, in my opinion.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] Yeah, well, this guy contacted a friend of his, who was a acquaintance, but he’s retired, he’s older. David, the humidor maker, is younger, Dr. Albert Saari had retired from General Mills. He called him because he had a problem and he needed to solve it. Dr. Al came up with a concept to solve it, recruited a friend of his, he didn’t know David, but Al knew Bob. And then Tim miraculously turns on the radio one day when he is driving down the road to hear an interview. And because he enjoys cigars, he knows I enjoy cigars. He listened to this interview, thought, “Hey, this is pretty cool.” Tim called, I vaguely remember the phone call. “Hey, I heard this guy on the radio.” And thinking, “Okay, yeah, whatever.” “And it’s cool. We should go buy it.” Who doesn’t want a humidor? I mean-
– [Rob] Right.
– [Sean] We wanted a humidor bad and let’s just go get one.
– [Rob] So was that all he was talking about on the radio, or was he saying anything about the humidity thing?
– [Tim] No, no, no.
– [Rob] So just the humidor?
– [Tim] Yeah, just the humidor. So he was in production, small quantities using exotic woods and was making small portable humidors, and he hadn’t scaled. The whole idea of what he was talking with with Dr. Al was in the background of hopefully something could happen with that at some point. So when I heard him on the radio, he was talking about these woods and how strong they were in their really cool shapes and designs. And so I didn’t catch his name or his company name. So I called the radio station and said, “Who was that guy?” And they gave me his information. I called him and he was super nice and just said, “Hey, why don’t you come out to my woodworking shop and I’ll show you around and I’ll show you the different wood options? And you can choose your own.” So then that’s when I called Sean and I said, “Just had a great conversation. What’s your schedule like? Let’s go out and see this guy.” And was it Delano? What? Maple?
– [Sean] Maple Grove. It was on Territorial Road or Territorial Road in Maple Grove, if you’re familiar, just on the North side of 94.
– [Rob] I’m familiar. I’m from Maple Grove.
– [Sean] Yeah, over there, rural area, woodworking shop out in the middle of just a-
– [Rob] A corn field?
– [Sean] Kind of, pretty much.
– Pretty much.
– Pretty much, we went out there and there wasn’t much of this guy’s shop. He was sharing a shop with Noel, who is also one of the founders. So Noel owned the woodworking shop.
– [Rob] Yeah, because Noel’s a cabinet guy.
– [Sean] Noel’s a total cabinet. That’s how Noel-
– [Rob] Cabinet building.
– [Sean] Is rounding out the six founders, Noel, because he owned that shop.
– [Rob] This is so crazy.
– [Sean] And so there was, he kind of didn’t have anything to do with the business in the sense of that, but was connected to David because of that.
– [Rob] So Noel being a cabinet maker and then all of a sudden getting into the humidification business, bizarre. To think that like where your life leads you, you have no idea.
– [Sean] Oh, yeah. Like I said, going back, I mean, we’re talking, you can almost say a few short weeks. Now, the concept of controlling the humidity came back in probably early ’96 or even 1995 when David originally had the problem. But fast-forward now toward the end of 1996 is when we get got involved. But the humidity, this product and technology was not discussed or nowhere on the surface at this point. When we went to see David, he had these small humidors, they’re really cool. They’re actually wood and they’re designed to go into a big jacket, but we wanted something bigger, like a cabinet. So we thought, because in Cigar Aficionado, a company called Vigilant was advertising these big cabinets. We always thought, “Hey, that’s pretty neat. David, can you make this?” He said, “Yeah, I can make that for you guys.” And this was in late 1996, September October-ish ’96, probably September of ’96. We said, “I’d like a black walnut.” Tim said, “I’d like a cherry wood. Great, see you later. Here’s a down payment or…” And-
– And that was it.
– [Tim] Roughly the dimensions and-
– [Rob] Just to get a humidor made.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Rob] Cabinet maker, basically.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Rob] Cigars.
– [Tim] Woodworker.
– [Rob] He’s making humidors. Did he smoke cigars, too?
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Sean] Oh, yeah.
– [Rob] Okay. So he smokes cigars. Into the culture.
– [Tim] He was into it, yes. He was totally into it. Yeah.
– [Rob] So then how long did it take to get made?
– [Sean] Well, let’s go October, November, December, January, February, March, probably six months later.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] Boom! We got a call. “David here. Your humidors are ready.”
– [Tim] It was taking a long time. We were both like, “Man, what’s going on?”
– [Rob] Did this guy run out on us with our down-
– [Tim] I think he said it would be like eight weeks, two months, something like that. And then it kept dragging on and we’re like, “Oh, okay.”
– [Sean] It was late March or even early April so we’re now getting into the springtime, Easter’s coming up and all of that. We went and picked up the humidors and it was earlier in the week. And then that Friday night, Tim’s coming over to my house in St. Paul with a couple other, I think it was just four us. And we said, “Hey, David,” because this guy was pretty interesting individual. He was very creative, super smart, interesting guy. So you think of the destiny of Tim turning on the radio to hear this thing at that moment in time, us going there and then saying, “Hey, David, why don’t you come over to my house for dinner and cigars?” And that was a Friday night. Remember vividly.
– [Rob] So you go to pick up your humidor and then you invite him over for dinner because you’re having this thing anyway-
– [Sean] Why don’t you come on over?
– [Rob] He’s a cool guy.
– [Sean] Guy seems cool. Why don’t you come over? And the guys who were there were just guys we went to college with, we graduated from college with, and we were friends, we stayed friends after college and it was just a cigar night and steaks.
– [Rob] That’s kinda risky though, from a perspective of like, you know how you kinda have pockets of friends. And I kinda pocket my college friends as like, “Boy, if you get in our inner circle, we’re gonna be talking about our old days.” So you really gotta hold your own conversation. So this David must have had a really good conversation background because for you to invite him into your kind of inner circle of college buddies, it’s like, hey, that could either go really well or really bad.
– [Sean] He’s a very personable individual.
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Sean] He makes friends quick. And you’re right, at least for me, typically that wouldn’t be natural for me to say, “Why don’t you come on over? We’ve got a history here, you don’t,” and it’s a little bit odd.
– [Rob] And you’re gonna make-
– [Sean] There’s another domino in the trail that happened. It’s like, “Hey, come on over.” And then that night he came on over and I remember him putting it on the kitchen table, this bag with this handmade pouch.
– [Tim] Handmade pouch.
– [Sean] Of course we have no clue about a saturated salt solution and all that, but he explained it to us and said, “I gotta show you guys something that’s really neat that I’ve had made with-“
– [Rob] This is the first reveal of essentially Humidipaks/Boveda to you guys.
– [Tim] To us. Yeah.
– [Sean] And Humidipak wasn’t even- His company name was Seiyge Cigar Box Company. So this is kind of poignant in history.
– [Rob] Not sage the way you would spell sage, but Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.
– [Sean] That’s right. S-E-I-Y-G-E.
– [Tim] Yeah,
– [Rob] S-E-Y-
– [Sean] S-E-I-Y-G-E.
– [Rob] Y-G-E.
– [Sean] Right?
– [Tim] Yeah. Yeah. So they would call it-
– [Sean] S-E-I-Y-G-E.
– [Tim] See-gee, I mean, nobody ever got it right. Nobody came out with sage because-
– [Rob] It doesn’t look like sage, it’s not pronounced sage, okay.
– [Tim] But when David was there that night and he put down this bag, I remember it this way and Sean can clarify, but I just remember him saying, “At the end of the night, this thing’s gonna be sitting at 75%.” So he had the prototype in there with a hygrometer inside a bag. And he said, “The hygrometer will read 75% at the end of the night.” I think when it went in, it was in the 50s, mid 50s, something like that.
– [Rob] External environment. Pretty common.
– [Tim] And lo and behold at the end of the night, we went to that thing and it was sitting at 75%. And we were like, “What is the-“
– [Sean] He had sodium chloride in there, obviously, because that’s table salt. It’s easiest salt to get. And so that’s what Al had made in the kitchen, his kitchen and yeah, exactly. “Watch and within a few hours here, this is gonna be there.” And we thought, “Oh, this is weird.” And it was in a bag. And so, he actually shared his vision on it, which was to say, “Hey, the cigar stores would just sell these in the store and just like, wow, disposal, portable.” We knew how the challenges of being a cigar of, I say, connoisseur, or whatever, we enjoyed it a lot. But we didn’t have a humidor. And we had to go buy our cigars that night, that day, because they would degrade and they would be dry up and all of that. So we saw that value in this really simple, inexpensive, disposable product. Here’s what resonated in my mind and I think it did in Tim’s, too, so when you’re in sales, you can have a great month. All right, that’s awesome. You get to the end of the month, all right, now you’re at day one. You’re at zero again. Okay, and it’s like, well, you gotta go at it again. And it’s fun. Sales is a very difficult profession, but it’s very rewarding. And the opportunity is great because you can make more. And so we were both selling products that we didn’t get the residual on it. And so, seeing this disposable product was like, “Okay, this is pretty fascinating.”
– [Rob] You invite David over for cigars and dinner, and at the end of the night, what does David say? So you guys see this technology, it gets to 75, then what’s next?
– [Sean] He could tell we were enamored with this technology. Like, this is great. Because we had a passion for cigars and we knew, too, Because we talked about it that night, that this isn’t just for premium tobacco, I mean the implications from a packaging standpoint and to commercialize it in various industries to manage the moisture inside of packaging to a specific point. And knowing that we, because David told us is we could different salts, we could meet different humidity levels. We knew cigars was key, big, exciting, and all that, but it was more than that. So he could tell that we were really enamored. I think we hit it off in a very, obviously this is a short period of time, okay? You are looking at six people who didn’t know each other at all in a matter of weeks, essentially to forming a company. But David said, he’s walking out and he said, “Will you guys go into business with me?”
– [Rob] What did you say?
– [Sean] It’s like, well, it was pretty much in our minds. I can’t remember if we said, “Yes,” “absolutely emphatically yes,” or, “get back to you tomorrow.”
– [Tim] Yeah, it was more of like, “Hey, we’re really interested. Yeah.” But I just remember the comment he made is he said, “I don’t have any money. I don’t know how to run a business. And you guys seem like you’re really professional, successful at what you’re doing. I like you guys. I need help in making this thing a reality.” In essence, I mean, that’s the gist of the conversation.
– [Rob] Right. Was that kind of a red flag, though? “Like I have no money, and-
– [Tim] No.
– [Sean] Not at all.
– [Rob] No?
– [Sean] No, not at all.
– [Rob] Man, somebody tells me, “You wanna go in business? But I don’t have any money.” I go, “What are you looking at me to be the bank?”
– [Sean] Oh, well yeah. Well, look at it this way. But he had all the cards, David really had all the cards. He’s really kind of the one that said, “When you go into business, you get equity.” So bottom line is we said yes, okay? And then he introduced us to Dr. Al Saari and Bob Esse.
– [Rob] Who is the chemist.
– [Sean] Al’s the chemist. He conceived of the idea. He recruited Bob-
– [Rob] He’s the one making the saltwater solutions.
– [Sean] Yeah, he was a formulations chemist for General Mills. I mean, and really one of their senior chemist there, highly respected, many patents that he’s been awarded. A lot of innovations that he’s done for General Mills and he worked in the frostings areas, one of the areas that he worked with. And in the frostings area, viscosity is important. You use use thickeners, and so on, so that you get the right texture in the frosting. And that was a really key component when you’re making a saturated salt solution. And so, Al’s expertise in terms of making the viscosity right so that it actually could be mass-produced and commercialized, and so that you would have a uniformity from one packet to another, and the blend, when you’re at the factory, making it in 500-gallon drums, you need a homogenous blend, a ratio, so the first pump that goes into the pouch has the same ratio of salt as the last one. And without the expertise of thickeners to get the right viscosity, you can’t keep the salt in suspension. And salt will just drop to the bottom one pack would be of water, one would be too much salt, the inconsistency would be there. This was really key.
– [Rob] Because the salt-to-water ratio matters right off out of the gate.
– [Sean] In terms of the capacity that you wanna get in terms of how much water you wanted to give up and how much you wanted to absorb.
– [Rob] So Dr. Al Saari is the salt guy, Bob Esse is the packaging guy.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Yep.
– [Rob] So how hard was it to figure out what kind of packaging you’re gonna throw this in because I’m assuming it’s messy?
– [Sean] Well, Al, the first iterations, I would go to the grocery store and get film that was underneath the like-
– [Tim] The meat.
– [Sean] Ground beef, or chicken, or whatever. And he would peel that film off and then he would seal that, or crimp it, or what have you. That was the first iteration. And he knew that he needed a packaging engineer, like Bob Esse, to bring it to the point where this could be commercialized to get films that were more effective, faster, that would hold liquid. The idea is you wanna hold the liquid, you don’t want liquid to get out, but you want water vapor to readily go back and forth. And up to that point, those types of films really weren’t around very much. They were very limited.
– [Tim] Most things were in life were to either keep it all out or let it all in, or-
– [Sean] So we went with other membranes, or films, and so forth, that were adequate. We’ve been using this one for 22 years probably now.
– [Tim] A long time.
– [Rob] We’ve been in business for 25.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] Yeah. So after three years we finally got one that worked.
– [Rob] So it took three years to figure out which one’s gonna work the best for this current application.
– [Sean] Yeah, because even the first ones we didn’t realize, too, is the seals over time could leak, and so on. So, we had a lot of issues. I mean, here we’re selling a product, but when you’re innovating, you don’t-
– [Tim] You don’t know.
– [Sean] Your accelerated testing that you do in the lab doesn’t necessarily translate always to real-world examples. And so, we ran into issues. I mean, we had some big ones, trust me, that were…
– [Tim] So, I mean, the film was really important because you want speed of water vapor transfer but you want strength of seal, durability of the film in itself to be able to hold take pressure and movement because it’s in portable pieces.
– [Rob] I’ve been at trade shows where I stand on. And I say, “Look it, if you jump on it, it’s gonna break but if you just stand on it, we have industrial-strength seals.”
– [Sean] Tim and I did that for Carlos Fuente at the Hyatt Hotel near the O’Hare Airport-
– You stood on the-
– At the Big Smoke in Chicago. We knew that Fuente was a juggernaut in the industry. And Tim would hound him like white on rice. It was like just non-stop. That was great.
– [Rob] If you were gonna go into the cigar biz, Fuente is top.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Yeah. Go to the Michael Jordan, go to the Wayne Gretsky, so.
– [Rob] Exactly.
– Who controls the most amount of tobacco? Who’s hot in the market? Let’s go.
– [Tim] Yep.
– [Sean] So we were sharing our vision. And our vision was to give consumers an opportunity to experience the cigar in the same condition as where they’re made, in the Caribbean.
– [Rob] Beause Carlito has said that before, he’ll smoke a cigar in the D.R., tastes great, he’ll go and travel to events in the States, smoke his product off the shelf, and it just doesn’t have all the flavor.
– [Tim] Missing something. Yes.
– [Sean] There are harsh realities-
– [Rob] So, he knew-
– [Sean] There are harsh realities that happen when that cigar, that container leaves the docks in Central America or the Caribbean, and they go through distribution, they go through their checkpoints.
– [Rob] It’s the gap. You’re not able to control that gap. Once it leaves the factory-
– [Sean] That’s right.
– [Tim] You lose all control.
– [Rob] You got humidity and temperature changes that are gonna go from 100% humidity if it’s on the boat to 120 degrees, 190 degrees in some cases. So boy, your cigars are gonna get toasted.
– [Sean] Yeah, and even, even if the wrapper is not cracked when you get there, that whole process of temperature change and the cigar is actually giving off its moisture in the tobacco. And along with that, you’re getting some release of those natural oils and sugars in there. And it’s just kinda degrading over time. So you’re losing some of the strength, and the oomph, and the character and the flavor that’s in the tobacco itself. And when we talked to Carlito about this, and this is through talking to Dr. Al, and so forth, and understanding the plant from a totally different way that historically, or traditionally, these time-honored and these experts that really know their stuff. And so Carlito recognized that because he knew when he would get to the States that, “Yeah, the cigars are good, but they’re not like they are there before they go through that whole process of distribution.”
– [Rob] Right, and what I think is interesting is, as you burn a cigar, the part that’s actually burning, that’s not the part you’re tasting. You’re tasting just a few millimeters before it, those oils and sugars are heating up, and that’s what you’re tasting. That’s why if you get it too hot, it’s like bitter and-
– [Tim] Bitter, yeah.
– [Rob] You burned all those oils and sugars too much.
– [Sean] That’s right. Yeah.
– [Rob] So it’s amazing that… But you don’t think of that.
– [Sean] Well, yeah.
– [Rob] I didn’t think of that. I worked in a tobacco shop, I did the whole thing. Come to Boveda and I’m like, “Boy, this thing is not the same thing that I remember at the tobacco shop because now it brings on a whole new meaning, understanding.
– [Sean] Yeah, one of the most important things is the temperature that you’re burning your cigar at, how much you’re gonna enjoy it.
– [Rob] It’s a night-and-day difference after you actually give a minute to two minutes depending, well, sometimes this cigar, three minutes, four minutes to let it cool down. And then two, Jochy Blanco, who we work with very well, said slower draws. Not like big ones to heat it up, just nice slow draw and you’ll taste so many more flavors.
– [Tim] So true.
– [Rob] I digress. That’s just blows my mind because just that simple tip can get you to totally change the flavor of a cigar.
– [Sean] We sat down with Carlito in Vegas. I remember that you and me and, maybe even Bob, I think.
– [Tim] I think it was Bob, yes.
– [Sean] We shared our technology with him. We told him what it could do. That this can add moisture and remove. He said, “That’s good.” He said, “Because if you’re just a humidifier, I want nothing to do with this.”
– [Rob] He didn’t want a one-way humidifier. He wants moisture to come out.
– [Sean] Too much moisture is bad. Too little moisture is bad. You need to just really hold it. And so that really resonated with him which was interesting because all the other major companies that we sat down with they’re just like, that didn’t connect with them.
– [Rob] They weren’t thinking that way.
– [Sean] Because we were meeting with executives.
– Carlito’s a tobacco guy.
– [Rob] They weren’t growers.
– [Sean] And he knows this through his father, and through his grandfather, and through his experience from the time he was a kid. And so, he understood it in a different way. And so when we shared it with him, bang, now we had somebody who was genuinely interested. And he said, “If you do what you say it’ll do, this thing’s gonna change the industry.”
– [Tim] This will change it. Yeah.
– [Rob] Is that where you stood on the pack?
– [Tim] No, that was-
– [Sean] Not yet.
– Not yet, yeah.
– [Rob] We’re getting back to that, eventually.
– [Tim] We’re eventually getting there. No, what was great is that Sean crafted the language around oils and sugars, and the fluctuations, and eliminating that. It stuck with Carlito because he got it. It was an experience that he already had. So it wasn’t a big leap for him to buy into, “You’re right. That’s kind of what’s happening.” It was like a light bulb went off. And then when he said, “If you’re a humidifier, I want nothing… I’m more worried about too much moisture than I am not enough in a lot of the packaging.” And you notice that when you go to the Dominican Republic, if it’s outside raining and cigars are sitting on the counter, they are sucking up the excess humidity.
– [Rob] So had he invited you down and you had already talked to him and you were negotiating the deal.
– [Sean] Let’s back up because Tim sent samples first. He goes, “Just send me some of your product.” This is a absolute crucial component to the story to get to convince Carlito that he’s on the right track. Because he said, well, he conceptually loved it, understood everything, resonated with him. So Tim got some samples down there to him.
– [Tim] Yeah, so I sent samples, and you have to realize, Carlito is really hard to get ahold of. I mean, this isn’t like, “Oh, I just make a phone call and maybe,” it’s like 10, 15 dials, and eventually he got back. And the phone never came my direction. All of a sudden, one day caller ID and it’s coming from-
– [Sean] It was late in the afternoon, if I remember.
– [Tim] Yeah, it was coming from Carlos Fuente, Jr. And I’m like, “What the heck?”
– [Rob] “He’s calling me?”
– [Tim] “He’s calling me?” Yeah, as a sales guy, you’re finally like, “Oh, this might be the breakthrough. I hope everything’s okay.” And so he had called and he said, “Hey, I gotta let you know that the samples that you sent to me, I stored some Opus X with those, let them sit for a little while.” And he goes, “I decided to pull one of those out to smoke it.” And he goes, “It was so good. It was so good it’s like I wanted to eat the cigar.” He goes, “I don’t know what you guys have or what you do, but this is unbelievable.” He goes, “I just thought maybe it was mine, my own experience. So then I gave a cigar to my dad and I said, ‘Dad, smoke this and just tell me what you think of it.'” And he smoked it, ended up having a great experience said, “That was a great cigar. What did you do to it? Why was it different?” And then Carlito shared it with him that it was stored with, back then we were called Humidipak. And that was really the spike and the catalytic convert, the catalyst that kind of got us to a point where he got over, right, the catalyst?
– [Tim] The catalyst.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Rob] Definitely not the catalytic converter.
– [Tim] Yeah, yeah, yeah. That got us over the hump with him. So there was all these little pieces to the puzzle that were kinda catching him at the right time. But then he smoked a cigar that had been stored with us and he was, I just will never forget it, he was like, “Oh, it’s like I wanted to eat it. It was so good.”
– [Rob] How do you get the guy who makes some of the best cigars in the world to enjoy a cigar even better?
– [Tim] He did. I mean…
– [Rob] At that point-
– [Tim] Thank you.
– [Rob] I would be riding high. I’d be like, “Oh my God. I impressed the toy maker so much just now that this is it.” So then what happened next?
– [Tim] Then we…
– [Sean] Well, he invited us down there. So we’re leading up to this O’Hare Hilton, there at the Hyatt, the Hyatt O’Hare for the Big Smoke coming up. And we had, by this time we had gone down there to see him to advance this. I believe we went down there first.
– Yeah, we’d already been down, yeah.
– So we’re getting close to now, we’re trying to put together this deal with him. We said, “We wanna be in all your boxes. Here you put the water drop on the outside to indicate to the world that these are protected with two-way humidity control and-
– [Rob] It’s like the Intel chip sticker.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Rob] It’s like, “Here we go. Let’s go.”
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Rob] These are protected.
– [Sean] So remember that deal with Lane Limited.
– [Rob] Yeah. Yes.
– [Sean] So product that was the previous generation of our product. The biggest cigar catalog in the world at the time, there were others, but this was by far and away, 1-800 JR Cigar. On the very back cover, they were talking about this Space Age Humidipak, gooey stuff that leaks on everything. And because on all those Lane Limited cigars, the product leaked. And so they had actually, when Consolidated bought Lane Limited, they contacted JR Cigar and said, “Hey, we’ve got this whole inventory that’s worthless. You wanna buy it?” He bought it for pennies on the dollar. He says, “I’ll make money with this thing.” And he said, “All you gotta do is go on the back of your “MAD” comic magazine and order up one of those x-ray vision glasses to see through whether they’re good or not.” Now that’s what we did. He said, “We bought these x-ray vision glasses. We’re not sure how good these glasses are. So if you buy one and they’re all leaked with this goo on it, you own them. There’s no returns on this product.”
– [Rob] So he’s just playing Russian roulette. Like, here.
– [Sean] He’s just saying, it was like devastating for us.
– [Tim] Buy it at your own risk, but he announces, I mean, this is like, okay, this is a major setback for us.
– [Rob] We know the problem and you, the consumer, can take the risk. You can either score big for pennies on the dollar, or you got a gooey mess and thank Humidipak.
– [Sean] And we don’t have a known brand at this time. We’re trying to introduce a whole new concept. No one has ever seen a product at this point that’s in packet form, disposable to protect cigars. As far as two-way humidity control-
– [Rob] Consumers don’t really know you.
– [Sean] Nobody even knew that concept. The owner of that catalog company, JR Cigar, happened to go down to the D.R. and on the way back, to or from, whatever, he sat in first class next to Carlito. And he told him, Carlito said, “What do you think of this?” And he says, “Whatever you do, do not do that, Carlito. You do not need to use this.” “I’m being told by some really people who are entrenched in this industry that I am really making a major mistake if I do this thing. I don’t think I can do it. I’m not sure that this is strong enough.” And so when we are at the O’Hare, the Hyatt by the O’Hare airport for the Big Smoke, we intercept him, like, “Carlito!” We were like, because we don’t know-
– [Rob] Because I’m sure he’s dodging.
– [Sean] Oh, yeah. We’re like now we’ve got a group of us here, him and his little entourage, and Tim and I trying to show him, “Look at how strong this is.” We’re trying to break it.
– [Tim] We have a new film. You got it, we have a new film. We’ve got new technology. This is where we’re at. So we had him at the height of like ready to go and now he’s down here like, “I’ve been told by somebody I really respect I’m absolutely crazy to do this for my brand.”
– [Rob] He’s further down than when you first talked to him.
– [Tim] Yeah, probably yes.
– [Rob] He’s beyond that. Like, “Okay, I’m interested.”
– [Sean] He has a lot to risk. They don’t even take an order. They just shipped at this time, ship cigars to retailers. Retailers take-
– [Rob] You get what you get.
– [Tim] They had an ARP, an automatic- They show up, they buy them.
– [Rob] If you turn them down, you’re an idiot.
– [Tim] You may not get another shipment.
– [Rob] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– [Sean] So we were doing our best. Like, “Carlito, I get it. This has improved. This is the ticket.”
– [Rob] Did that resonate with him?
– [Sean] Yeah, well, it did. We stood on the product. We did what you were doing, I mean, we stood on this. Carlito, “Here. Try to break it.”
– [Tim] Yeah. Try and break it.
– [Sean] As a matter of fact, do break it.
– [Tim] Do what you can. I mean, he sat there, he was pulling on this thing, he just couldn’t-
– [Rob] Is this the film that we have now?
– [Sean] Yes.
– [Tim] Yes.
– He was sitting there pulling, he couldn’t. It was like, it was stretching.
– [Rob] No, you can’t rip it, you can’t tear it.
– [Tim] And he was worried about the contents. “Okay. So what does this do?” Explaining it’s just salt and water and food gumming agent, I mean, it’s all FDA, it’s all food-grade ingredient. So we did end up puncturing it because he just wanted to taste it and it’s salty, it’s very, very bitter, but yeah, he stood on it. He couldn’t break it, but…
– [Sean] He wanted this to work. He wanted to do it. We knew that very much. He wanted to pioneer. He is an innovator. He didn’t have to do it, but he wanted to show the industry the future. And he’s got a number of these situations when you go down to see the factory, of the things that they would innovate or be first in, and this is one that he wanted to be first. So he did want it to work. He created with his designer an absolute stellar packaging.
– [Rob] It’s gorgeous.
– [Sean] Custom.
– [Rob] It’s still available today.
– [Sean] And we still use it to this day. And we allow him to use that Humidipak.
– [Rob] The water droplet.
– [Tim] The other part that we did with Fuente is, the humidor bags with the picture of Carlos Senior and Carlito on it, that was a concept that we brought to him and said, “You could make money with this humidor bag. So not only are we in your packaging, but you could have the bags.” We’ve come this, what 25 years, and now a lot of companies are selling cigars in bags. Back then they were like, “I don’t know about that.” Everything’s real traditional with wood. And in a bag that devalues it. Well, it doesn’t, but anyway.
– [Rob] The sampler packs were like-
– [Tim] Sampler packs, yeah.
– [Rob] Nothing you guys were just breaking ground on.
– [Sean] Yeah, we were.
– [Rob] Introducing that to the makers.
– [Sean] One of the reasons why he wanted us to test product is because when we know that each Humidipak, let’s call Humidipak, as we got, had 18 grams of weight to it, of filling, salt solution. So when those would now come to the States and be in a humidor, sometimes those were over 20, 22 grams of weight. So they’re pulling moisture out of the cigar. So clearly we knew that cigars sometimes are going in there at a higher humidity. And so in his quest and passion to really have understanding and to seek understanding of everything that’s going on with the cigar, that’s the beauty about working with a guy like Fuente who was into the tobacco so much, into the quality and consistency, in collaborating with us, we worked just really have an understanding of how these aging rooms, because he had multiple aging rooms, is how different are they from one in the same time of year, but in addition to that different times of year and how the changes happen based on the rainy season or not, in the Dominican Republic. And so when we brought down this more expensive instrumentation, hygrometers are cheap, you get them for a buck or $2 or, or whatever, they’re very unreliable. But we had a scientific instrument that Dr. Al in our lab that we had that same type of stuff they would use in General Mills that would do-
– [Rob] What’s the cost of the instrumentation?
– [Tim] Four or 500, they were expensive. Four to 500 bucks?
– [Sean] Just under 1,000 bucks. $800 maybe at the time, probably cheap now, but.
– [Rob] And the water activity machine, that’s eight?
– [Sean] That’s about six, 7,000, 8,000 bucks.
– [Rob] Six, 7,000. So you guys are going to Fuente with this stuff?
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Sean] Yeah, we were using those expensive water activity machines in the lab. Did we bring the water activity-
– [Tim] Yeah, we did. Yes.
– [Sean] Yeah, that’s right. We brought that down there.
– [Rob] A $7,000 machine brought to Fuente.
– [Sean] Yeah, so we had the $800 hygrometer, the wand, and then the water activity machine. So we would say, “Here’s the ambient right now. And now let’s splice up these cigars and get readings on what the water activity is.” And so he was blown away at like, “Holy cow!” And some rooms were a little bit more than others, and so forth. So he went on a quest to fix all that to get more consistency.
– [Rob] Tell the story about the cigar overnight, on the rolling room floor.
– [Tim] Yeah, so part of that test process that we did was went into one of the aging rooms, like Sean said, we did a wand, “Okay, it says it’s about 70% in here.” He felt comfortable. Or actually, he liked his aging rooms to be a little bit more, so 72, I believe it was. We pulled a cigar out, did a water activity on it and it was dead on 69 or 70%. It was perfect. That’s like, he’s like-
– [Rob] Ready to go.
– [Tim] “This is where I want it to be.” Then we left that cigar on the rolling table overnight, came in back in the next morning, did another water activity on it and it was at 78 water activity.
– [Rob] Way above the mold threshold, which is 72, 75 at the most.
– [Tim] Yeah, and you were looking around his factory and all these cigars are sitting out there. And it was a-
– [Rob] Because they didn’t get into the aging room right away.
– [Tim] Well, at the end of the day, they don’t put everything back in all the time. I mean, he was saying, “Okay, this is what’s happening when they’re exposed in the environment of the Dominican Republic.”
– [Sean] Not on the rolling table, by the way, in the packaging area. So they’re ready to go into the box.
– [Tim] I’m sorry. The packaging area, yeah.
– [Rob] They’re getting ready to be boxed and they’re put inside the aging room, right?
– [Sean] And this happens in every factory in the world. I mean, all of them are down in the tropics, really. So the humidity generally, depending on the time of year, it’s not always the same, of course.
– [Rob] Right. So we’re going from 70 to 78.
– [Sean] And that’s why Carlito loved this technology so much is now we’re gonna bring consistency throughout, no matter what time of the year it is, no matter what day or whether it rained today or not.
– [Rob] And how it ships.
– [Sean] And how it ships. These are gonna be consistent and they’re gonna be so good you’re gonna want to eat ’em. And I wanna eat this.
– [Rob] So good you wanna eat it. This is so good. This is very good.
– [Tim] But that did spur on, so you were talking about how he changed things. That was really the spark to help him say, “I’ve gotta have an Opus X packing room that I keep it at 65%.”
– [Rob] And why was that? Because you guys found out that the Don Carlos, what we’re smoking, is a Cameroon wrapper and it can smoke way better at 70, 72, and then the Opus smokes way better because it’s super oily and toothy at 65.
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Rob] Because in anything, if it’s over-humidified it’ll mute flavors, it won’t burn off those oils and sugars. If it’s under-humidified, they burn too quickly and get bitter.
– [Sean] So, cigar manufacturers, traditionally always think of moisture content, okay, they don’t think in the world of water activity. So they just think of moisture content.
– [Rob] And there’s a difference between the two. So moisture content is when we take this and weigh it and then we dry it out and we see how much moisture left the product.
– [Sean] How much percent water left the product.
– [Rob] In water activity it’s when we put it inside a machine and it says, “This is how much water is actually in the product itself.”
– [Sean] Yeah, water activity is measuring the water that’s really available, or active, or relevant, because some water is bound in the system.
– [Rob] Changeable water.
– [Sean] Well, Opus, let’s just use 14% moisture content. In Opus to be at 14% moisture content, and this may not be the exact number, but would be, let’s say 65% relative humidity to reach that, a Don Carlo would need to be at 70% in order to be at that moisture content. So the different tobaccos behave a little bit differently and that’s why some tobaccos should be in the mid 60s and some should be closer to 70%. Like a Cameroon wrapper, for example, that’s got the same moisture content as this if this is stored at 65 and that’s stored at 70. And so we graph these. So we would do isotherms in the lab, Dr. Saari would do moisture absorption isotherms to understand the relationship of that ambient relative humidity and how that impacts the moisture content. And so you put that on a curve and now you understand. And so that research that we did really led to the idea of saying, “Let’s come out with a product now that can reach different humidity.” We always had these available, we just didn’t market them in the cigar market until 2004, 2005 when we came out with the brand Boveda. But that research that we did with Fuente, or not just Fuente, but all cigars, because we would buy cigars all over the country. We would do moisture absorption and isotherms on the different tobaccos to understand how each would behave differently at different points in humidity. We discovered and realized that having different points in humidity for the humidor is probably not a bad idea.
– [Tim] To be learning together at certain times but a master at what he does, it was a great experience, for sure.
– [Rob] Yeah, and you guys went down there and he didn’t call you until super late at night to go to dinner.
– [Sean] Keep in mind, we were just barely barely 30 years old. I mean, we were probably 30, okay. We were pretty young and raw trying to get a business going. And every time it felt like we’re getting some momentum. And so we needed this kind of deal with Fuente, wanted to put us on the map to give us credibility and all those things were really important. But the other thing is we’re fans. Think of being a, and you’re a fan of cigars, big time.
– [Rob] Maybe. Just a little.
– [Sean] Maybe. And so that’s kind of where we were. And so we’re thinking, “Can you believe it? We’re gonna go have a meeting with Carlos Fuente, Jr.” I mean, we were like on cloud nine.
– [Tim] Going to the Dominican Republic, never been there.
– [Rob] First time.
– [Tim] So excited to go down there. We love cigars. It’s like, this is two kids in a candy store.
– [Rob] Had you ever been to a factory at that point?
– [Tim] No.
– [Rob] Never been to a cigar factory at that point?
– [Sean] No, not at that point.
– [Rob] So this is your first opportunity.
– [Sean] First total ever.
– [Tim] First.
– [Rob] Oh, yeah. Okay.
– [Sean] Oh, yeah.
– [Rob] So set the stage.
– [Sean] I remember flying in because it was the old airport, a tiny little thing and there were no jet ways or anything like that. You go down the stairway into the…
– And everyone-
– [Rob] Get off the plane outside.
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Sean] People in the airport are all lined up, they’re cheering when they get there for all their relatives, and all this kind stuff, and was just different. We never experienced that before. So we got there-
[Rob] You thought, “Boy, these people really like Humidipak. They’re all cheering for us.”
– [Tim] Yeah. That’s right.
– [Rob] Humidipak’s here.
– [Sean] We’re heroes.
– [Tim] No, but the experience, too, of getting off that plane and then nobody came and picked us up, right?
– [Rob] You guys didn’t ask him to send a big black car and a limousine, or something?
– [Tim] Exactly, so-
– [Sean] We had to figure out how to get a cab. We didn’t know where we were going
– [Tim] How do we get to the hotel?
– When we got into a cab.
– [Rob] You can’t speak Spanish.
– [Tim] We don’t speak Spanish at all. It was an experience.
– [Sean] Gran Almirante is the hotel. That’s probably the only word the cab driver heard and understood, so he took us there.
– [Rob] Gran Almirante. Okay, great.
– [Sean] Gran Almirante Hotel.
– [Rob] My Spanish is impeccable, so if you guys need help.
– [Sean] You can help us.
– Oh yeah, we got there. We’re waiting like, “Okay, Carlito he’s gonna call. He’s gonna call, he said he’d call or whatever.”
– [Tim] Yeah, he was gonna call us for dinner. And I had left him some messages, but no-
– [Rob] Of course, the one-way phone call.
– [Tim] Yeah, the one-way. Yeah. And we were waiting and waiting and I can’t remember. We landed midday, and so we went to the hotel and we were kinda…
– [Sean] Probably sat by the pool a little bit.
– [Tim] Sat by the pool, probably waiting and then-
– [Sean] Counting down the hours for dinner.
– [Tim] But had said, “Hey, I’m gonna pick you guys up for dinner. We’re doing dinner tonight.” And-
– [Rob] How nerve-racking to sit there for that many hours.
– [Tim] Well, we were keeping busy a little bit. I think we walked down the street, if I remember.
– [Sean] Oh yeah, we did. That’s right.
– [Tim] We walked down the street to kinda check things out. And Santiago’s kind of a industrial little city. It’s not glamorous by any means, I mean, there’s just trucks, and buses, and mopeds, and everything-
– [Sean] It is industrial all the way. There is nothing glamorous. We had nothing glamorous, nothing touristy about Santiago.
– [Rob] This is where business is getting done.
– [Sean] This is where all the factories, manufacturing, Levi’s was making the clothing there, everything. Nothing pretty about it. You don’t wanna venture too far from the hotel for all we knew, I mean, all that.
– [Tim] Yeah, so we waited, and waited, and waited and it got to about like 9:30. Okay, so, Sean and I, we’ve always shared hotel rooms just because in the very beginning days we didn’t have a lot of money. So that was one way to save. And so we’ve gotten ready for bed. It was like-
– [Sean] And us getting to bed, “He’s standing us up.”
– [Tim] He’s gonna stand us up.
– We just got stood up. We came all the way down here. I wonder if we’re even gonna get together.
- 09:56 Where did the idea for humidity control packs for humidors come from?
- 15:08 Who invented Boveda?
- 15:51 How are Boveda packs made?
- 33:25 Who was the first manufacturer to use 2-way humidity control packs for cigar boxes?
- 36:30 What can high humidity do to a cigar?
- 38:32 Why does Boveda make different RHs for tobacco?
Boveda’s 25th anniversary, Part 2: From Cigar Boxes and Sampler Packs to Home Humidors and the MLB®
– [Rob] There’s a story inside every smoke shop, with every cigar, and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle at Boveda. This is Box Press.
– [Tim] 9:30 at night. So we’re hopping into bed. And then the phone rings. And like, it’s Carlito. He said, “Okay, I’m gonna be there in 5. I’m gonna be there in 5 minutes.
– [Sean] Or he says, “I’m here,” maybe even.
– [Tim] He might have even said.
– [Sean] Yeah, he was here. “I’m down below. I’m here to pick you guys up.”
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] I’m just laying there, I’m in bed. I got my sleep shorts on. Tim’s sitting there, he’s got his sleep shorts on. All right. All right, Carlito, well, we’re here. We’ll put our pants back on, and we’ll come on down. Like, “What, did you just say that right now?”
– [Rob] I mean, I mean we’re ready. We’ll be right down.
– [Tim] Yeah, didn’t really filter through what it sounded like.
– [Rob] Well, you had to get dressed. You guys got ready for bed.
– [Tim] But hey, here we are. Well, I think I said something like, “Yeah, Sean’s right here. We gotta put our pants back on. We’ll be down there in a minute.”
– [Rob] He’s going, “Who am I getting in business with here?”
– [Sean] They’re not ashamed, putting in the work. You know, people eat dinner at 6 o’clock or, you know, whatever. So this is probably going on 10 o’clock now. We were like, “Holy cow.” We’re like, you know, you’re getting groggy. You’re now starting to like–
– [Rob] Right.
– [Sean] All right, I’m kinda looking forward to going to bed now, after a full day of traveling.
– [Tim] Traveling.
– [Sean] You travel through New York or Miami, wherever we went to.
– [Rob] Exhausted.
– [Sean] And we were beat. And it’s like, “Oh, man.”
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Sean] And so so we went, we scrambled. And we went down, we met with, remember the name of the restaurant? It was Paparazzo?
– [Tim] Paparazzo.
– [Sean] The restaurants down there, there’s a handful of maybe 3, 4 in Santiago, high-end restaurants. They are good, they are top-notch, because down there, the factory owners and so forth, they’re wealthy people, very wealthy and so on. It’s a third-world country, but there are some restaurateurs down there, these small, little boutique, privately-owned restaurants. And this was one of the happening spots down there. And by the time we got there, it was probably 10:30 at night, and place was packed.
– [Tim] Jam-packed, absolutely.
– [Sean] I mean, people driving up in their Mercedes, getting dropped off. We ate dinner with Carlito, of course, his dad, Carlos Fuente Senior, and then Juan–
– [Tim] Sosa.
– [Sean] Juan Sosa, who was Senior’s right-hand man at the factory. And so it was just the 5 of us. We were like, “We’re with legends right now.”
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] We were like, “Holy cow.”
– [Rob] This is happening.
– [Tim] This is happening, yeah.
– [Sean] And we were, like, fired up. I do remember aspects of that dinner. I remember the brick walls in the restaurant. And the steak was one of the best steaks we’ve probably ever had. I mean, who knows, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was a bad steak. But at the moment, that thing was so good.
– [Rob] The setting, the experience, the company. Same thing with cigars.
– [Sean] Smoking cigars, smoking Opus right there in the restaurant. And this is the time of day where the smoking bans, even in Minnesota, even in the U.S., maybe only California had a smoking ban, nowhere else. New York, no smoking ban nowhere. I mean, so smoking during dinner was just normal, especially in the Dominican Republic.
– [Rob] It’s the best thing, to be able to smoke while you eat.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Yeah, we enjoyed it. But the other part of the experience is, is all the other cigar, you know, some other cigar makers were there. And I can’t remember who came by, other than Cynthia was there eating. She came over and said hi.
– [Rob] Carlito’s sister.
– [Tim] Yeah, Carlito’s sister. We got to.
– [Sean] Remember that.
– [Tim] The first time we got introduced to her. but other people would come by their table and pay respects, say hi, and.
– [Rob] Because this is like the godfather.
– [Sean] Oh yeah, Carlos Fuente Senior, I mean.
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Sean] Really, but they’re equal partners starting out, when they both got going. So I mean, yeah, but Senior.
– [Rob] No, I meant the other cigar makers are like.
– [Sean] Oh, going to, yes, pay their respects.
– [Rob] If I saw Carlito, yeah.
– [Sean] No question about it.
– [Rob] I’m not gonna walk by and not say anything. I’m gonna say hello.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Oh yeah.
– [Rob] Goodbye, you know?
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Sean] Oh yeah.
– [Tim] It’s kinda the who’s who of the night, yeah.
– [Rob] Kiss the ring, you know, whatever.
– [Rob] So you’re sitting there, it’s 10:30.
– [Sean] We had great wine and scotch, I mean, cigars, meal.
– [Tim] And it’s like, this thing is happening.
– [Rob] And is there any business talk? Are you guys talking business, or is it just getting to know him?
– [Sean] Well, we were talking exclusivity. I remember that part of the conversation. I remember one of the, I think it was this dinner, and it could’ve been a different one. It’s like, all right, Carlito. We can head-start or whatever, you know? Small company exclusivity rarely is good, you know? That kinda hurts, and we need that kind of growth. So he kind of understood that, you know? But I’m kinda stepping out here. So okay, great, well, what about Cuba? Let’s leave Cuba available. If we’re able to somehow do a deal there to get in, which we did try, by the way, but that never.
– [Tim] Never happened.
– [Sean] That’s a different story altogether. But he says, “That’s a great idea, no problem. Yeah, you can get Cuba, that would be good. Fuente, and if Cuba,” so we were kinda gaining some agreement in that.
– [Rob] But you gave him the exclusivity basically for.
– [Sean] Couple years.
– [Rob] Couple years?
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Started it at 12. And then we extended it as things were.
– [Rob] 12 months.
– [Tim] 12 months, yes.
– [Rob] And extended it.
– [Sean] 12 more.
– [Tim] Another 12. Things were going good. We had a good relationship with them. We had the humidor bags that were selling very, very.
– [Rob] Did you have people calling you? Wanting-
– [Tim] Yes.
– [Rob] And you were turning them down, saying, “I can’t.”
– [Sean] And the same people who said, “I don’t need this. All my cigars sell fast enough. Why would I put this in? It’s way too expensive. Nobody knows what it is anyway. Why would I do this kind of thing?” And then, you know, Fuente puts it in there. “Hey, you know, we kinda like to look at that.”
– [Rob] That sucks though, that you had to say no.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Rob] Okay.
– [Tim] So that night, you know, dinners take forever. They don’t just sit down and wolf down a steak and get outta there, I mean.
– [Rob] This is not an hour ordeal.
– [Tim] No, we were, I think until 1 o’clock, 12:30.
– [Rob] 1 o’clock.
– [Tim] I mean, it was pretty late.
– [Sean] One o’clock, yeah.
– [Tim] I mean, you sit down by 10:30. And then, you know how it is. You have a two-hour, that’s already 12:30 right there. That’s not hard to do.
– [Sean] We’re 30 years old. We’re talking about the plans. We’re putting together our business.
– [Rob] I’d be done at nine.
– [Sean] Hey from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., we were putting together our future business plans with Carlito.
– [Tim] That’s right.
– [Sean] We couldn’t sleep at-
– [Rob] 9 or 10 out of 10, man I’d be in.
– [Sean] We couldn’t sleep at all. No, no, no. We were, and we were, yeah, we gotta have, them come up to our offices in Minnesota. We, he, when he dropped us off, we were gonna, we were gonna just go to bed and it’s like, hey, do you wanna have another cigar? Yeah, let’s have another cigar. So we walked into the, sat down in the casino area, you know, not ton, you know, not busy at all. Just, just, just relaxed and just to unwind from the dinner and how exciting it was. And just talked about, you know, things that, you know, look at, you know, talked about the future and wow. This could be you know, really a, a catalyst to, you know, get some momentum and, and so on and time flew. I mean, next thing you know, it it’s like, all right. Probably had a couple too many scotch, you know, just in, you know, got lost track of time and, and probably didn’t have 1 cigar, probably had 2 or 3, you know, throughout that time.
– [Rob] Knowing you guys. Yeah. 2 or 3, maybe 4.
– [Sean] And it’s like, you know, Carlito’s gonna pick us up here in a few, you know, a little bit here. We better. Maybe we should just go to bed right now. And I think we, they don’t close. Okay. I don’t think they close. They didn’t at this time. They do nowadays. When you go there, you can’t even do that. You can’t even smoke in the hotel anymore. You can’t smoke in the casino anymore, but back in the day. So that’s what we, that’s what we were doing. We were truly planning the future of being in the boxes. What are some, how do we leverage this thing? And you know, we gotta get Carlito to come and visit us in Minnesota. I remember that kind of, you know, talking about that, we’re be we’re, we’re like this now, you know, we’re thinking. And so we were, we were on cloud nine. We were, we were, we had, we, we had too much adrenaline to go to sleep. There’s no possible way we could go to sleep at that time. And we were, we were on cloud nine. I don’t, I don’t remember. I mean, that’s one of the, I think the peak enthusiasm, enthusiastic times that I remember, you know, period.
– [Tim] Oh yeah.
– [Sean] And when we got, we got to bed and when that, then I think the phone rang, you know, because it rang the other night at 9:30. This time it rang at 9-
– [Tim] 9:00 a.m.
– [Sean] We probably got, you know, two and a half hours of sleep. We needed about 18 hours. Just on that one.
– [Tim] Part of our enthusiasm was knowing that, okay, he’s gonna pick us up and we’re gonna go to Fuente factory and we’re gonna, you know, see where Opus X is made and, and just, we’re hanging out with him next day, all day.
– [Rob] The curtain is gonna be pulled back a little bit.
– [Tim] All day, you know? He’s just a great.
– [Rob] So he picks you up. You’re a little hungover.
– [Sean] Might be the most hungover I’ve ever been. For myself, at least that’s how I felt. Just didn’t feel good. You’re in a third world country just got there. You know, did you drink any of the water, maybe some got in when you’re brushing your teeth, you know? So they’re all kinds of things that are working on the system. And so, and plus the way that they drive in the D.R. It is just like this stop, gun it, stop. I mean, it’s like this doesn’t work. This isn’t, you know, I’m just in the back seat, just like just kind of like.
– [Rob] Crossing your toes, hoping to God you can just hang on to it.
– [Sean] Let me just please try to take some breaths so I don’t, you know, ruin his car and we got in there, we got into his office and he knows, I guarantee you, he probably kinda knew this. He handed us and I remember it, we’re and he was, they were renovating their office. So he, this was his old, old office not renovated yet. And we’re sitting right here. We, we sit down and we spent the whole morning and he’s right there and we are right there. He’s got his computer here, he’s on the phone talking to us at times, computer at times. And we’re just like sitting right here. And, and as soon as we sat down, he handed us a, an Opus A. I mean, this is a awesome from the mid nineties, probably mid to, you know, 90 ish. We’re thinking this was, you know, well, in hindsight we, it’s probably 95, 96, 97 era of the cigar. Of this Opus A and even being, not feeling the best and feeling nauseous and, and, you know, part was it from the night before the car ride over? Not really sure, but it was like, man, this is like, just got off the tilt-a-whirl. It doesn’t feel the best. And that’s cigar, even in that environment was like, this cigar is spectacular.
– [Tim] Oh, it was amazing.
– [Sean] It was, that might be the best cigar experience I think that I, it’s up there and it might be the best.
– [Tim] Yeah. Sitting in Carlito’s office. He hands you a Opus A, and you sit there and you smoke it in his office having a conversation with him. And it’s.
– [Sean] By the way, about 10 years later in, you know, the Connoisseur Corner in Cigar Aficionado where they rate old cigars? This 1997 Opus A got like a 98 or 100. I mean, one, one of those.
– [Tim] A really high rating.
– [Sean] It was up there. It was like, which was probably the vintage that we, he gave us at that time. And so I, I remember it’s like, you know, it was, it was tough going through the factory. And when you’re in the factory, a lot of people who are the first time in the factory, they throw up because of the amount of ammonia that all the processing and the tobacco it’s all factories are like that. And so just that process you get, it’s just a different.
– [Rob] Yeah. Very astringent.
– [Sean] Yeah, you don’t, you don’t, you don’t feel good. I’m telling you, especially when it’s your first time and you add up everything, you know, no sleep and you know, the car ride and drinking the night before and, and everything. It was a tough, tough day. Here’s the greatest day, you know, at that moment in business. And, and enjoying it so much, but yet feeling the worst you ever felt because of the, the hours, the night before.
– [Rob] Right. Love it.
– [Sean] Yeah so he, he, he gave us a personal tour of that. We spent all day, then we got in the car and he picks up, we drove out to the farm.
– [Tim] We get to go to the farm for the first time. I mean, there you are at Chateau De La Fuente, which is really spectacular. I mean, it looks like a Disney World now compared to what it did then. But back when we went, it was, it was like, that. I mean to us, it was unbelievable.
– [Rob] Right.
– [Tim] It’s like, here you are. And they’ve got, you know, the tobacco barns and it’s got the fields and all these rocks that line the roads that are painted in white and he is got a gazebo where you can go and sit and smoke and takes you up to the, up to the top where there’s a helicopter pad and, and around another gazebo. So you kind of go and see, and you get up on the top and you look around and see all the mountains and all the fields and the river.
– [Sean] All the roads are paint or have lined with rock that are painted white. He’s got on the hillside, a bunch of rock in different colors showing the Opus X band. I mean, it’s immaculate, you’re out in the middle of, you know, how long an hour outside of the city?
– [Tim] About an hour and a half, half hour.
– [Sean] Hour and a half outside.
– [Tim] Yeah. But it’s just beautiful. Like Sean said, in the side and he’s since expanded it now, but he had, you know, rock designs out there in green grass and then the Opus band in, in full color, you know, the reds and the blacks and the golds. And it just, you know, outlined in white, it just popped, you know, it was just, it was just a great experience.
– [Rob] Had you guys gone to TPE or RTDA at that point?
– [Tim] We had been, yes, because our first one was 97 where we didn’t have the booth. We had the RV, we did get into the next one. So this was when the launch officially happened was in Tampa 2001.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] So we’re talking, you know, this was a couple year journey here to get to where we were.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Sean] Yeah. It was four years after our founding. But one, one more story really quick back when, after we went to Malio’s and we went back down there, we were, now it was official. We’re going in all of the boxes. And we had a chance then that we were in Carlos Fuente Senior’s, the factory he’s in. And he came out there with his head agronomist and his head agronomist didn’t speak any English, very well educated though in agronomy and understood tobacco and, and understood all the things that we were learning in our lab in terms of water activity, moisture content, oils, and sugars, and how do you get the cigars to improve over time and, and all of that, and this idea of removing moisture. And so when, when we were, you know, Carlito’s dad, when we were, you know, we were talking through this and he then would speak in Spanish to the head agronomist, his right-hand man, the guy and the guy really influential over there. And his, this agronomist started speaking Spanish back to Senior. And he, Senior said, he just told me that this is like going from a horse and buggy, the way things are done now, to the automobile. With this technology, this is revolutionizing. This will change the industry. And that was the head of agronomy. I thought, okay, that’s pretty cool.
– [Rob] We’re onto something.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] Yeah. Good affirmation.
– [Sean] So we, we were, this is when, when Carlito took it, this was when we had already been designing two-way humidity control. If we’re the world’s first two-way humidity control, that must mean everything else is one-way. We’d have to say that it kind of conveyed that in, in the design, the way we defined it. And so then we started to pick up some momentum with communication in the marketplace, and he’s, he sent a nice letter to all the retailers and so forth talking about, hey, you know, these cigars are gonna be like capturing the, you know, the climate that’s in Chateau De La Fuente. And so you know that by having the water drop on the box. And so we always told them, you know, first of all, resources are limited and this is a custom product. So we need to get half that. When we get an order, we need to have a lot of lead time. So we need 4 months before film can get ordered, then it’s get printed. It goes to the factory to get formed and filled and sealed into a product. Then, then it’s gotta take on the container and it’s gotta go down to, to Tampa. Then from Tampa, it’s gotta go on down to the Dominican Republic. You need 4 months for that scenario to happen. And so somewhere after a little bit of time, that lead time was lost on the purchasing side in there. And so we got an order and you know, maybe in 90 days, like we need this in 90 days.
– [Tim] They need fast. Yeah.
– [Sean] We scrambled, we, we couldn’t ship it in time. So they had to start shipping box product to the marketplace without Humidipak inside and without the water drop. So we got a call from Carlos Senior and said, what in the hell is going on? You don’t ever, you know, do this again, you know, like we need product here to show up on time. It’s like, well, okay. And we know that, and retailers were actually saying, no, I don’t want these. I want the ones with the water drop on the box. And so, because that’s what my customers are, are looking for. They want to have the one with the water drop.
– [Rob] You don’t turn down Fuente product.
– [Sean] Yeah.
– [Tim] So one of those one way calls back in was from Senior that day. And you know, in his raspy voice says, you know, I really like you and your brother, you know, he always called us brothers, always thought we were brothers. And he goes, but if you ever don’t ship on time.
– [Sean] We’re not doing this.
– [Tim] We’re not, this business is over.
– [Rob] Fire the machines back up. Wow.
– [Sean] We started to print extra. And just.
– [Rob] Yeah, I was just gonna say that.
– [Sean] Held it in inventory at that point.
– [Rob] A little overstocking won’t hurt you. Good. Oh my gosh. So obviously just even breaking the ground in the marketplace to consumers, you gotta go to RTDA, the biggest show in the world on this, you know, then it was IPCPR, and now it’s PCA, but we know today, but you guys couldn’t get in. You had no tickets. You had no space.
– [Sean] Yeah. This was going back to what.
– [Rob] You couldn’t even get in as consumer-based tickets.
– You couldn’t walk the show.
– [Sean] We were incorporated July of 1997. So remember back in the story of the dinner, that dinner we had was April of 1997. So May, June, we, we were 90 days, less than 90 days from the trade show. By that time, during the boom years, you couldn’t get, the booths are all sold out. The hotels are sold out. So what did we do? We called they had, I think I, I remember 900 or something exhibitors. We called virtually every single company.
– [Tim] We split the list up between the 3, 4 of us. And we just started calling every exhibitor.
– [Rob] Can I, can I get space in your booth?
– [Tim] Can we borrow? Can we, yeah, can we share it? Can we get a little spot? We want to get into the show. No, no, no, nothing.
– [Sean] Zero.
– [Sean] Zero.
– [Rob] And they weren’t having the big mega booths that they have now. It was all very small.
– [Sean] Well, there were some mega booths, you know, you had General Cigar, that’s a mega booth, you had Consolidated Cigar that.
– [Rob] But for the most part, everyone’s pretty just.
– [Sean] That was the mega booth. Fuente’s booth was probably, they were probably around that time too, but yeah, for the most part, it was small, but there were still, you still had some anchors.
– [Rob] That you thought, eh, just gimme a 10 by 10 or a table.
– [Sean] Well, by the way, we had no idea anything. We didn’t know what the show was gonna be like at all. And I, I think we only peeped our, you know, was able, we were able to look in there to, so we, we didn’t know what to expect. We just knew that we couldn’t get in. We knew that we had just dialed up a contract manufacturer and had ordered a product being made. We had to pay for that product. We had to come, we had to sell it. And so we said, well, we can’t get a hotel room. Let’s come up with an RV. Let’s slap some.
– [Tim] Banners on it.
– [Sean] Big banners. The Humidipak bag is what it was all over it. So Humidipak wasn’t the company, the company was SEIYGE Humidic Control. So the cigar company, the Cigar Box Company, the cigar, the humidor maker, his company was SEIYGE humidor or SEIYGE Cigar Box Company. So that folded and, and basically went irrelevant. And then we formed a new corporation with the 6 of us and called the company, SEIYGE Humidic Control Corporation. Humidic, wasn’t a word, but we thought, Hey, we’re not humidity, we’re kind of controlling. So let’s come up with humidic. We have this brand new word that we, and so that, that’s what we with corporations spelled out SEIYGE Humidic Control Corporation. So the product was Humidipak. It was the, the Humidipak was the whole bag. The inside pouch was SEIYGE. That’s what we called it. SEIYGE system 70 inside. And so we printed labels up. We had these bags, we slapped labels on them in the kitchen, in the house off a block off of Como Lake in, in St. Paul, I was single
– [Rob] Your home.
– [Sean] My home. I was single. I wasn’t married. And so I’d get up. Used to be the attic was the master bedroom, walked down the stairs, opened the door. And, and we hired some like high school, just outta high school kids. 2 of them, maybe 3 guys we had hired. We had a office in the kitchen, office in the living room, office in the dining room, office in the spare bedroom. That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, and then one eventually in the spare bedroom, downstairs, five offices networked together on a phone system with, with 5 lines. We used Act! Contact Management software. We had bought a database for $500, which was like, oh my gosh. And we were just calling up retail stores to ship samples, load up the samples in somebody’s car, bring them to the post office. And that was our routine. Every, that was the sales process. And then we would follow up 30 days later after they got the samples to get an order in.
– [Rob] The desks were made out of filing cabinets and doors.
– [Tim] Yep.
– [Rob] On top of them.
– [Tim] If you look through Sean’s house, I mean, it was just a barrage of wires going everywhere. I mean, it looked like it was a server room.
– [Rob] Don’t trip.
– [Tim] Just like, yeah. Going through all. I mean, through the kitchen and the family room into the bedrooms and down the stairs.
– [Rob] It’s like Steve Jobs starting in a garage.
– [Tim] From that very first show in, it was in Orlando in 1997. As we went there, as you were speaking to earlier is we didn’t have a booth. So we did the RV. We didn’t know anybody, but we planted the RV in the parking lot of the Marriott. That’s where the show was being held. And we would go into the entrances to get into the show full of the back, backpacks with samples on it. We’d go into the bar, we’d go into the restaurant. We’d go around. If we went to dinner that night out, down the street, we’d ask everybody, you know, are you part of the show? You selling, you buying? And, and we stood out there and we just tried to, we were taking orders.
– [Sean] You take this door, I’ll take this door. And by the way, back then you’ve been to the shows nowadays. It’s nothing like it was back then. I mean, this was like a mob coming in. So it was a great opportunity for us really to sell. As a matter of fact, who knows, maybe we did better in the, in that fashion than we would’ve. If we would’ve had somebody’s booth. And we, we were just going, hey, have you heard of Humidipak? Have you heard of the Humidipak bag? And of course nobody’s heard of it, let me tell you about it. And so we would take, we didn’t have order forms. We took business cards and we’re writing, you know, orders on there, on the back. Okay. You’ll take a case. And, and so on, we would get kicked out. The, the show coordinators would say, you can’t do this. This is against show policy. You can’t be selling out here. You know, you guys don’t have a booth. And so we would just keep our eye out and, and just keep selling.
– [Tim] But as Sean said, we, we couldn’t get in. And then Bill, I remember his name Bill Fedder was the president of RTDA. And he tracked us down and kicked us out. And then they had the security guards watching for us. So we’d back away from the entrance, try and get him, you know, maybe coming down the hall and then they would chase us and we’d go to the other one and we’d go change clothes.
– [Sean] Oh yeah.
– We were doing absolutely.
– It didn’t, it didn’t. We had to, we had to get orders in. And we, that was, that was the only option. Whatever has to get done. We had to do it.
– [Tim] We were inviting people out to the RV. We were smoking in the RV.
– [Rob] Smoking in the RV, which you’re not allowed to do.
– [Tim] Well back then. You probably were. We, we didn’t get in with the security.
– [Rob] What cigars were you smoking in the RV? Because they were pretty nice cigars.
– [Tim] Tony Borhani’s Bahia Golds.
– [Rob] Bahia Golds.
– [Tim] We bought a box or two of those Tony Borhani back in 1997 who he was, he was like up and coming. I mean he was big. He was.
– [Rob] Were these Cuban cigars?
– [Tim] No, no. He was made them in Costa Rica actually. Yeah.
– [Rob] Okay. Bahia Golds.
– [Tim] Bahia Golds.
– [Sean] B-A-H-I-A, Bahia. So he was brand new, but he became very popular as a cigar brand.
– [Tim] Well we ended up doing a deal with, with Tony probably in that 99.
– [Sean] 99, 2000 era. Right before Fuente actually.
– [Tim] Yeah. Before Fuente and we did a 4-pack for him up Bahia bag. It was an orange bag. Had a bigger window on it. You could see the cigars in it. So he was one of our other first customers. Developed a fairly good relationship with him.
– [Sean] He was a visionary. He, he kind of bought into the vision of how we wanted to change, how cigars are merchandised. And by the way, the films that we had at that time didn’t work fast enough to replenish the lost air. What would happen in a normal wood humidor. So we, our product wasn’t engineered yet to be the, the standard in a desktop humidor. And so that came later after the new Boveda membrane, the phenomenal membrane, the one we were talking about with Carlito and the strength of it and all the one that we, we still use today. And so we started to do a lot of research in our lab and you know, one of the issues was also bringing that box to equilibrium or, you know, what’s called seasoning that humidor. And so Dr. Saari did an awful lot of testing and analysis on what it’s gonna take. What’s the right humidity level to get it into the wood properly at the right rate. So you don’t shock the wood because if you, when you do traditional methods of wiping down that box with water or putting a reservoir of water, you do run the risk, depending on the humidor is made to, to cause unnecessary expansion of the wood and, and really change the geometry of that box. And so how you season it’s really important. So we said, well, why don’t we come up with a product for seasoning these wood humidors that does it really effectively where, you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt where you, where you, where it’s done, right. So it’s scientific. We knew how many grams needed to get into a typical humidor. We knew how long it took for those grams, those, that water, that water vapor to absorb into that wood. And it’s a 10- to 14-day process. And so this is all over a lot of testing and, and we were probably, we probably could have come out with, you know, the product for humidors sooner than we did, but we were really anal about making sure that it works properly. And, and maybe that was, maybe we didn’t need to be that perfectionist kind of.
– [Rob] No, I think you did. I think I love it because I know whatever we come out with is tested and tried and it’s not just.
– [Sean] That’s right. You know.
– [Rob] The innovation is there. The science is there.
– [Sean] And the need for revenue was there too. So we were able to hold back a little bit on that to make sure we understood the performance of it. And then we also understood how we market it what’s the best way. So we went through a lot of ideas of, you know, do we call this, is this just a stabilizer and so forth? And we started using it with, in conjunction with the existing devices out there. And, and so we needed to test through all of that over time and not just accelerated, but real-life testing. And that’s where the time goes into it. We finally determined that this product is gonna be best on its own. And so we wanted, we, by this time, Humidipak with Fuente and so forth, they’re starting to get, you know, recognition in the marketplace. And so people were coming up with Humi this, Humi that, Humidi Puck, and so on. And it was such a generic name. Even some people who worked for us couldn’t pronounce Humi right. I mean, it was Humipack, Humidity Packet. It was weird. And this is, you know, so Humidipak was too generic in our eyes. And so we said, you know what? We’ve got an opportunity now where we’ve got the films, we’ve got the product. The performance is phenomenal where the world’s first two-way humidity control for desktop humidors. This is timing is right. We put together the story, we drafted a website for it and, and all of that. And then we said, we need to come up with another name because Humidipak, you know, it’s, there’s limitations of that. And we’re still early, you know, at this point, of course, we’ve been around for, you know, 5, 6, 7 years, 6 years. So if that’s, that’s an eternity at that time for us, but we knew that we were just, just getting started and, and that we could afford the opportunity to do the right brand name. And, and we thought, wow, you know what you do. You know what this really does? In essence, this, this product creates such an awesome environment that you’re allowing cigars to improve over time, rather than degrade, we’re creating an aging vault. And so we started, you know, thinking about an aging vault as really you’re transforming your, your desktop humidor, not just into something that has humidity in it, but you’re, you’re creating an aging vault.
– [Rob] Because they do that at the factory. They have the aging room that’s humidity controlled.
– [Sean] And I think some of them probably call it an aging vault as well. So we’re looking in, Tim started looking at books like Latin, French, and everything else for vault. And so Spanish word for vault is, is Boveda. We didn’t know how to pronounce it. Boveda we were saying. We were saying, we were saying Boveda because of Aveda. The, the company in town here.
– [Tim] Skincare, Aveda.
– [Sean] Yeah. The salon products. And so we’re thinking it must be pronounced Boveda.
– [Rob] And who corrected you?
– [Sean] We didn’t like the name we had, but it was just the process of elimination. We didn’t like any of the other names. And finally it’s like, my gosh, we, it was the, that was the hardest thing. And we just kept procrastinating too much because it’s like, ah, but it finally it’s like, alright, we just gotta go with it. Let’s just do Boveda. And so we said, Boveda is it. We went down to Carlito, told him here’s our product for desktop humidors. It’s the world’s first two-way humidity control for desktop humidors, Boveda. And he looked at it. He says, that’s not how you pronounce it. This is a Spanish word. It’s it’s Boveda.
– [Tim] It’s Boveda.
– [Sean] And he said, alright, we’ll call it Boveda.
– [Tim] We were so excited to share it with him. He, he kind of looked at us like we were dummies. He was kind, you dummies, that’s a Spanish word. But we did like the way that the word looked, you know, as Sean said, it’s a really hard process to- you just don’t fall in love with something typically right away. And we looked through so many different books, French and Italian, Spanish, Latin, anything. And, but we kind of keyed in on that word vault, just, you know, once we saw that word, it was like, okay, that’s, that’s kind of cool.
– [Rob] I remember the display at Tobacco Grove that weighed about six tons.
– [Tim] The metal one. Yes.
– [Rob] The metal one.
– [Sean] You remember that?
– [Rob] Oh, it, I would have to dodge it every time.
– [Sean] I think it was 100 pounds. I think it was 100 pounds.
– [Tim] Yeah. They were about 110 pounds.
– [Rob] It was a ton.
– [Tim] Yeah.
– [Rob] We never moved it. Because God knows you don’t wanna move it.
– [Tim] You wouldn’t, you didn’t have to.
– [Rob] And then it had all the different RH levels.
– [Tim] We tried to make it really, really simple. So the, the, the name up at the top was, you know, the storing and storing and aging cigars. So we were trying to change mentality of people.
– [Sean] Storing and aging cigars at home.
– [Tim] At home. Yeah. And then we try to make it really easy and say, it’s a three step process. 1, 2 and 3. This is all you have to do. 1 season it, 2 pick this, you know, pick this RH, and 3 just then get on the automatic reorder and then they’ll show up at your door.
– [Rob] So if I were a retailer, I’d be like, how am I gonna sell this? But until the customer realizes the convenience, the mess-free. And no worries.
– [Tim] And that it works.
– [Rob] And it works.
– [Sean] We were lucky because at this time the internet, the internet and so forth is starting to pick up momentum. You know, you had Amazon out there and, and now eCommerce was starting to be, you know, accepted and so on. And it was just all theory. You know, it started to pick up momentum, which was ideal. We needed that because nobody wanted our product. And we said, we, you know, we used to eat breakfast every Friday morning on our weekly meeting. We ate here at Original Pancake House here in Wayzata. And we said, you know, it’s like, ah, no, one’s gonna just, you know, we can’t get a distributor on this thing. You know what, that’s great. You know, what’s the best thing ever. You know, why, because we’re gonna sell this thing direct to consumers. We’re going direct. We’re gonna build a webpage. Luckily the, the thing that really made the product pick up momentum was Cigar Aficionado said, hey, we will write up a one pager for you guys in our Good Life section. And that was really the turning point. And so they wrote Boveda, this brand new product for your humidor, our phone was ringing off the hook.
– [Tim] It was crazy.
– [Sean] It was, I mean we’re talking months and months worth of, we were down here at this time. And we are, we in this office in, we are picking up the phone. It was, it was not the eCommerce like today. It was, it was, you guys remember the term Sneakernet, it was Sneakernet. You would get an order and you would fax, you know, you’d get an order online that would come on the fax or, or whatever, or online. And then we’d fax over the order to the warehouse. You know, to ship it out to consumers. And eventually we would set up, actually, we would start it right here. We would ship them from here. And we would have assembly lines every day. Just like pretty soon it just got burdensome and just the, you know, every day operation. And then it went up to North Branch, Minnesota, where they started shipping product to consumers and, and you look at a lot of high profile people. So every now and then we would take a look at our who’s, who it’s going to and who, if we didn’t who they are, we’d Google them.
– [Tim] Now everybody at home has Coolerdors, and you know, any plastic container.
– [Rob] You would never get that with one-way humidification. You’d be you. That would be a full-time job. To go through your entire collection, humidify it, and then in 2 weeks you gotta do it again.
– [Tim] Because you’re getting a hundred percent humidity in there with a, with a, with a wet device.
– [Sean] There were two things that really resonated with the market. And both of these two things are equally important because we spend a lot of money on cigars, you know, $10, $15, sometimes $20, depending on what state you live in, they’re expensive. And so if you just want to have a smoking experience, go ahead and buy a Dutch Masters or, or a Swish Sweets, or, or whatever. But if you want to enjoy the dynamic character, that’s in tobacco, you want to care for it properly. And so eliminating those fluctuations and allowing the age is a big deal. But the other thing that just so happens, it’s the easiest thing to use in the world. You put the correct number of Boveda inside the humidor, close the lid and you’re done. And it was that compounding effect that I think really clicked. It was one, they’re better. They tastes good. Like Carlito had said, I want to eat this thing now. So that’s really critical what we do to cigars. But, but the other thing, we live in a society that wants simplicity. And so we meet that goal as well. And it’s those two things together that are everything in this product.
– [Rob] Right. And I think too, like the expense wise, I look at it now and it’s like, okay, my 100-count humidor cost me like $63.85 for the whole year. And how many hundreds of dollars of cigars did I have in that humidor for the whole year? So for $63, I have perfect cigars for a whole year revolving constantly. And I’m smoking them and I’m enjoying them. That was priceless to me. Some of the highlights of Boveda, where Boveda has been placed, are definitely notable. And I think some of the people out there should notice some of these because they’re not always readily available. 2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom car places Boveda inside the car humidor. What was that conversation like? Rolls-Royce calls up Humidipak and says, yeah, we want your technology.
– [Tim] We tried to trade 8 Boveda packets for two Phantoms and it didn’t go over well.
– [Rob] Trade up that minivan we’re getting Rolls-Royce Phantom.
– [Sean] Yeah. Yeah. Forzaro. I forget the name of the company out of London got a call from their, you know, they’re contracted with Rolls-Royce to make this glove box humidor. And matter of fact, they sent us the actual, you know, the three-cigar metal heavy-duty. It’s totally what you’d think of Rolls-Royce. In terms of a pocket humidor and that pocket humidor, I mean, it was really neat. The glove box would open and this, this little metal, three-cigar humidor would sit in the, in this little cradle in the glove box. And when you’d press the button on the humidor would open up and fold out. And here’s your three cigars to take outta there. You’d, you’d push it down. It was really neat. $280,000 car with a with and they, and it was Humidipak in there.
– [Rob] Do you still have replacements going out for those or?
– [Sean] I don’t. I doubt it. No idea. I don’t even know if they still have the model. Subzero did a model too. Just very similar. So Subzero’s big wine fridge, this came years later, their big $8,000 wine cellars, think of a big fridge, glass door, and a bunch of shelving. In the middle shelf, there was a wood humidor made in the U.S.A. Really nice wood, mahogany. And that was built for Humidipak, Boveda actually. Built for Boveda. We were Boveda by this time. And so this was an option for their Subzero products.
– [Rob] MLB bats and baseballs.
– [Sean] We, we, back in early 2000, maybe 2004-ish. In that time period, there was an article in Wall Street Journal where the, the Colorado Rockies were taking some heat because they had built this humidor. And so other teams were saying, hey, what’s going on here? You can’t, you know, have a, you know, you’re doing an unfair advantage when in fact what they were doing is just following the instructions of Rawlings, the manufacturer for all Major League baseballs. And you want to keep baseballs in the 50% range of relative humidity between it’s just like wood. Believe it or not, the materials in there behave similar. You want to have it between 45, 55%-ish, 40 to 60% relative humidity in there. And we started to then called I, I sent the letter to the commissioner’s office in New York City. Hey, we’ve got this technology and to control baseballs, we read the article, we might be able to help on all that and said, got a call back from one of their not executives, per se, but someone who’s heavily involved in Major League baseball, former Hall of Fame baseball player, as a matter of fact, and from St. Louis, played for the Cardinals. And he was now in the Major League Baseball’s administrative offices. And so on. And with this connections with Rawlings, so we started to do some testing and it’s amazing when you dry down a baseball, how different it is when you have it, water logged and how, like, for example, if you have low, proper, and high humidity, the recoil impact on a, on a ball just like dropping them from the same level off the floor and the amount of bounce you get. And so it is an unfair advantage around the league, depending on where the water activity is of those baseballs.
– [Rob] Yeah. The dryer, it is, I would assume the, the easier it’s gonna pop up. It’s not gonna absorb all that energy.
– [Sean] There there’s a, there’s a right humidity there and it changes. And it’s amazing the dramatic changes to a baseball. Major League Baseball should use Boveda in all of their packaging to bring them to equilibrium. Now, if every humidor, every team has a humidor, okay. Maybe they have it covered in, in that type of environment, but maybe the answer would be a big pail and they should have Boveda. Every one of them should be stored with Boveda it’s a big, it’s a, it is a big deal. They didn’t wanna pay for a product. And then eventually we were thinking, well, let’s just do this thing for free, but it was just hard to get in there. Nothing ever happened to it. But this to this day, we would probably make, standardize the rule book, let’s just say that way in terms of home runs and, and so on, because the balls will behave the same now with Boveda, whether you’re playing in Florida or Colorado or Seattle or Minnesota.
– [Rob] And the bats as well, the bats, they had bat bags with Boveda in there to make sure the wood of the, the bat was properly.
– [Sean] We heard that Ichiro, remember the Japanese player, Ichiro, played for the Seattle Mariners and eventually played for the Yankees. He had a, he had a personal bat bag and he would put Boveda in his bat bag. So that picked up a little bit of word of mouth within the league, Marucci or Marucci bats believe, you know, were rumored to use it. Another bat company used it in a sleeve and so on. That never picked up momentum either. But bats also need to be at a ideal equilibrium to get the proper flex recoil. And, and impact on the ball.
– [Tim] They’re wood. Yeah. You know, I mean, they they’re, they’re affected by the environment just like anything else would be.
– [Rob] I thought really interesting was right after 9/11, the government reaches out to you guys to control basically patches for bioterrorism.
– [Sean] That lab that you’re talking about in Albuquerque for biotech, whatever that was for that patch. And then there’s another one for their MREs, meals ready-to-eat and Natick, Natick in, in Massachusetts. And so they, but everything was top secret that for the most part and sort of, and, and we never got any results in their testing or, or whatever. And those were opportunities that never really materialized.
– [Tim] You’re going down a list. I mean, these are things over the years, we’ve had such unique opportunities that have come our way where it, you get to understand products that you never ever thought of that might have some sensitivity to moisture. And, and.
– [Rob] Trust me, I know. Starting out in customer service here. You get some really weird phone calls. Say what? Alligator eggs that was unique. Boeing called us for the bags that they were shipping the wings in or something like that. And the bag that they wrapped it in needed to be humidified.
– [Tim] Oh, we’ve had, yeah. Car parts, you know, little plastic nylon pieces that, that are kind of like fasteners. Those would break if they’re not there.
– [Rob] Too dry, yeah.
– [Sean] Crickets was a interesting one. A local cricket company. So crickets need to be in a, if it gets too dry, they don’t live very long. And so they need to have a more humidity. And so they had these chambers and there was a local company here in the Twin Cities and they, it was buying some product.
– [Tim] Lizard and snake food.
– [Sean] Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. They’re for their reptiles. They feed the, the bait, you know, bait or feed, I guess.
– [Tim] And they won’t eat them they’re dead. So they need them to be live in order for the reptiles to eat them.
– [Rob] See. Boveda’s just helping out the next reptile to get a good meal.
– [Tim] That’s right.
– [Rob] I’m sure there’s more questions out there. Post your questions. We will get to them in the comments. We have a whole team that looks at this stuff and I don’t know. I can’t thank you guys enough. Not, not only for my job, but for changing the industry for us, for making us enjoy cigars that we want to eat, even though we don’t, but we want to eat them because they taste so good for just the whole thing. We can’t thank you enough.
– [Sean] Awesome. Thank you, Rob. We appreciate what you do. Thank you, Mr. Boveda.
– [Rob] Yeah. Right, right, right. By the way, I don’t own the company. These guys here. It’s not, you know, I’m just on camera. I’m the face. So.
– [Tim] Well, it’s been fun, but what has been exciting is bringing science to a very old industry that has done way things for a hundred years sometimes doing them them right. But not because they were scientifically doing it. They just through experimentation of their own. And, and, but as a company what’s really fulfilling is that we get to educate people. You know, we have smart people like you on our staff and Dr. Al and Bob when we started and, and that’s just continued to expand. And, and we get to look at it a different way, we’re, we’re a packaging company that has expertise. You know, we’re not cigar makers. We’ll never pretend to be. We love them. So we get nerdy in it. And like, how’s this work? Why is it working that way? But we’ve, we’ve been blessed, you know, to be in an opportunity to, to change the industry. And, you know, Carlito said it to us. He goes, if you guys say what you do, if you do what you say, you do, you will change the industry. And he, he was right. I think we really have changed the industry for the, for the better.
– [Rob] There’s another episode of Box Press. This one was behind-the-scenes of Boveda. 25 years being in the business. We’re celebrating this year. Again, if you need more Boveda head over to bovedainc.com. If you want to explore the science, we have tons of videos, tons of how to’s, check out our FAQs. And again, hats off to Sean and Tim and the rest of the crew for starting Boveda 25 years ago, we would be up a creek without a paddle without it, so. Thanks, guys.
– [Sean] Awesome. Thanks Rob.
– [Rob] Thank you.
- 08:43 Visiting the Fuente factory and estate—smoking an Opus A
- 20:09 Using an RV as a cigar lounge
- 22:37 Apple started in a garage, Boveda began in a house in St. Paul
- 25:36 Boveda revolutionizes humidor seasoning and cigar storage
- 28:52 Why did Boveda change its name from HumidiPak?
- 30:53 How do you pronounce Boveda?
- 32:06 3 steps to protect cigars with Boveda
Cigar Life Before Boveda
Let’s jump in the way-back machine to grasp how difficult it was to manage humidity in a cigar humidor before Boveda:
- We were at the mercy of manually using humidifiers that added moisture whether or not cigars needed any humidity.
- We fumbled with distilled water or sponges or various foam and chemical solutions that were messy, labor intensive and beyond frustrating.
- We squeezed in cigar shopping day-of an event to keep celebration cigars from drying out.
Since the advent of 2-way humidity control for humidors, storing and aging cigars is now effortless and efficient for cigar smokers. Just slip the brown pack into a humidor to automatically keep cigars at a precise RH for months to bring out the rich flavors of premium tobacco.
Today You Can Use Boveda To Protect Other Passions, Along With Premium Cigars
Becoming the global leader in any category doesn’t happen overnight. Becoming the global leader in a category that didn’t even exist is even harder. But that’s what Boveda continues to do. Today, millions of 2-way humidity control packets are shipped out each year around the world to protect premium cigars, regulate the environment of guitars, keep cannabis fresh, prevent brown sugar from clumping and solve other humidity problems in packaging.
Get Started With Boveda In Your Humidor
An all-in-one starter kit to season a larger humidor and protect cigars for months.Shop Now
All you need to set up a smaller humidor and keep cigars tasting great.Shop Now
Subscribe to Boveda to have replacement humidor packs regularly delivered right to you.Shop Now
Get the most accurate readings from a hygrometer by calibrating it with this kit.Shop Now