Box Press Podcast

Sledgehammer Break-In – 25,000 Stolen Cigars = Casa Cuevas La Mandarria | Ep. 61

This episode of Box Press features a not-to-be-missed true crime cigar story! Thieving jacka$$es sledgehammer their way into the back of a cigar humidor and make off with $150,000 worth of limited-edition cigars BEFORE Casa Cuevas had a chance to insure its new warehouse. Next move after installing high-tech security? Craft a new boutique cigar called La Mandarria, which translates into THE SLEDGEHAMMER. 

Hear the backstory from Casa Cuevas Cigars’ Luis Cuevas Jr. and Alec Cuevas. In 2022, the Dominican cigar company rereleased the cigar blends that disappeared in the 2019 theft as the Flaco Habano and Flaco Maduro. The father and son duo smoke 7 x 43 Flacos with Box Press host Rob Gagner. Shot on location at Miami’s Empire Social Lounge.

“I wasn’t thinking like a thief back then.”

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– There’s a story inside every smoke shop. with every cigar and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle of Boveda. This is Box Press.

– Welcome to another episode of Box Press. I am your host, Rob Gagner. I am sitting down with two legends in the industry, Luis and Alec, his son, and as you know, on the show, I love it when fathers and sons get on here because we get to play some fun games and break into some opportunities of how well do you know me. So gentlemen thanks for joining me.

– Thanks for having us.

– [Rob] Yeah, this is great.

– This is great.

– But before we started the show, people out here know the schtick I ask you four questions about your son, and then I ask your son four questions about you.

– Yeah.

– And let’s play a little game of how well do you know me and this is great for father, sons.

– I’m excited.

– Because there’s four questions. If you get less than 75% you have to dissolve your business split ties, he’ll take Patrimonio, you’ll take the rest of the brand and it’ll just be two separate brands after that, okay?

– Is that the deal?

– Yeah, yeah you have to form new entities no confidence.

– You didn’t tell me–

– If you don’t, if you get 75 or better you don’t have to do that. So.

– All right. Pay attention. Understand. Think hard, final answer this is for a million dollars, okay?

– All right, we got it.

– All right, Luis you are guessing Alec’s responses.

– [Luis] Okay.

– What did Alec say your favorite band was? What’s your favorite band?

– Band. I would think he would probably pick a singer, not necessary a band.

– Or artist? Yeah, it can be an artist.

– Then was probably be George Michael.

– You know your dad well, that is correct.

– There you go.

– Alec got number one correct. He is so far one for one.

– [Luis] Okay.

– So he he might be taking Patrimonio, if you don’t do it right.

– I gotta be careful here.

– So second question what did Alec say your favorite TV show was?

– If he’s gonna go based off what we’re watching now I don’t think I have one in particular it would be “Yellowstone.”

– Two for two.

– Two for two. He’s like, he questioned it. He’s like, he really likes a different show what was that show?

– The show at the time so I know my dad you’re a big fan of “Seinfeld” than everything.

– “Seinfeld,” yeah, you’re like he really likes “Seinfeld” but right now he’s jamming on “Yellowstone.”

– Yeah, I remember there was a point in time where he was at the house and he was watching it. I just ended up coming in doing something, I forgot what it was at the time but I walked in and I see him laying down on the couch watching “Yellowstone” he goes “I’ve been on a binge-watch this is the best damn show I’ve seen in a while.”

– Why, just good.

– It’s just really that good.

– It grabs you and you’re like sucked in.

– Yeah, the character and everything.

– But a lot of the shows that Netflix and other companies are producing are just binge-worthy.

– Yeah, and this one also.

– Oh, yeah.

– Like “Bridgerton” did you guys watch that one?

– No, I haven’t seen it, no.

– Oh, my God, you gotta watch it.

– [Luis] Okay.

– It’s like uh colonial times/slightly modern and on top of it it’s not my style at all, but I got sucked into it because it’s like a soap opera, like I wanna know what’s next. I wanna know what’s going on.

– Well, I’m going to certainly check that out, my wife and I always looking for something to binge-watch.

– “Bridgerton.”

– I’ll do it. I’ve run across it, I’ve never clicked on it.

– When you stop watching a show and you go what do I need to watch next? Just text me and I’ll be like I’ll give you six options, like six shows to watch.

– You got it, I’m gonna hold you to that.

– All right, okay next question would be what is, your what is your dad’s favorite food.

– Steak.

– So your favorite food is steak, but is there a specific steak in general that you like.

– Oh, wow.

– Like a cut or a style.

– Yeah, I like churrascos a lot.

– What is that?

– It’s an Argentinian cut. And second place would be, I like filets, I do eat a lot of filets but that would be it.

– The first one was what?

– A churrasco entrana, it’s a skirt steak.

– Is it thin? Thick?

– It’s medium, it’s really it didn’t make its way into Miami anyway until the Argentinian influx that we had and now there’s an Argentinian restaurant in every corner.

– Is that your favorite thing to make after a long trip?

– Yeah.

– You nailed it. You nailed it, he goes, “My dad really likes those thin steaks and when we come back from a long trip he always makes one.”

– There you go, that’s his go-to. His thing is cooking. I mean, if anything else.

– You like to cook?

– I love to cook.

– If it wasn’t for the cigar industry I think if anything else he’d probably open up shop. I mean, he likes to experiment all the time so pardon my language here folks, but there was a portion of time when I was at a younger age I’m still pretty young a lot of my buddies have come around I mean, as I go home, I’m whipping something up in the kitchen and he wouldn’t tell us what it was and I’d always have to prep them up ahead of time, “Listen, my father loves for individuals to come in here try his food and most of the time it’s weird shit. If you enjoy it, phenomenal. I’m just keeping you guys posted now don’t expect some chicken nuggets for dinner, it’s probably gonna be something a little bit out of the ordinary and most of the time it is. But I gotta say he he makes delectable food, I mean, it’s just amazing.

– So did you have any friends that were like, this was not good or they were pushing the food around and not really- because it was out of their wheelhouse.

– Not at all, actually I have a really good buddy of mine, he’s a Puerto Rican, not that makes any difference but I’ve known him forever and he really loves to cook so he’s got a completely different cultural palate when it comes to that side of the Hispanic culture.

– Yep.

– He will come over there was times where he’d just show up unattended simply to have dinner at the house and then he’ll go back and leave. He can vouch for this.

– Sergio, he’s such a good kid.

– He’s amazing, I love him to death.

– Such a good kid.

– So you’re famous?

– Exactly. On the cooking side.

– Infamous.

Guy Fieri. You’re next.

– No. You’re next.

– No, although I’ve done a couple of his recipes.

– You might need a wig.

– I definitely need the wig.

– you need the wig.

– If, Guy Fieri has a bad hair day I’m having a bad hair life, right? So, yeah, yeah.

– What did he say your biggest accomplishment was in life.

– In life?

– In life this is like the pinnacle I’ve done all this stuff but this has been the best thing the thing I’m most proud of.

– Raising these two, and he’s not going to say that but raising.

– Raising. Raising him and his sister.

– Raising him and his sister, family.

– I think has been, yeah, my greatest accomplishment, yeah.

– That parent love is unlike any other love in the world, there’s no words to explain it. No, there’s, the English language or any language cannot explain the feeling that comes.

– 100%.

– And it’s like you love your family, like your siblings, right? You love your mom, probably the most sometimes, mom, dad, siblings, then your wife or your spouse.

– Sure.

– There’s a love there but then once you have a kid totally different kind of love.

– Totally.

– No matchable, no.

– I wish there was a word for it because it’s not love.

– No, it goes beyond that.

– There should be different words for different types of love.

– That’s would be interesting probably, you know, even even in Spanish, which it’s a romance language if you listen to a song in Spanish, a ballad, or whatever the words are just beautiful. I would assume the same thing would occur in Italian or French for that matter, but I don’t speak either of those but even as varied as the Spanish language is and as romantic as it is, you’re right there is no word that comes to mind that goes to the point of what you’re making right now.

– Yeah.

– Yeah, so yeah, I think my biggest accomplishment is definitely he and his sister and the man he’s grown up to be and the woman my daughter has grown up to be and they’re just phenomenal kids and I still look at him as kids.

– You got it wrong.

– I know.

– He said, running two half Ironman races.

– Actually it was three but that’s okay.

– Three, you don’t even know how many he runs. Not good.

– It was a while ago to be fair.

– We won’t deduct any more points for not knowing the amount because we can’t do that but you’re sitting at 75% so that’s good.

– There you go.

– You at least as a consolation prize get to take home a box of Patrimonios.

– Right on.

– Okay.

– Right on, I’m glad you know somebody, that’s awesome.

– Yeah, I do know somebody. Now we need to know how well you know your son.

– Okay.

– So this is gonna be interesting, all right, Alec, what did your dad say, your favorite music band is.

– I’d say he’d go off, he’d probably go off to what I was listening to for a good couple years I’d say, Twenty One Pilots would be his first choice.

– Boom! I told you Twenty One Pilots.

– I love it when they get number one when they don’t get number one it kind of sets a tone for us that’s a little bit depressing but if you can get number one it’s like that’s good that’s why I don’t start out with the biggest accomplishment in life, okay? I’m smart a little bit when it comes to this.

– There you go.

– You should know somebody’s music, TV show that can get a little interesting, food you should know, so I kind of give these redemption periods, so we’ll see.

– So the thing with me now is I do like Twenty One Pilots a lot and I knew my father was going to go down that route. They really got me into alternative music when I was essentially getting into high school I found them out through essentially an Instagram advertisement. I kept on following their page. I really liked what they did and then I really jumped into the very vast world of music and you can ask my dad. I listen to everything across the spectrum .

– Yeah, your dad listens to George Michael so he’s out there, he’s getting all of it.

– So yeah, I mean, as of right now I’d say I don’t, you know, I can’t even coin a particular favorite that I listen to like consistently I really do go across the gamut when it comes to it but I say Twenty One Pilots is 100% up there.

– What’s your favorite George Michael song?

– Oh, wow, “Waiting For That Day,” which is an obscure song but.

– Yeah, okay, don’t take the top ten list, all right? It’s like what is George Michael known for, what songs, like what?

– Oh, God, that whole “Faith” album was a phenomenal album. And then he did the older album and I just you know when when he was with the Wham, whatever and I was a very young man at that point I wasn’t exactly enthralled with the whole thing but then when he came out alone and there was an article in “Rolling Stone” on the guy. It just, I’m like going, wow. Dude, first of all a phenomenal vocalist, wrote his own music and if you listen to the songs carefully the lyrics all change yeah, there’s that chorus that kind of that hook.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– But the words will change and it will change just a little bit he’ll kind of mix the words up a little bit and I just, you know, I went to see him, my wife and I went to see him in concert a couple times and, you know, he’s no longer with us, right? Bu we had a great, great time. Yeah, that’s my dude, I mean, yeah.

– That’s awesome. Yeah.

– But it’s kind of like that article from “Rolling Stone” that got you into him because once you make a personal connection to somebody or some brand, it amplifies–

– It was the article.

– Which is what we’re trying to do here with Box Press that’s why we don’t really talk about cigars hint, hint. Okay, so next, we got one great that’s great what is favorite TV show. Wait a minute who’s answering, you’re answering.

– I’d have to answer for what he would say.

– What I said for you and I struggled with this but here we are.

– Hell, I’m gonna struggle with it. I don’t know what you’d say.

– Do you not watch a lot of TV.

– I’m not a big TV watcher, I’ve never really been that big on, on media and it’s not I grew up and I still am very much so a nerd to a T so my thing is on my free time if I can smoke a cigar and afterwards I go and play some video games or I’ll go see my buddies we’re very big into board games now so I’m a nerd, 100%.

– We tried video games but he couldn’t even pull one out. He couldn’t even name one so he’s-

– Well, because he’s changing all the time.

– He knows you like the game. But he’s so far removed from it he couldn’t even name a game like “Super Mario Brothers” I thought you might have said that but he couldn’t even say that so.

– That’s the thing, so if it were to come down to TV shows I’m thinking it’s more cartoon-based I’m thinking you’d say something along the lines of “Rick and Morty,” something like that.

– Yeah, I said “Family Guy.”

– You said “Family Guy”? Okay, “Family Guy” is a pretty classic.

– You got close cartoon-based, you were close, you know, it’s tough.

– But we got it wrong.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– I got it wrong.

– He has one wrong you have one wrong.

– Okay.

– But this is the hot seat you’re in the hot seat.

– [Luis] Okay.

– Should you get another one wrong you’re below the 75%.

– I know I’m done.

– And it’s not looking good.

– I think he’ll get the next one.

– If that’s where it goes so let’s hope you can redeem yourself on what is his favorite food. What did he say your favorite food was.

– Ramen.

– Ramen? You’re going ramen?

– I went with ramen.

– You went ramen, final answer.

– You didn’t go with ramen?

– Of course I didn’t go ramen because every time we have lunch together you’re eating those chicken tender things it’s chicken this, chicken that.

– Oh, yeah, yeah, okay.

– Yeah, now but you got it wrong so I’m done.

– But there is chicken-flavored ramen, is that your favorite ramen.

– No.

– Oh, God, I gave him like you could have lied or something, it’s like a white lie. You could have told him, we could like saved the brand and the whole company could have been saved right now. You just flushed it down the toilet it’s over.

– I dropped the ball.

– You gotta dissolve the company, call the lawyer right now it’s over.

– The thing with that is like normally he’d be in the right ballpark, chicken for whatever I love chicken I do, I just no matter what and especially boneless wings as you know. He’s not too happy but he likes bone in wings so I always get the boneless and for longer–

– Those aren’t wings.

– No they’re not, people who get boneless wings have something wrong with them.

– Yes.

– Listen I think I’m doing all right–

– Unless it’s not a wing it’s chunk of white meat. What is that?

– I’m being double teamed that’s not fair.

– Well there’s two types of people those that do boneless and those that don’t and there’s a clear line down the middle. You don’t cross over somebody offers me boneless wings, you know what I say, “I’m good.”

– Yeah.

– I don’t say sure let me snack on some of that crap.

– This is how I take it but I’ve been more into ramen, ramen is my go-to as of right now.

– Well had they asked me your favorite restaurant I would have gotten that right which specializes in ramen–

– which one?

Ichimi, you’re in Miami.

– It’s in Coral Gables. That place.

– They have phenomenal ramen.

– Where did we go last night, Matt? We went somewhere for ramen last night.

– Okay.

– I’m gonna pull it up.

– Ichimi is next to Gables Cigars shop. Hachidori Ramen Bar.

– Okay.

– In Northeast. 2nd Avenue. Miami, Florida.

– You’re familiar with that one?

– Mmh. Yeah.

– You are?

– They have some pretty good meals there.

– It was okay it was good, I mean. The sticky buns were amazing.

– They make amazing sticky buns.

– Oh my God, I could have had three or four of those.

– That’s like their diamond in the rough. So you normally you’d go to this location to pick up ramen and then a variety but those sticky buns are something else.

– Sticky buns, great. What did we have we had pork belly and it’s like the bread thing but it’s very doughy it’s almost like non-cooked bread what are those called?

– The bao, the bao buns.

– Yeah.

– The bao buns

– Yeah, so the pork belly wasn’t thick enough and I told her I was like, you know, if I could give you any, you know, criticism, because I love good criticism. The pork, the meat to bread ratio matters and it just wasn’t thick enough. She goes, “No, we like that, we like that.” She went back and they she told the the chef and he goes yeah, he’s working on it like he’s trying to actually source thicker cut.

– [Alec] Nice.

– That’s great. But they got thicker cut in my pork belly ramen, so I was like I’m confused I’m like why don’t you just put this?

– [Luis] In there.

– In there, I mean, that’s all I’m asking.

– In the bao bun.

– Yeah, maybe it’s a different recipe, I don’t know? Okay, so decent ramen we like. I was thinking you were thinking like the ramen packs that are like 21 cents. You are a former like, just graduated from college, so that would make sense.

– Yeah.

– You have no money, you know, as you gotta eat what you can eat and you can only afford so much.

– They’re pretty good, I gotta be honest with you. I still like them.

– I don’t think they’re that good, you know, whatever my wife when she gets sick that’s her go-to.

– [Luis] That’s her thing. I have to run out and go get ramen. I have to, it cost me more to run out and go get it than it does to actually like just pay for it.

– Yeah, I hear you.

– I mean, it’s 21 cents a pack. When I’m there I buy like the whole shelf because I’m like I don’t wanna come back. Well what happens is she eats everything I bought before she gets sick again. I’m like woman, I’m trying to like stock up a little bit, so it doesn’t cost me eight dollars and 27 cents every time you want ramen. But that’s our thing.  What did your dad say your biggest accomplishment was?

– I see, I’m also thinking two roads, one, because he knows I’m absolutely thrilled, thrilled to be a part of this industry, especially growing up around it and just actually kind of get my hands in as of late it’s, that’s something that I’m extremely happy with, but I had to say, if I were to really choose a number one, I’d say graduating, finishing my undergrad.

– There you go.

– You skated by with a 50%, that’s really good.

– I was completely killed with the ramen.

– That was very good. He’s very happy about graduation, love it.

– Extremely.

– We failed on ramen and chicken, but it was close, it was close. I won’t make you dissolve the company. It’s okay, we wanna keep the brand going. We’ll save it for you guys, just so you can try these cigars. We are, what are we smoking right now?

– That is our 7 x 43 Flacos. That cigar, so and we’ve done the story on a few occasions. That cigar was the one that was a part of the robbery that happened with us back in 2019.

– Yeah, you guys got robbed. So you guys, I have some stats here. You got robbed of a total of 25,000 cigars, which is a total value of over a $150,000.

– It was a hefty price to pay something that we were very obviously bittersweet on.

– And this cigar was part of that robbery.

– Oh yeah, so that was actually the main reason that the robbery was an enormous, besides obviously a robbery and that’s a big deal, we were uninsured at the time and so forth, but those cigars at that time limited-edition 500-count of Habano and Maduro. And we say this all the time, if you bought a certain box because that number—they’re all numbered—they all came out of sequence, too at that so for a little bit of a backstory on that. But if you wanted a certain box because that number meant something to you, we did not know if it was stolen or if you already have received it because we sent it to a shop and there was no way to check that.

– So you had a certain amount of these that were numbered boxes go out and you had another certain amount of boxes that were numbered that got stolen.

– Correct, and we didn’t know–

– So you’re missing numbers?

– We didn’t know which was which. So I don’t know box five had been sold or robbed or box five had been stolen. I had no idea

– Did you correct that now?

– No, no.

– Because that sounds pretty nice because, you know, if I know I only sold boxes one-through-500 and somebody shows up with box 600 who’d you get this from?

– Who’d you get that from?

– Exactly. The way we solved it now is the inventory that came now. Because we relaunched this at TPE this year and let me give you a little backstory on that when those were stolen we didn’t replace them, that line was discontinued.

– You didn’t replace them.

– We never replaced them at all.

– You didn’t call up the factory and say, “Boy I need those back.”

– No, no because the boxes again had come out of sequence and I just couldn’t do that 10-count boxes, very elegant boxes and they were numbered, so that out of the entire lineup was discontinued. What happened along the way was people would over the course of time kept showing up whether it be a podcast or we’d go to an event somewhere and somebody would show up with one of these things like a unicorn, like look what I’ve got. I’ve got an original one. I’m saving these last two because 10-count box is very few and for somebody hang on to them that long and there was this clamor to bring them back, bring them. So last year we had them rolled and boxed. We made 750 this time and the boxes themselves to differentiate them from the others, first, they’re 750 that was 500, but they also have the year 2021 engraved on top of the box itself. It was four years between 2018 and 2022 when we just launched these, so when the 750 are gone. Both the Maduro and the Habano it’ll be 2025 when they’ll be rolled and 2026 when they’ll be launched, so it’ll be four years. Once they’re gone ,they’re gone. And essentially it was really more for those folks that were a fan of that size to begin with were clamoring for it. And it’s a fun project, so that’s what we’ve done but, you know, they’re coming now from where they came from the factory in boxes, master cases. Where the numbers are written on, so I know exactly what’s in each. This is a whole different ball game. The first time they just came and now we’ve got numbered boxes, so I know exactly what I’ve sold. Like we took out box number one and number two for Alec and myself, we’ve got those. I’ve got friends of mine who have purchased them specifically a certain number, shops have purchased specific numbers now we know what’s gone and what’s there, yeah.

– Even better than.

– The break-in actually turned into a positive because this guy right here since we didn’t have the Flacos and we couldn’t make up that money he comes up with the “Sledgehammer,” La Mandarria, which is sledgehammer in Spanish because the individuals who broke into our warehouse took a sledgehammer, broke in through the wall in the alleyway and then cut into the humidor.  They stepped in and then they never opened up the humidor door, there by not triggering any the alarms. I didn’t have sensors inside. Now I do, but whatever, don’t judge me. I wasn’t thinking like a thief back then. I thought the only way you could get to the humidor was the front door, the bay door, the back door, you know?

– Yeah, why didn’t they go through a door it seems like a lot easier to smash through a door.

– Had they gone through the door, the alarm would have triggered.

– Ah, that’s why.

– And that’s why I think they use the sledgehammer…

– That’s the thing, even though the humidor door, like my father just finished saying was alarmed, so they were smart enough to understand that going through the front would mean the alarms would siren off so they went through the back.

– And they needed a lot of time because they’re passing boxes out of this little sledgehammered spot.

– Yep, five hours.

– Five hours they were there?

– Five hours.

– Oh yeah, you can’t go through the front door. You got like five minutes.

– They got spooked at one point, they left, they covered up the hole with some piece of plywood. I mean, everything’s caught on camera.

– Did you watch the full five hours?

– No, we started, you know, we fast forwarded certain videos the, the cameras are all placed throughout the alleyway and our neighbors all had different angles. So there was a lookout car in the front. We saw the car pull up, turn the lights on suddenly,  go, you know, get spooked, come back because somebody in the front the location is no longer available right now. The company’s no longer available, they came in the middle of the night for whatever reason was Sunday night and they showed up, so the guy flashes the lights, the guys run away, they come back, yeah, it was it was very painful to watch, very orchestrated.

– Very dedicated.

– And as we spoke earlier, I mean, they I think it’s the same dudes they’ve hit several, several companies here in Miami. Cigar companies.

– [Rob] Correct. We’re not the only ones, no one’s ever been caught which is a mystery to me but.

– Yeah, what do you do with the tobacco? I mean, it’s all banded,  in the box, you gotta break it down and sell it?

– Sledgehammer was born in July for the for the PCA that year and we took a sledgehammer with us and it was gonna be a limited run. It was going to be one and done.

– The “Sledgehammer” cigar.

– Yeah.

– Yeah, “La Mandarria.”

– Which is great idea.

– Thank you.

– It was great and it became probably our second best seller, I think, out of the entire lineup, so now it’s part of the rotation.

– It wasn’t a limited edition then?

– It was gonna be,  but now it’s no longer a limited edition.

– Because it was so successful.

– Correct, and that cigar would not have been even given thought too had it not been for that break-in.

– And you guys left it as a shaggy foot?

– Yeah and

– Why?

– Well, I wanted something a little different because it looks a lot like our Habano Toro, although it’s completely different blend. So I wanted that and then that became a conversation piece with consumers, when you light up that shag foot you’re smoking filler and binder.

– Yeah, no wrapper.

-No wrapper. And then when the wrapper kicks in, it changes the cigar completely. So what happened would be when I would meet a consumer and we’d talk about this I go, “Listen you’re gonna be smoking through filler and binder for a few minutes and then the wrapper is gonna kick in and you’re gonna notice how much difference that wrapper makes in a cigar.” And it’s really, really accentuates the difference, yeah, and it became kind of like the consumers come back and go, “Hey, man you’re right.” I go, “Yeah, there you go.” So now, you know, that wrapper does play an important part in the construction of that cigar and the flavor profile absolutely.

– Tasting experience just like closed foot is all wrapper

– Yep.

– Yep.

– And you can taste it.

– Exactly.

– It’s the exact same thing except.

– I don’t toast closed foot cigars because I wanna taste it so I quickly light it and take a few puffs to what does that wrapper tasting like.

– Yup.

– Yup.

– So it’s the opposite, shaggy foot is the opposite.

– It’s the opposite.

– I love it. But I thought maybe shaggy foot because of just the complete and total dishevelment of the building and like the whole like, you now, it’s not a perfectly cut hole.

– That’s a better answer but, no, it was just–

– Okay, that’s my answer, so we made it a shag foot because they broke through our wall and it’s just utter chaos and that’s what the shag foot represents. You guys want me to join the marketing team?

– Absolutely.

– Okay, I’m in for this.

– And during the pandemic, I was really terrified for a couple of months because the factory shut down and I thought, you know, nobody’s working because we don’t know how long it was gonna be. But people stopped working, right? Everything was shut down—even Florida shut down. But if you got disposable income, and you’re not getting an income from your particular job, you’re gonna spend it on food, electricity, things that are much more important than this.  And lo and behold, people started drinking and smoking and it was incredible. It was just amazing. There was an uptick in cigars sales. I know there was an uptick in liquor sales.

– Oh, yeah.

– And it became a boom for us ,and it’s still going on. This is reminiscent of what happened in the ’90s .There was this huge boom in the ’90s of cigars and cigar smokers. The difference between now and then—this is a mini boom compared to that, but boom compared to that, but now there’s a boom going on but all the manufacturers, I think are doing the very best they can to come out with the very best product they can.

– Right.

– In the ’90s ,it was just crap.

– Right.

– You could literally wrap a dog turd with some kind of crappy tobacco leaf and people were buying it. I remember seeing cigars where when these are finished and they’re going through packaging oftentimes a wrapper will break. Well, that’s discarded and re-wrapped. You can’t sell that. Back in the ’90s, you would put a patch on it. You’d get a little piece of wrapper that matches it and you glued it on.

-There are still some people who do that.

-That should not be done.

– I know.

– That should not be done.

– But in the ’90s—

– I just put a patch on it.

– Yeah, just put patch on it.

– Put the plywood over the hole.

– Yeah, yeah, exactly it’s unbelievable.

– Maybe that’s the next cigar “Plywood Patch”

– The Patch

– The Patch.

– The Patch. Patches, patches there, patches everywhere all over the cigar.

– Patches all over it but make it very artistic patches.

– Absolutely, that’s a good idea.

– And it doesn’t even need to be a patch, but it’s just The Patch.

– You can call it Patch.

– Yeah.

– You’ll get credit for that if it does come out.

– Great, thank you. It’s your guy’s story ,not mine.I love it. Your brand actually first debuted in 2017.

– 2017, April 1, to be exact.

– Any reasons for April 1st, or just that.

– My grandmother’s birthday.

– Your what? My grandmother’s birthday.

– That’s when you wanted the release.

– But it was, yeah.

– You’ve never talked about why you launched.

– No, it was April 1st,

– On April 1st.

– On April 1st.

– It was my martial grandmother’s birthday.

– April Fool’s joke or any, “Hey, hey we’re launching.”

– No. No, my grandmother’s birthday, yeah.

– That’s awesome. Yup.

– Why your grandmother’s birthday? Why is that the most important?

– It just we were ready to launch and it could have been maybe memory serves a week earlier or a week later why not pick that particular date when it had a meaning to me, in other words we weren’t ready to launch in February.

– Right.

– And certainly late March we’re ready, why not just wait a little bit more and then remember the exact date, not just some arbitrary like March 27, or something.

– What does it mean to launch, though? Does that mean you’re gonna start selling that day or you’ve already sold,  these are out in the shops and now you’re gonna say the grand opening.

– Well, you know, guess we don’t have a grand opening, right, because we’re…

– Right, you’re in shops.

– Exactly, so the launch we actually went to my local shop in Miami, it’s called Masters. There’s a big connection there, between I know you talked to Jack Toraño yesterday, who’s a dear friend. Master is owned by a gentleman in Felipe.

– [Rob] Okay.

– And it’s on 8th and 139th and that is the closest shop to me, it’s within two miles.

– It’s right around the corner.

– And so he had worked for a long time with Toraño and that Toraño family have a deep deep love for and it seemed to be the the place to do it so we did it and launch means you actually at this point you’ve sold them in different locations to some degree but you do the official, “Hey everybody, come on out.”

– PR launch, get the media out there.

– Yeah, yeah, yep.

– I’m glad you haven’t shared that with anyone else. It’s a Box Press exclusive.

– That’s actually a very true statement, that hasn’t been shared.

– See keep watching the show, you only get stuff here as if that matters to me, I don’t know, maybe it does. And that burglary happened just two years later in 2019.

– February 11.

– How big of a hit does that make on financials? I mean, it’s all about cash flow and buying product and more importantly this is product that you can’t, you can’t just be like, “Hey, distributor I need more.” No, you gotta go, do we even have enough tobacco to roll this stuff again?

– My dad came in, I mean, because we have the factory, right? I think without the factory, back track, as Alec mentioned in passing that we were uninsured. We had moved into the location just a few weeks earlier after we had revamped it, we had just bought it and I didn’t have the fire extinguishers yet out, so we hadn’t even called an insurance company to come and insure and.

– And that’s the only reason why it was uninsured?

– Yeah, it was uninsured.

– Because it was too new and you moving into the lease.

– We’ve been there I think three weeks before we got broken into.

– Yeah, it was close to a month.

– Yeah, so in three weeks.

– Because when you told me you weren’t insured I was like why you’re not insuring this valuable product?

– That was the reason so we were just not prepared and it was a big hit I remember calling my father and letting him know what happened and he says, “Hey, relax by Friday I’ll have cigars over there for you.” and sure enough you ship them and then a couple weeks later we caught up and everything–

– But your dad doesn’t get emotionally

– [Luis] My dad’s Mr. Spock.

– Cuban, right?

– [Luis] He’s Cuban.

[Alec] Yes, sir.

– And you say, and we’ve talked that Cubans are very passionate and very, they talk with their hands and they’re loud and.

– [Luis] Yep.

– But that’s not your dad so that, it’s not.

– It’s not all across–

– It’s not all across the board there’s different types of people and so if you told your dad I’m selling Casa Cuevas for three billion dollars.

– [Luis] He would sit there and say that’s phenomenal and that’s the end of it.

– [Alec] It’s true.

– I’d be jumping up and down, really.

– Mr. Spock.

– I’m not living here anymore, I’m going, I’m out, I’m traveling.

– Yeah, exactly.

– I’m gonna go buy a motor home and follow Dave Matthews on tour.

– There you go, that’s cool.

– I’m gonna be at every show, front row, “What up, Dave?” Okay, what would you do if you become financially independent and wealthy? What would you, what would your lottery ticket like buy be like? Mine’s a motor home and go follow my favorite band across the country.

– Prior to the pandemic, I mean, let’s assume this is gonna pass.

– Yeah, lets.

– I would love to take a cruise around the world

– Private cruise or public cruise?

– No, it could be a public cruiser I wouldn’t have a problem with it but.

– You’re a billionaire.

– [Alec] I know.

– That’s three commas think about it, one, two, and three, most people only get to maybe two.

– That’s a lot of zeros, right?

– There’s not a lot of people in the three comma club.

– You’re right.

– And you’re in the three comma club you could buy your own private yacht have your own private captain and you’re gonna go get on a public.

– I’m thinking like a guy that’s not a billionaire so.

– You’re gonna be on Carnival.

– But I’d like to, no.

– The dude, the billionaire on Carnival.

– Maybe I’d buy one of the ships from Carnival. But I think I would that.

– You could buy Carnival.

– What I wouldn’t do is I wouldn’t retire, though. I would not stop working.

– Well, no but I’m just saying have fun for a minute.

– I do that, cruise around the world I think would be kind of cool.

– What would you do, Alec?

– I don’t know, if anything else, I’d most likely I’d like to go ahead and place a lot of that into investments so first off actually getting properties.

– We’re talking about fun stuff.

– For fun, so none of that, aside.

– We’re not talking investments or 401Ks.

-For fun. I tell you what because I do love traveling a good amount I’m also very big into photography, it’s just I love photography. I feel like there’s an amazing art to it. I’d see myself if I did have that budget going to locations that normally you’d need to spend a pretty penny on so checking out all of Asia for example, where if you wanted to get a flight now to Japan a year in advance it’s close to about $1,100 so that right off the bat I get covered, right? And that’s minute in comparison to $3,000,000,000.

– You could take a private jet to Japan, you don’t need to plan a year in advance.

– That’s the thing, but.

– Get the plane ready, I’m going.

– See I do that and then I’d also.

– You guys aren’t thinking like three comma people here let’s get up in the, let’s get up there.

– Stratosphere, yeah.

– And I’d also most likely put it into an island if I can get a separate island

– You’d buy an island? I’d buy an island.

– There’s a Jeff Bezos over here.

– Yeah, yeah, I know.

– You’re not, I mean, it’s three commas but, I mean, you know how much is the whole island maybe it’s the whole three billion.

– That’s the thing but I even then and that I feel like I would be–

– So then you’re just a poor guy on a $3,000,000,000 island.

– Yeah, with a camera.

– with a camera.

– [Luis] With a camera.

– I’m really simple you can ask my dad I’ve always just kind of been like that I’m not the type to really ask for much and.

– Actually, to a fault.

– I don’t know you guys seem like pretty flashy guys to me

– Yeah, right, we struggle his mom and I, getting them, getting him particularly a gift for birthday or Christmas or anything like that because he just doesn’t ask for anything. He really doesn’t.

– Yeah, you guys do gifts? My family stopped. My wife’s family pretty much stopped doing gifts.

– [Luis] We do the gifts.

– And we do experiences now so there’s four couples and each couple per quarter picks a weekend. And they do an event so we’ve done like bowling, we’ve gone and seen art shows, we’ve done camping, we’ve done pottery so it’s kind of like if it’s my my wife and I’s weekend, we pay for the majority of everything and then that’s our gift to everyone an experience.

– I like that.

– Yeah, it’s fun, it’s a lot of fun and I don’t have to worry about like, oh what is her mom like, what does her dad like, oh I know her dad way better than her mom, and oh, man I wish I had him.

– [Luis] I get it.

– You know what I mean?

– I like that.

– Yeah, it’s great. I might steal some of that.

– People are more inclined to talk about experiences than they would gifts most definitely so same thing similar to traveling.

– Yeah, I don’t think the last time I talked about something was a gift I got.

– No, now that’s true.

– I talked about something we did together.

– We’re we’re big on the travel thing and that’s the point I always bring up we’ve been fortunate enough to travel with these kids. Sister is not here, as a family quite a bit and travel always comes up much more than whether it be you went to a place or you’ve been to a place where I wanted to go and visit or hey I visited that place too and then we’ll talk about that commonality. But, yeah, I’ve never talked about I don’t know a watch, or a pair of shoes or whatever the hell it may be. I just, yeah, you’re right, gifts never really come up. You’re absolutely right, yeah we’re a firm believer in that.

– You guys travel as a family every year like do you take one trip as a family every year.

– We used to take a couple as a family every year the factory shuts down into summers.

– In the summer?

– And forgive me, in the summers? In the winter.

– I was gonna say, boy, that’s not a good idea but whatever you decide to do with your factory is up to you, my friend. That’s a secret sauce every factory we do it different. We shut down during the busy time.

– Absolutely, when we’re scheduled to Vegas for the convention.

– We don’t like to launch any new products, we’re good.

– That’s not in our wheelhouse.

– But a couple we do things like we spent thanksgiving with my family in Scotland, we went to Edinburgh a couple years ago before the pandemic or, you know, we’ll we’ll take a trip during spring break when they were in college and we went to London just for a couple days.

– Just a couple days to London that’s a long flight man that’s like.

– We did in Edinburgh, which is a long flight as well. We did Wednesday, Thanksgiving, Friday and then that Saturday we came back on a Sunday. It was four days.

– Oh, I’m not doing that, I wanna be there for a week I went to Spain and I was there for two weeks.

– We’ve done the Spain thing several times–

– For 10 days, I don’t know?

– But, yeah, we do a lot of like these mini trips.

– That’s good though that you guys can do that because that just and is it like.

– It’s awesome.

– Do you Airbnb it or do you get a hotel? And then do you have like an itinerary schedule like you wanna try to get everything in.

– My wife’s really good about setting the itinerary but when you visit a city for that short of time you can focus on that city and then not really miss out on a lot of stuff–

– You don’t feel like you’re hustling to get. You wanna spend less time traveling once you get there and more time experiencing.

– Correct and we’ve done that.

– That’s smart, that’s good advice.

– And it’s worked out. So anyway yeah we’ve done stuff like that, we’ve actually traveled a lot as a family my wife and I have been on trips without he and his sister, I think maybe three times in our lives and that’s about it, mostly they were, now they’re getting older and it’s a little more difficult. The rest of the time they’ve always gone with us. Always gone with us.

– That’s impressive.

– Even when they were tiny.

– Yeah, now that you’re gonna be an empty nester though it’s gonna be very interesting how that is gonna change.

– Well, it’s changing already. Yeah.

– Yeah. You can sense it and you feel it.

– And they’re doing trips on their own too with their friends and they take off and so, yeah, we’re comfortable.

– Cancun, here I come.

– That’s the thing though I really do like checking out new locations and I do follow by that principle of you’re, it’s better off to spend the minimal amount of time actually getting there and it’s more so about experiencing it.  But I’m very on the road. I like to be on the road. I like to see different little locations, find niche spots. And it’s not all about bars, it’s not all about that sort of thing for me, it’s a lot of the different food, the culture, in that regard and it’s also about you come across something that the locals consider to be a diamond in the rough. And those are the really cool locations you get to come across.

– yeah, you wanna get connected with the locals.

– [Alec] Exactly.

– And you just came back from three weeks of being on the road in Texas and Philadelphia, no Pittsburgh and then where, TPE, you’re at TPE so Vegas.

– Vegas and California a week after that, before that.

– California. Yeah.

– So the one thing that I always do especially like the cigar community is very gracious and like the hospitality that any cigar brand or maker or person gives me is always second to none. And I got here, we got taken out, and we sit down for food and he asks, “What do you guys like to eat?” And I go, you know, what, “We’ll eat anything and the best thing that you can gift us right now is just ordering for us.” So he’s like, really? I was like, yeah, and he just orders everything in Spanish, so I have no idea what’s coming and when it hits the table we just, we go, we try, and experience because I learned at a very young age. I hated the way something looked, so I didn’t wanna try. So there’s like a hot dish, you guys know what hot dish is?

– Yes, sir.

– Luis, I love your face right now. What’s hot dish? Welcome to the Midwest. Basically you take maybe like the ingredients might be like a potato or rice or some sort of starch then some sort of meat some sort of vegetables and then like some sort of sauce put it all together and bake it, that’s a hot dish.

– Okay.

– And then you just spoon it out and it’s like you don’t need anything else with the meal because everything’s in there, they’ve vegetables, meat and starch you’re good to go so there was a hot dish and it looks like crap, it looks like porridge, it looks like stuff you would serve in prison or concentration camp. It’s like not great, but it tastes amazing because it’s great ingredients, right?

– Yep.

– So, I learned that early on, I was like no, you know, I was like five, six, seven years old, I don’t want that. He said just try it. I tried it, I was like I want more, so now I just carry that little lesson. It may not look great, it may not be something that I think I’ll like, but I have to try.

– Yeah.

– In order to know.

– Definitely.

– And once you try it then you could say, no. But if you say, no, in the beginning well, no, is you never had it before anyway so that’s the same.

– [Alec] Yeah.

– But, no, I didn’t like is, I said yes to trying.

– [Luis] Yep, it’s really neat.

– I’m on this whole kick of saying yes and no, it’s like a big philosophy in my life right now.

– Well, yeah, we talked too earlier about this.

– Yeah, yeah, no is status quo, yes, you actually have to do something. Did you resurrect the Casa Cuevas Reserva brand?

– Yeah, originally it was called Cuevas Habanos and my dad and my uncle had attempted this in the ’90s, early 2000s to come out with a brand and it was actually sold in of all the places in Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, it never went anywhere it didn’t do anything.

– Not in Miami?

– Not in Miami–

– Boy you are out of your wheelhouse operating in Kansas City what are we doing, Dorothy what are we doing in Kansas right now?

– In Kansas and…

– Why Kansas?

– We have a distant relation called Ivan his name is Ivan Cuevas, I’ve never met the gentleman and my uncle and my dad.

– Or just because he shares the same last name.

– Well, he’s related to us somewhere along the way.

– Yeah, yeah.

– And, Ivan, was in charge of selling these things over there in Kansas City.

– Did he own a shop or just?

– I mean, there was a couple of shops that I got the names of.

– Ivan didn’t own a shop.

– No.

– He’s a cigar broker.

– He was our cigar sales guy yeah, I don’t know what the arrangement was between my uncle and my dad and Ivan but that’s the only place we were being sold and that faltered and it faltered in a hurry so when I revived it I couldn’t trademark the word Habano.

– Right.

– So, but the FDA allowed you to change it you could keep the line because it’s a grandfathered product so it pass muster with the FDA and the regulations and whatnot, way when back when they were like they were essentially hanging a guillotine over the entire industry so they would allow you to come out with the same sizes, same box count and you could change the name though so we called it Reserva and that’s the way that came up.

– Nothing against Kansas by the way, great–

– By the way I love that part of the country we’ve gone there several times.

– But it’s just not the spot that I would probably launch a cigar.

– The guy was living there I love Kansas City.

– Right, okay. So that’s that. Did the blend change, though?

– No, we tried to keep it as much as we could but, I mean, clearly crops change.

– Right, but did you have the same types–

– Of ingredients that we did, yes.

– Okay.

– It stayed true to form. Say true to form and and that’s–

– Did you have any of those cigars to smoke to see what it tasted like or is it all off of memory.

– No, my dad has all the blends of anything we’ve ever done written down and he writes it by hand.

– Where does he keep those.

– He keeps them in the filing cabinet right next to his desk behind him on the right hand side bottom drawer.

– You got a sledgehammer I can borrow? Is that thing locked or is it just open? Maybe I don’t even need a sledgehammer.

– It’s just open.

– It’s just open.

– It’s just open

– You guys I’m gonna help you with security problems. Lock up the recipe and get security on the inventory and then insure that stuff, okay?

– Insure that stuff right, absolutely.

– Do you have copies of this notebook? You might want some redundancies, like digital redundancies, paper redundancies, possibly.

– I don’t think there’s any copy.

– I think Marisol has gotten a couple copies.

– Has she gotten some?

– She shared a few with me that I ended up seeing.

– There’s this thing called the bank that has like a lock box for you called the safety deposit box.

– Really, there’s one of those?

– I think you might wanna invest in a couple. One in the D.R. or Nicaragua, where they where are the cigars being made?

– Dominican Republic, Santiago.

– We’ll get one in the Dominican, get one in Cayman because that’s just like that’s like the Wild Wild West nobody thinks to look in Cayman and then also get one here so you’ll have like a triple redundancy. We back up all of our footage three times so just, you know, word to the wise.

– You know, it’s interesting my dad writes everything even the bookkeeping that he does for the factory everything’s by hand and every once in a while the internet has gone down at the factory and they don’t miss a beat. It’s just because he does it old school, I mean, literally everything is done by hand.

– I don’t need the internet to do my work here we go.

– Yep.

– Payroll. Yeah that’s still going out don’t worry about I know how much you made this week.

– [Alec] That’s interesting.

– Do you think that we’ve relied too heavily on technology in our lives?

– I do, but it’s indispensable, right? But I do, I do think–

– There’s a change though, I mean, I can’t I can only remember my childhood phone number and my wife’s phone number because I have to type it in for grocery points.

– [Alec] Okay.

– Yeah, but other than that.

– But when we were growing up you remembered everybody’s number.

– Yeah, if right now if I get arrested and my wife doesn’t answer I’m staying at the jail because I’m, do you know any other phone numbers? No sir, I don’t. Can I look at my phone? No sir, you cannot. Okay, I’m stuck here.

– Yeah, yep, I hear you.

– I mean, could you rattle off your wife’s phone number?

– Yeah.

– How about could you rattle off your dad’s phone number? How many phone numbers you got memorized?

– Six.

– Six. How many you have memorized?

– Oh, I got a lot more than six.

– More than six? You still have more than six?

– He’s really good with numbers, though.

– You’re good with numbers?

– And with memorization.

– I got a lot more than six.

– I got like two numbers memorized.

– But you forgot all the others then.

– Oh, yeah, because my phone half the time I’m like what’s the name it’s under? What name did I put it under? That’s my problem, I have to put cigars in a lot of things so then I just type in cigars and then it’s like, oh that’s right Luis Cuevas, that’s the guy I’m looking for. I’m looking for Alec, yeah, not an X with a C. I screwed it up, you know, it happens.

– I don’t know I wouldn’t say that I’d say the way things are going I don’t think we’re relying too much per se on technology I but then again I’m from a different generation, right? I think I’m Generation Z as a matter of fact.

– I don’t know what the hell you guys are.

– Yeah, I think I’m Z, 2001.

– They stopped counting after the Millennials because everything just went to, you know.

– Yeah.

– Like it’s a technology industry okay great.

– That’s it, it’s like it’s it helps although I’m also not a big believer that you should absolutely lose your marbles if you don’t have technology available. That’s something that to me doesn’t personally make a lot of sense however I do get it a lot of individuals have plenty of their contacts numbers that you need to remember, emails you need to look into that you have at your pocket it’s at your disposal.

– Oh, yeah, the phone has become a portable office.

– I think because even more than that.

– I think of my phone as that, I mean, all the a bunch of stuff it’s on here so when when you lose your phone or misplace it which I’m really absent-minded with stuff I’m more afraid of what may be on the phone that I’ve lost that I need to contact someone or I got it than I am about the phone itself I could give a crap about the phone.

– No, it’s more the connection that it plugs you into, the convenience.

– Correct.

– It’s the adaptation of it so and just like back in the day you had to memorize everybody’s number, you had to go through a phone book and pull up everybody’s accounts actually call and dialed manually and now.

– You really had to call Empire Social Lounge and say, is Luis and Alec in the shop? Yeah, they are. You wanna talk to them? Sure, nowadays is get you on your own phone like that’s so weird.

– It is.

– But, you know, you know what I’ve always fascinated me as cool as email is, as interesting as it is and we can do text, and all that the fax, the fax machine. I remember just thinking about a fax. You get a piece of paper and it’s got some ink on it and you send it to I don’t know Tokyo, Japan, to talk about, you know, and boom they get it. I just, I mean that was kind of cool.

– It’s unbelievable.

– It was kind of cool way back when, right? Who has the fax anymore? But-

– You can take through a phone line letters and text and then make it come out basically on another printer and then why is the fax line so secure? They’re like, oh, we can’t accept email but we can accept fax, why?

– Why, I know.

– Because there’s somebody over there by the fax machine guarding it. Do not look at this piece of paper coming up. Half the time it falls on the ground face up and everyone can see it- there’s your social security number everything else.

– Absolutely.

– What are you talking about this is more secure? So, Alec, you were named director of operations in 2020.

– Yes, sir.

– What does that mean, director of operations?

– Director of operations in my position means keeping track of all the reports and doing the commissions making sure that other local shops if they don’t have representation, proper representation in that territory that I call on them make sure they’re doing all right. Checking up on the back orders and making sure we get that out as soon as possible. Maintaining that relationship with the brokers as well not only to make sure they’re content but also in the same notion of they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and most of the time they are, right? So it’s not, you know, jumping into the fray of things, especially with that title being handed towards me that’s not something you can just outright.

– That title was handed to you?

– By my father, yes sir.

– Your what?

– My father, yes sir, he was like, you know, what as at this point.

– But you didn’t earn that title. Director of operations.

– That’s the thing so back before I was director of operations I was essentially the packaging department, so I’d put things together and I would I remember doing drives over to like let’s say, Stuart, Florida, a two hour trip to go over there and drop off product and make the trip back. I had a blast doing it, don’t get me wrong.

– You’re a glorified delivery unit.

– Exactly, UPS, give me a call.

– Put the pizza thing on the top and head out.

– There you go and you’re good to go.

– The Casa Cuevas Pizza hood.

– Yeah, it was a the Cuevas car or whatever you’d like to call even then. I had a lot of fun doing that because I still had the availability to go see shops and still show my face around so they knew who, you know, the lineage and everything else.

– But you weren’t directing operations.

– Not at that moment in time we had another director of sales Gabriel Alvarez, who recently passed away but even on that notion when I did end up how it occurred and I don’t actually talk about this very often, so something else that you can only catch on Box Press, my father when we were doing the numbers and everything else says, you know, what I’m gonna put you in a position of director of operations and it was, I said okay, I said let’s do it but obviously it’s it’s nerve-wracking as hell. You don’t go to college for being director of operations, most of the time they don’t give that information to you on paper you’re not taking exams on it, so it was really nerve-wracking. I didn’t quite know what that position entailed at least for the company end point.

– You just did the easiest thing box up orders and deliver them.

– And at that time though I couldn’t really do much else though yeah, now I’m the operation side of things. So but here’s the thing, I had a lot, you know, I recently graduated, so back then I was still starting off in college. At that point in time, I was hell even a freshman if not sophomore, and I had a lot of classes and I had a lot of stuff going on. I was studying for accounting, jumping into that program that FIU has, which is where I went to school. They have an immense program but you really have to study hardcore for it. Given that time that I allocated towards actually packaging up and everything else if I were to do hence what I’m doing now, I don’t think I would have done too well in my studies. Some of that really required a good amount of my attention and to really divvy it I think it was well thought out if anything else, I got to a certain portion where I took my exam to enter the intermediate class and everything there was been history and I had that opportunity available to me a lot more free time to actually learn that aspect of things so when my father said, you’re gonna take the mantle of director operations, I was thrilled and I felt that it was a great time to do it. I did not know what I was doing at first a lot of that came from Gabriel Alvarez, who was a huge mentor when it came to actually running the systems, which should be done properly in accordance to how he’s been doing it and he was doing phenomenal for us before I even jumped onto the board full time. So all that aside my position right now and not only is it a blast and I’m not gonna consider it easy by the slightest a lot of numbers and a lot of different paperwork you do need to end up doing for export and import regulations, for certain shops that have issues with their credit cards sometimes hunting down shops when it comes to a payment that maybe is a little bit overdue, things like that do take time and it’s a relatively tedious position but it’s one that I’m extremely grateful for and one that’s taught me a lot on that business managerial aspect of things when it comes to helping nurture a brand.

– So you learn more from Gabriel than possibly your father on how to be a director of operations.

– Exactly.

– You were never really the director of operations.

– No, I just gotta sign the pay checks.

– You always just hire somebody smarter than that.

– Absolutely.

– Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Alec really does a really good job and he’s gotten a handle on it and as the brand has grown, we travel a great deal to visit accounts and to give them support, a lot of times we’ll visit accounts meaning out of state just to say thank you, it’s not even a sales call. We just drop by. We go to Phoenix three or four times a year and, you know, half those times they’ve already purchased whatever they’re purchasing. I’m not going for an event we’re going just to say, “Hey, thank you so much for carrying our product and we really appreciate.” All we do is just smoke a cigar. Well, as we’ve expanded our territories, we can’t be at two places at once, so sometimes we’ll divvy it up and Alec will go by himself he was just in Texas by himself.

– Oh, right.

– As of this week.

– And doing the job of being essentially the brand owner you know, he carries the last name.

– So why not change the title to that.

– That’s me only.

– A founder or.

– Because as of right now it’s which is an interesting point. Yeah, but even that so I was talking about this in Texas and they call it principles, essentially you’ve the principles come in, which is a term that although it’s coined and it is used at least domestically here in the States and probably universal at that, but something I’ve never heard before because he’s considered the president of the company but we’re both considered the principal because we’re literally a two-man show.

– Right.

– Excuse me, especially down here where we’re packaging department, shipping department, complaints department. I clean the bathrooms

– The janitorial-

– Like the whole nine, we do it all. So it’s and it’s also fun I have to say on a side note to go out to these locations in these territories and they’re expecting an individual that’s more in his, you know, his mid years. He’s been smoking for a good portion of time. He’s got that lineage with them, but it shows. Whether in the wrinkles, or the laugh lines whatever the case may be so to have a young schmuck like me walk through the door, who the heck is this guy? Like well I’m, Alec Cuevas, director of operations and right off the bat the biggest thing that I’ve received and it’s also another not really a con something that I consider bittersweet is that I’ll walk through a door with my position and a lot of shopkeepers and shop owners, even managers, customers, you name it, will look at me in the first glance they’ll be like what does he know about cigars that I haven’t picked up in my lifetime? And I always, you know, I’m very honest truthful with it and it’s to say maybe I possibly haven’t had that experience under my belt, of course not, I have been smoking for only a few years, at this point. A hefty amount of time and a good variety, but possibly not like these individuals that have been smoking for 20 to 25 plus years have been running their shops since God knows how long. So to come through and give them the experience on my side of things as a distributor and they see that knowledge and that gives me that little token of respect from them that is that is tremendous to me it makes all the difference in the world and not necessarily for sales but in terms of keeping that connection strong because at the end of the day like my father said, I am one of the individuals of this industry. And makes, you know, looking at it you can look at my father and immediately you’ll understand he’s the president of the company and it fits his bill. You look at somebody like me, I’m 23 years old, a younger individual walking through your shop, you might as well, you won’t know know me from him and Adam. I’m a consumer. I’m, you know, the guy who’s gonna replace the AC. I could be anything.

– Right.

– But to be associated as director of operations for a brand, most people get taken back by that.

– Why not sales manager? Director or national sales director?

– We didn’t wanna take that title of director sales from Gabriel Alvarez, so he started off with us from the beginning and we even even from when he left, we wanted him and only him to keep that title.

– Oh, he already had that title. He wasn’t the operations guy.

– No, Gabriel was director of sales. He was the guy.

– But he also operations.

– He did but that was his title director of sales. His cards the director of sales and when Gabe left and wound up in the construction industry. I just wanted to keep that aside. So he became director of operations. And piggybacking, I mean, if the company keeps going the way it’s going and we keep growing then sometime in the future Alec will be promoted to something else.

– Yeah, because we actually need a director of operations in that spot.

– Exactly.

– Not that he hasn’t already earned it.

– He’s earned it.

– But are you’re gonna have to get another director of operations in that spot because he needs to move on to being a principal.

– Correct, except he can be a principal, be director of operations. If I’m president of the company and I freaking clean toilets just as well and sweep and and mop and do all the stuff that a president wouldn’t do and he very well can have a a title that means something else perhaps and still do what he’s doing the grunt work, I mean.

– But that’s the never ever give up attitude, never give up, be humble.

– Yep, exactly.

– You’re humble enough to clean a toilet and you never give up. So the title. A title is a title. I do whatever it takes to move Casa Cuevas forward.

– And that’s where at.

– That’s where we’re at.

– I mean, and I, you know, they’re small companies, mom-and-pop shops. We are as small as it gets right, with my dad running the factory and Alec and I doing the stuff over here to promote the brand, give it the support it needs, really all of it. So we’re pretty much as small as you can get, even when the cigars sometimes don’t come out the way we want them to. There’s been issues with, let’s say binder or some cigars are just not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I can’t really point a finger and say it’s the factory’s fault, because I am the factor, right. So, I’m just pointing at myself and so you know we take that very much to heart and our motto has always been the customer’s always right and the customer is always right if, we say.

– Now that’s a lot to say though in the tobacco industry.

– Always right, let me tell you.

– Nah, man, these retailers and some customers, even consumers, they’re not always right, they don’t know.

– You know what, they complain about this or that we once went into a shop in Phoenix in the middle of the summer, so 115 whatever the heck it was and 0% humidity and an individual had walked in and he had bought a box of our Maduro Gordo from the core line and they had all essentially just blown up on the guy. So when we walked into the shop, I had already gotten the complaint, we had sent him,

– Should have had a Boveda in there.

– They should have. We had sent him a replacement box and when I walked into that humidor, we walked in the humidor, the level of humidity that they had in there was super, super low I mean, their stuff was just going to hell in a hand basket. We remedied the issue by pointing that out.

– See, they’re not always right.

– Correct, but that consumer was made whole by us. And I never called that shop out on it and said by the way we replaced this box when it’s really your fault, we just don’t function that way. The shop knew at that point we had indicated, look at the levels that you have of humidity in this place, they knew they were wrong. I just didn’t sit there and say, hey by the way how can you let this happen, you follow me up? So you nudged him into that.

– Then why would you even get involved in the first place because if I’m the retailer I go, holy crap. Your cigars are all blown up, let me double check, oh man my humidity is way off I gotta tweak this and you wouldn’t have even been involved had I done that.

– Correct.

– Correct, so it all worked out and all the the five years, we’re gonna hit five years now in April that we’ve been around I’ve always, we’ve always stood behind that, that the customer is always right and whenever we get a complaint, we replace, no questions asked and then, you know, we’ll try to get to what the problem is but still customer service comes first and we have had maybe five instances in five years where.

– Really good. You know, where somebody has actually said, hey by the way this dude bought a box of this or the other and, I mean, the other day we had a weird one happen. This gentleman bought, I’ve never seen this one happen, Two Maduro Flacos going back to the Flacos, the Maduros. He opened up one of the boxes and it was full of Habanos he had 10 Habanos, so he essentially got a Maduro and Habanos but the dude got two Habanos because they were boxed incorrectly.

– Right.

– We just sent him another box straight to his house, literally this morning we sent it to his home. And by the way, now he’s got himself three boxes for the price of two. So, you know, you kind of you don’t sit there and make an excuse, you just make sure that that consumer is made whole.

– And you’re not even asking them to send back the faulty box.

– No, sir.

– I love that.

– No, sir.

– That’s, you know, there’s part of that that’s like, you know, I get some industries that’s a really expensive product, so they do wanna ship it back but at the end of the day

– We’ve shipped incorrectly sometimes, they’ll ask for I don’t know a Maduro Robusto in our Reserva line and they also asked for a Maduro Robusto in our core line and what happens is they receive two Maduro Robustos in the Reserva and not the core so we say keep the core one, right.

– You don’t even charge them for it.

– No, you keep the core one.

– Oh, I’m surprised, if you wanna keep that one you can go ahead and keep it we’ll charge you for it and we’ll send you the other or.

– Well, because it’s on our fault it’s on our end that–

– It was our fault we’re the ones that made a mistake packaging it.

– Well-run company by two great individuals plus the whole team that you have behind you Alec, Luis, thank you guys for sitting down with me.

– Thank you.

– Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing key inside information with our fans out there. If you guys are interested in picking up these cigars, you guys do not sell direct to consumers. So you either gotta go through a brick-and-mortar or an online retailer.

– Yep.

– Okay, so you can pick it up, find somebody who’s selling Casa Cuevas cigars. They’re great cigars. This was phenomenal, it had some spice to it and then it had some balance and mellowing out. I love it when it kind of changes as you smoke it so it’s great, I appreciate it gentlemen.

– [Luis And Alec] Thank you.

– Is there anything else you’d wanna say to the fans out there if not we’ll end it here.

– No, I mean, thank you for even giving us the opportunity our aim is always to be part of your humidor not the only thing you smoke but part of your rotation. I’ve said and I’ll say it again life’s too short to smoke a bad cigar and too long to smoke the same cigar, so by the same token if you’re just married to one particular brand, branch out there and if we can make it in your humidors that would be just a blessing so.

– I’ve never heard the inverse of that so, yeah, it’s life’s too short to smoke bad cigars but I’ve never heard it’s also too short to smoke the same thing, that’s a good point I like that. I’m gonna use that.

– Yeah, and then on my end, I’d say if you are a fan of that Lancero size I do know that it’s a niche market but I’m a personally huge fan of Lancero sizes. Get them while they’re hot. We have a couple hundred left over but there’s no, not nearly enough a 750 count of each as of right now.

– Yeah, we’ve sold through two thirds of them.

– When they’re gone they’re gone, you gotta wait for five years.

– You gotta wait four years.

– Four years.

– It’ll be 2026.

– 2026.

– 2026, okay four years.

– So pick them up while they’re hot, especially at your local retailers and if they don’t have them.

– Ask for them.

– Ask for them we’d be more than happy to do business.

– Awesome, that’s another episode of Box Press. As always, keep that humidor humidified with Boveda, protect your passion. Go over to if you need anything or hit up your local retailer. We appreciate you and have a great weekend.

Highlights From this Episode of the Box Press Cigar Podcast Include:

  • 01:50 Father figure picks George Michael.
  • 04:00 What kind of steak is churrascos?
  • 06:21 If Guy Fieri has a bad hair day, I’m having a bad hair life, right?
  • 13:28 Ramen, it’s more than just a college staple. Learn the best place to get real ramen in Miami.
  • 14:13 Are boneless chicken wings even a thing?
  • 18:23 Were they caught? The great cigar heist of 2019.
  • 20:07 Discontinued stolen cigar line is relaunched as Casa Cuevas Flaco.
  • 21:54 Lesson learned: number mastercases of inventory to deter theft.
  • 22:28 Sledgehammer cigar is a positive outcome from a night of crime.
  • 25:23 Shaggy foot cigar vs closed foot cigar. Discuss.
  • 27:08 How the pandemic’s mini cigar boom is different from the 1990s cigar boom.
  • 29:20 Casa Cuevas reveals brand launch backstory exclusive to Boveda!
  • 31:38 How big of a hit does inventory theft make on a company’s financials?
  • 46:19 Every one of their blends is hand-written by Luis Cuevas Sr.
  • 52:05 Transitioning into the family cigar business after college.
  • 1:02:03 HORROR STORY! Low RH makes cigars blow up!

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