Box Press is a cigar podcast where talking about the cigars is secondary, says host Rob Gagner. Instead cigar smokers learn about the personalities and the people behind popular cigar brands, such as Perdomo Cigars. Today have a cigar with President and CEO Nick Perdomo Jr. and his son Nicholas Perdomo III, who is National Director of Sales. They delve into running a family-owned business, working with your dad and farming tobacco as a vertically-integrated cigar manufacturer.
Perdomo Cigars agricultural and manufacturing facilities are in Estelí, Nicaragua. The Perdomo family controls every process, from agricultural operations in the fertile valleys of the Estelí, Condega, and the famed Jalapa regions in Nicaragua to a distribution center in Miami, Florida. Recorded on location at Perdomo Cigars headquarters as part of Boveda’s Miami Tour.
“When you blend tobacco, a lot of it is almost like a dosage, like a pharmacist.”
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– [Rob] 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 in Miami at Perdomo’s headquarters. I’m sitting down with both Nicks, Nick Junior and Nicholas the Third. I’m absolutely ecstatic. I’ve started my morning off on the right cigar, which is a Champagne, by the way. The Perdomo Connecticut, absolutely love it. And now I’m smoking the 10th Anniversary. Nick, you, you’re smoking the 10th Anniversary and Nicholas you’re smoking the Sun Grown.
– I’m smoking the 10th Anniversary Sun Grown.
– [Rob] Sun Grown.
– Yep. Mm-hmm.
– Thank you both for joining me. This is huge.
– Well, thank you for having us.
– [Nick III] Thank you.
How Well Do You Know Me with Nick Perdomo Jr. and Nicholas Perdomo
– [Rob] Yeah. This is great. Now, before I started the show, I pulled both Nicks aside separately, and I call this segment: How well do you know me? And this is father, son. So, this should be interesting. If they don’t score a 75% or higher on four questions, they’re gonna dissolve the relationship. Continue getting out of business. One will go one way. One will take Nick’s Sticks. The other one’s gonna take Champagne and that’s gonna be the end of the story.
– I’ll take Champagne.
– [Rob] Okay. Nicholas has got Champagne. No offense, Nick. I’m going with Nicholas if this doesn’t work out because I actually like those really well.
– You should.
– Okay. So, here it is. Nick, I want you to answer what your son would’ve said.
– What is your favorite band?
– The Police.
– Ding, ding, ding, Nicholas. You got it right. You said your Dad loves ’70s rock and roll and you put The Police at the top of the list.
– [Rob] Okay. So you’re one one for four. You’re doing good. Nick, what is your favorite TV show?
– This isn’t looking good.
– Oh, “The Blacklist”.
– [Rob] Oh. He pulled it out there at the end. Ding, ding, ding. That’s correct.
– [Nick Jr.] Oh, yeah.
– He said, All right, so we’re two for two.
– [Nick III] Yeah.
– I got a little nervous for you there because I thought he’s
– Yeah, I really hardly watched TV.
– [Rob] Yeah. He’s steady as a rock. He’s not even flinching. All right. Food. Nick, what is your favorite food?
– What type of steak?
– I like ribeyes.
– Three, three outta four, so far. We’re doing good. I pushed the boundaries a little bit. I would’ve given you the point for steak, but I wanted to see if he could actually nail the cut. Nice job.
– Thank you.
– All right. Here’s the tough one. Nick, what is your biggest accomplishment? What is your best accomplishment throughout your entire life? This is at the pinnacle. This is where I say this is it. This was the best thing I’ve ever done.
– My greatest title is being a father. Whether he guessed that right or wrong. That’s, that’s, that’s my greatest title.
– Ding, ding.
– Four out of four.
– You got that right?
– He said getting married and having children.
– Without a doubt.
– So, the title of father I’ll give it to you because that is spot on.
– That is true. Wow.
– [Rob] All right.
– [Rob] Four for four for Nicholas.
– I still keep Champagne.
– I still keep Champagne. You can have it. You can have it.
– Oh God. That’s gonna be tough to catch that. Man.
– Okay, so now, we need to know your answers to the exact same questions to see if your Dad got them right. So Nicholas, what is your favorite band?
– Tears For Fears or Styx or Van Halen.
– Hmm. I don’t know. So, which one out of those three, are we gonna go with here? Because that’s you can’t answer three things. This is like, you know, this is “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” You can only get one answer. Is that your final answer?
– Which one?
– Tears For Fears.
– [Rob] Tears For Fears. And who, what music? Sing the song. What’s the best song that they got? Tears For Fears? What are they known for?
– Was it Styx?
– It was Styx.
– It was Styx.
– It was Styx. You failed.
– I failed. He’s right, though. I mean,
– [Rob] Well, no, you didn’t fail.
– Rock band
– No, I failed.
– No, no. Actually, Tears For Fears is new wave and then rock is Styx.
– Okay. But you said Tears For Fears.
– [Nick Jr.] You said Tears For Fears.
– [Rob] It’s still, I mean
– Yeah, but it’s two different genres.
– We’re, we’re
– “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” You know, they have a lot of great songs. Great band.
– Styx would be “Rockin’ the Paradise,” right? Did you pick that?
– Well, we didn’t go songs. We just went band.
– He just asked what the most popular song was.
– [Rob] All right. What?
– You still know me, Dad.
– Is your favorite TV show?
– “Master Chef”?
– [Rob] “Master Chef”? Not quite. “Sopranos”. You went with “Sopranos”.
– I thought that was your favorite.
– That was a great TV show.
– [Rob] Great TV show.
– So. I’m oh for two, now. Okay.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Nick III] You still know me. The first question I screwed up.
– We’re already below 75%.
– I’m telling you, my God.
– So this is not looking so good for you.
– No, not at all.
– You will, as a consolation prize, will get a box of Nick’s Sticks.
– All right? So, what food
– Give him partial credit for the first one, at least.
– What is your favorite food?
– Ding. Ding, ding.
– Wow, I got one right.
– Oh my God.
– Okay, what is your favorite cut?
– Okay. We’ll go there. Father and son, real similar. What is your biggest accomplishment in life so far?
– I would say getting married.
– Getting married. Absolutely. You, your dad said becoming a director of sales for Perdomo and also the cardboard display that you made all on your own.
– Don’t get mad, Lauren. I thought it was a business question. I didn’t know.
– I did not set it up. So, I apologize in that regard but
– I thought it was a business question. No, but that’s right.
– [Rob] 1 out of 4, you can razz him later.
– Yeah, but hold on a second. 1 out of 4 and then 4 out of 4. It’s 5 out of 8.
– Yeah, you got them all right. I got them all wrong,
– [Rob] It’s less than 50%
– I don’t know my son. I don’t know what’s going on.
– It’s almost a C.
– Like, 25%, roughly.
– All right. That was good. I appreciate it, gentlemen. Thanks for playing my game, getting into it. I appreciate you. That takes a lot of risk to actually think you know somebody super well.
– I’m telling you it’s tougher than you think.
– [Rob] It is.
– Yeah, but it is.
– But I’ve been listening to my dad my whole life, you know?
– I would have to say that there’s probably some-
– See, I listen.
– Truth to that. That’s good, you know? Because he’s- Is there a difference between sons looking up to their fathers and then fathers looking down on your son from a perspective that’s very different. Do you- Do you get what I’m saying?
– Well, I certainly don’t I certainly don’t look down on him. I’m super proud of him. He’s, yeah I thought really the question was professionally, you know, as far as being director of sales, but I know he’s so proud of his marriage and that’s, that’s super important. So, I raised you right, son.
How Well Do Fathers and Sons Work Together?
– Being father and son and working together can be either really rewarding or very tough. How do you separate the two? Because some families have an oath that says, I don’t wanna talk about business, when we’re Sunday, dinner. What does the Perdomo family do? Do we talk about business all the time and it’s fine and pleasurable? Or is there some rub between always working together?
– No, I mean, we talk about business all the time. We do. It’s kind of like our sport. You know, we always try to think how we can do business better, how we can, you know, be better business partners with our retailers, how we can, you know, support our consumer more often, you know, give them the best product possible. So, there’s always brainstorming. There’s always talks.
– [Rob] Right.
– You know, that’s, that’s our thing.
– A lot of the stuff is shop talk with us because we love it, too, you know? It’s, it’s usually never a confrontational confrontation or anything because we enjoy what we do. And I never wanted to push my son to be in the cigar business. I really wanted him to do whatever he wanted and blaze his trail.
– Yeah, never did. I wanted him to
– How did you navigate that, then? How are you navigating that with him so that he made his own decision?
– Well, I told him, you do whatever you want. I’m gonna support you 100%, regardless.
– Did you wanna do something different?
– Did you ever work another job-
– [Rob] Outside of working for Perdomo?
– Even during high school, he’d come on the road with me. He used to go to all the trade shows when he was a kid. We had a fake ID for him. He’d be selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cigars at trade shows and he was 15 years old. And people would say, boy, he looks awfully young, but he would work it.
– [Rob] He’s got a baby face.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah, he had a baby face. And the only way you’re gonna learn is by walking the walk. And one of the things I was proud of being today, our director of sales is, it wasn’t because he’s Nick Perdomo’s son. He didn’t get a desk when he graduated from the University of Miami. He had to work it. And whether it be emptying containers, you have to walk the walk before you talk to talk. And I certainly didn’t want anybody to say, “This is Nick’s kid.” So, I rode him harder than I probably rode anybody.
– Yeah, it was handed on a silver platter.
– No, I don’t want to do that. No, it’s terrible. My father rode me hard and I thank him every day for that. You’re not gonna build excellence by spoiling someone and giving it to them. They have to earn it. And I think that’s a great thing and I’m proud to say that he’s earned it. He’s got a tough job. He works with a lot of salesmen he’s known since he was a little kid, that now, he’s their supervisor. So, it makes it tough. But what I love is the open mindedness of a lot of my employees who really worked, not only to assist and help him, but also the amount of respect they have for him, for the work that he’s accomplished and done, you know. So, that makes me proud, too.
– [Rob] Let’s touch on that.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah.
Do You Trust Getting Cigar Recommendations from a Younger Cigar Smoker?
– [Rob] Because the age thing is a big deal. I noticed it when I worked in retail. Who are you to tell me I’ve been smoking for 15, 20 years and you’re trying to tell me what cigar I should smoke? So, how does that relate to you saying to the sales team that actually saw you in diapers and you’re going, Hey, this is, you know, I need you to do this or giving direction. Did you ever get push back in conflict with anyone?
– No. No. And I think because they know that I was trained by my dad, they know I was trained by our Vice President, Arthur Kemper, and also I have experience. I’ve been, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m, you know, I’m almost 30 years old, but I’ve been going on the road, you know, 14, 15 years old. And I have so much, I have so many relationships with our customers, our retailers and consumers. And you know, I’ve learned as I’ve gone on and I’m obviously still learning, but I have a lot of experience. So, I think, I think that, you know, I try to do my best. I try to lead by example and-
– Well, growing up in it, learning how to walk in the shop, then going on the road at age 15. By the time you’re in your twenties, you got the 10, 20 years of experience that lets you sit at the table with the sales team and say, my ideas are valid and my direction’s valid and they respect that. But had you maybe gone and done your own thing and then come back and said, oh yeah, I wanna work for my dad. Well, where’s the experience? Where’s the nurturing, where’s you know, Nick, you haven’t been teaching him the business for that long. How can I trust that he’s giving us good direction?
– Absolutely. He was very humble about it, too. And really, really trying to learn, you know, you can imagine he was calling Arthur Kemper, Mr. Arthur, until about three years ago. And finally Arthur said, “Hey, Nicholas, you’re not a 12-year-old kid anymore. You can call me, you know, you can call me Arthur.” You know what I mean? That was the whole thing about it. And he really has blazed his own trail and I’m proud of that. I did the same thing with my daughter. I thought my daughter would come with the company. She graduated from the University of Alabama. She had a marketing degree. Very high-end program they had there. And when she came on to work with us, Nicholas knows it, She said, “Hey Dad, I wanna go to law school.” And I said, “Great.” And she was shocked because she was afraid to actually tell me because she thought that I really wanted her to be in the business. And I would’ve loved for her to be in the business, but I would even love more so that she picked what she wanted to do. So.
– You didn’t at all hesitate and say, “Well you got a marketing degree. Why the change?”
– No, no, no. Not at all. I said, “That’s what you want to do?” And she said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, I’m all for it.”
– What type of law does she want to do?
– I think her husband’s working in development. So, I think she wants to do real estate law. She just graduated. But then after graduating law school, she had a baby, her and her husband. So, the most important title for her right now is not attorney. It’s being a mom. And I’m all for that even more so.
– Grandkids are great.
– Yeah, grandkids are unbelievable. So, she, she attended the University of Miami because she wanted to go to school local because she’s gonna practice law in Florida. Then she did what she said she was gonna do and she graduated law school and I’m equally proud of both of them. They married great spouses. They both are doing wonderful in their lives. And as a parent Janine and I, we couldn’t be more happy with both our children and their spouses. And I gotta be honest with you, Nicholas, having a granddaughter’s pretty awesome. I’m waiting.
– [Nick III] Okay. Just sayin’.
– [Nick III] Okay.
– No pressure.
– [Rob] Did you feel the pressure at all? He just slightly glanced over to you and said, “Hey, grandkids are great. When are you gonna have one?”
– We’ll have one. I’m not, no pressure.
– I’m in no hurry either. I already have one, but, you know, I do the same thing. You know, there’s, you know it’s time
– [Nick Jr.] How about you? Are you gonna have another?
– Oh, my second is on the way.
– All right.
– [Rob] In June.
– Thank you. Yeah, we are super blessed. It took a lot to get to the one we have, Nora. So, we were a little bit worried about that. So, we kind of did start a little earlier than we probably should have according to the doctor and it just happens and you don’t, you know, you can’t choose.
– Boy or a girl, do you know?
– We don’t know. We’re surprise. We’re a surprise family
– When it comes to the gender.
– My wife hates surprises. So, it’s very tough for me to get her to commit to something like that. But, you know, I’m a salesman as well. So, I got that, you know, hey let’s and she committed.
Why You Should Have a Second Child
– You know why you have the second one for, right? You have it for Nora. That’s the reason you have the second child. It’s a, it’s a blessing, not only to you, but it’s also gonna be a blessing to your daughter. And it’s much easier to have a second child.
– Yeah, we all have a Spanish thing that Cubans always say, when the pacifier falls, you put it in boiling water and you make sure you wipe it down. There’s no germs and you’re checking to make sure she’s breathing every night. When you have the second one, the pacifier falls on the ground, you wipe it on your shirt and you stick it in her mouth. You know what I mean? Because you what’s going on already.
– So you’re not so worried. You’re not so jumpy, yeah. You know that if they’re pouting, they’re crying, it’s not a big deal. It’s gonna end sooner or later. That’s the way they talk. So, you learn those things. So to me, the second child is always much easier than the first child because there’s, you know what’s going on.
What’s the Hardest Part about Making Cigars?
– How does that relate with cigars? Is the first box the hardest and the whole line of boxes that we got behind you, do they just get a little bit easier?
– That’s all hard. You know what the hardest part about cigar making is, it’s for us, it’s not the cigars, it’s not the blends and all the stuff that’s really hard, which is the foundation. It’s the packaging. Depending on other people, and we don’t really depend on many people to do anything
– So, you don’t make your own boxes?
– We make our own boxes. We don’t make the bands, the inserts, the shelf talkers, this kinda stuff. So, we’re at the mercy of the band makers and our band makers are the best in the business, but they’re in the Netherlands. And with COVID, if a guy got sick, they’d close the factory down. I mean, the supply side really slowed down there. So, the hardest thing about cigar making, I don’t know if you agree with it, but it’s bands is what it is.
– [Rob] Really?
– Yeah. It’s bands.
– [Rob] I’m shocked to hear you say that.
– You would think that’s, you would think that’s the most simplistic thing.
– Yeah, like, place an order. Who cares, get 10 million of them. I don’t care. I’m gonna sell that many as I go.
– No, it doesn’t work that way.
– And you make your own staples. So, for a guy who says he makes his own staples in Nicaragua, to tell me that bands is the hardest part of the cigar business?
– Do you know why? Because we don’t make them
– [Rob] Little shocked.
– That’s the problem.
– You like to have that control.
– I, I do. I’d love to be able to print my own bands. Arthur doesn’t agree with me, but we’re completely vertical. The only thing we don’t make is the hinges and the clasp that open and close the box. They’re made of brass. They’re made in Germany, and the bands. That’s it.
– [Rob] Okay.
Why You Can’t Cut Cedar During a Full Moon
– Everything, we even make, we even make the cellophane tubes, everything we do, all in house. We do everything. We have our own kilns. We, you know, we slice wood. We have our own, you know, our own box company and we have, we have a big wood operation, too. And we manufacture a lot of boxes, so.
– How many tons of cedar do you have to buy, just to supply?
– Yeah, that’s a hard question. I could ask Nelson that, but the amount of logs that you see
– [Rob] Yeah.
– Look like they’re going from Minneapolis all the way St. Paul. I mean, it’s just, it’s massive. It’s, it’s big. And you have to sort and select these woods. You can’t cut them during a full moon because then they sap, but you know, you have to
– Yeah. If you cut
– A full moon?
– Yeah, if you cut a cedar tree during a full moon, the tree cries, it’s called crying. What it does is, all the branches and root base, all the sap will go into the trunk of the tree. And if you cut that tree during a full moon, the wood’s no good because it’s embedded with sap.
– The tree’s communicating with the full moon.
When Tobacco Grows, It Sounds Like a Bowl of Rice Krispies® Cereal
– It sure does, yeah. True story. You can hear tobacco growing in the mornings.
– You can hear it?
– Oh yeah, absolutely. It sounds like Rice Krispies around four or five in the morning, especially during the second and third primings.
– Is he telling the truth here?
– Tobacco will grow up to an inch, inch and 7/8s every two to three hours, yeah on sight.
– So, you hear the leaves growing?
– [Nick Jr.] You hear it snapping. It sounds like it’s snapping and you can actually the offshoots are actually growing. Yeah, it’s a true story. People I had a customer one time and he said, “There’s no possible way.” And Kenny Kuhr was one of them and I said, “Let’s go out to the farm at 4:30 in the morning.” And we went out and they were freaking out. You can hear it. Oh yeah, it’s true. It grows super quick. You know, you remember it’s a weed and after we transplant it, it only has a 60-day cycle before it grows from here to about 5 1/2 feet. So, the growth is rapid. Very rapid.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah. True story.
– Of all the stuff I’ve heard in the cigar biz.
– [Nick Jr.] I could tell you all kinds of stuff, but it’s the truth. Yeah. It’s really the truth.
– Hearing tobacco grow.
– [Nick Jr.] Oh yeah. It grows.
– That takes the cake for me right now.
– Yeah, I mean
– [Rob] That’s the pinnacle for me.
– You know, all these things.
– What is the most interesting thing you’ve heard about the tobacco industry? You can hear the tobacco grow.
– And whoever
– At 4:30 in the morning.
– Yeah, and whoever tells you, it’s not true, doesn’t grow tobacco because it’s true.
– [ Nick III] Yeah. It’s really true.
What’s the Most Important Thing You Need to Know to Grow Tobacco?
– What’s the most important thing in growing tobacco?
– Well, first of all, you need to have a good water source. You need to have fertile grounds.
– [Rob] Is that the most important thing, though?
– Yes, because if you don’t have water, you can’t grow tobacco. So, that’s the base.
– Okay, so that’s the basics.
– After you got water,
– [Nick Jr.] Right.
– We can get water, what’s the second most important thing?
– You need to have fertile grounds that have the big three, which I call, which is nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Those are the three that’s no different than protein, carbohydrates, and minerals for the human being, right? The tobacco plant, the root base is only the size of maybe a small basketball, at best. So, that tobacco plant is very heavy, too. So, those vein, or those roots have to spread. And if they don’t spread, the tobacco plant will fall and die. So, you have to have grounds that are sifty so that root base keeps digging to build itself a crutch. And also, the bigger the roots, the more flavorful the tobacco’s going to be, it’s gonna be more nutriated. So, you just can’t build in grounds that don’t have good aeration. So, soil preparation is very important for us before we start growing.
– How long does it take to prepare soil, possibly? On average.
– It depends on in Estelí, it takes longer because it’s a more coarse ground, but we start with 36-inch road plows about three feet. We go in, we’re trying to bring the hard pan up. Then we go down to 24 inch, 18 inch, 12 inch all the way until we go down to three inch road disc and what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to sift that ground and move that ground. Not only to bring the hard pan up, to bring all the nutritious soil up, but we want that root base to be able to dig down there and really grab on
– Aerate it so it can grow.
Separating Tobacco Seeds to Make Premium Cigars
– Aerate it because it needs oxygen, because, yeah, we do a drip system and the water droplets are going in directly to the roots and that’s great. But, if those roots can’t move and that tobacco plant can’t move, it can’t grow. So, those are really the important things. So, if people ask me, “Well, what’s the most important thing to make a great cigar?” I tell them it’s the seed. And they look at me like I’m outta my mind. It is the seed. If you don’t have a great, sound seed before you put it in the ground, in the greenhouse, you’re going to have a tobacco plant that, one, is not gonna grow rich in texture the way it should be. But that tobacco plant’s not gonna be hearty. It’s going to be sick, also. So, we actually evaluate our seeds. We have a genetic team and we look at the seeds under a microscope. It should look like a marble. If it has a cut or a divot, it’s no different than having a scab on your arm. Soon as you put that seed in the ground, it’s gonna pick up every mold, spore, and virus. And that tobacco plant will never grow the way it should be.
– It’s an open wound.
– It’s an open wound. It’s exactly what it is, so
– I know seeds are super tiny.
– It’s like a grain, it’s like a grain of pepper. We actually grade our seeds. We have A, B and C. B and C gets extinguished. We don’t even use them.
– So, a seed company doesn’t do that for you?
– No, no we do it ourselves.
– [Rob] What?
#1 Thing to Check If You Want to Farm Tobacco
– We have a tool that we actually developed where we can actually separate the seeds. You gotta come to Nicaragua to see it. We actually designed it and it’s worked phenomenally for the company, but the seed is incredibly important. Then you have to have nutritious grounds, but you have to have a water source. There’s a guy just recently in Nicaragua who worked for a big company, built a huge farm out in the middle of nowhere in Nicaragua. Well, he had a rock formation underneath the plant. He never did, He never did reports to see what was underneath the grounds. He has no water source. So, there
– [Rob] Wait, wait, wait. So there’s, so
– There’s stone all underneath. Big, massive slabs of stone.
– [Rob] Like, how far down?
– You can imagine. These are volcanic. These are volcanic grounds. These stones are miles.
– [Nick Jr.] They’re miles. They’re massive.
– So like, that thing that they drag over the soil to, like, see what’s underneath it, it wouldn’t pick that up, would it?
– Sure it would. He didn’t do anything. He just saw the grounds looked at, saw it was beautiful and built this. Now he has no water source.
– Because it can’t come up through the stone.
– [Nick Jr.] No, of course not.
– [Rob] Or it can, but it’s very slow.
– No, it can’t go through the stone because it’s super solid. Even though a stone is porous, it would take forever for water to come through the stone. So, this guy invested in all this land and stuff, but he doesn’t have water. That’s why I said water is really the most important thing that you need.
– Well, can’t you sprinkle the water on top and be fine?
– Not if you don’t have a water source because if there’s places that don’t have water. Just because Nicaragua’s is great and has the best grounds in the world for cigar tobacco, doesn’t mean that every plot of land has a water source. You know what I mean? And he’s tried to dig wells. He can’t get through the wells because of the stone basin all through the farms. Can’t dig through it. He can’t even drill through it.
– [Rob] Wow.
– Yeah, so, you really have to do a lot of work before you design a farm. And the first thing you have to make sure is you got water. That’s the first thing we do when we would.
– Yeah, where’s the water source?
– Most of our water source is we actually have rivers running around our facilities, for the most part. What we look for is valleys and the reason we want to be in the valley is for wind blockage, because wind is detrimental to tobacco, for sure.
– And water rolls downhill.
– And water rolls downhill and moving water is always clean water. And that’s really important for us. But even with that, we actually check the pH level of that water because if it’s not neutral and it doesn’t have a standard conductivity of electricity, which is normal, that tobacco plant won’t grow correctly.
– What pH are you looking for?
– We’re right at six. We want to be as neutral as possible. Six, 6 1/2 is optimum for tobacco. Maybe up to seven, depending if the grounds are thinner, we can go up to seven, but it has to be extremely neutral.
– And you can tell the difference if it’s off.
– Yeah, you can. The tobacco, it grows in a weaker state because what happens is because of the pH level, the fertilizers and stuff cannot be absorbed with the water directly into the root base optimally. That’s the main reason.
– [Rob] My goodness.
– So, there, there’s a lot of work to growing tobacco people think that just
– Hope you’re writing it down. There’s a test at the end.
– Yeah. Great. I hope I get 75% or better. Otherwise, I’m out of a job.
– Well, I’m sure you could do better than what I did. That’s for sure. But you, you know, you gotta look at all these things when you grow tobacco, it’s really tough. People come into Nicaragua and the Dominican Republican and all these countries and have a bag of seeds and think they can grow great tobacco that way and that’s not the way it works. You know what I mean?
– [Rob] Wow.
– And I hear a lot of people saying, oh yeah, I was just on a podcast, recently. And David Garofalo was talking about it about blending cigars, for example, just to get off the tangent. I don’t cook. Do you cook?
– So, why would some kid come into Nicaragua? And I got no problem, because I was one of those kids, but I hear these guys, “Yeah, I went to Nicaragua and I was doing some blends with this master blender.” You know how long it took? I mean, I’m in this industry for 30 years and learn from the best and I’m still learning every day. And I hear these guys that just get in the cigar business, that are telling people that they’re blending their own cigars. That would be like me going, and I don’t even cook, but me going in front of Gordon Ramsay and saying, “I’m gonna make a dish for you.” And you know.
The Truth About Blending Tobacco for Cigars
– But you can, you can blend a cigar. If you set down all the tobacco, you could walk me through the process, right?
– I could, but it would take you literally years to figure it out because it’s not just light tobacco from Jalapa. There’s multiple regions that have different mineral content. Some are totally different.
– Yeah, but we could taste all that right now and go, yeah, this might work that might work.
– Do you know how time consuming that would be because literally a table for blending goes from where you are all the way to the end back there because you have so many different varieties of not only seed varieties, but different types of grounds. For example, in Jalapa, we have over 12 different ground, topical ground contents that are totally different.
– [Rob] Right.
– So, those tobaccos taste totally different, No different than where Nicholas is. If he’s by a riverbed and I grow tobacco there and I’m five feet upstream, his grounds, his tobacco’s gonna be much lighter because he has water erosion underneath. And those grounds are gonna be looser and more siftier and they’re not gonna be as potent or nutrient-rich than being five feet in front of it. So, if I use that tobacco and use this tobacco, it’s gonna be a totally different cigar and it’s gonna throw the swing or are gonna throw the blend off or the dosage, like we call it. So, when you blend tobacco, a lot of it is almost like a dosage, like a pharmacist who’s going to put so much into a particular pill or medicine or you know, or in a vial where he’s adjusting. It’s, it’s really, I wouldn’t say it’s an art, but it takes a long time.
– Why wouldn’t you say it’s an art?
– [Nick Jr.] Huh?
– Why wouldn’t you say it’s an art?
– Because you, an artist can figure out certain things. This is something that, I know people who’ve been in the industry longer than I have that still can’t come up and make a cigar to a flavor characteristic. And they know it. They have strengths and some people don’t have strengths in certain things, but to blend a cigar, to really come up with something, you’re consistent. You’re gonna make a production of 500,000 cigars for the United States and make sure every single one is perfect. It’s so time consuming, you have to have so much acreage of land. You have to have so much tobacco that’s cured, fermented, and aged. It takes so much time to be able to do that, to start from the beginning, to be able to do that.
– So who’s blending Perdomo cigars?
– The guy you’re looking at with six other guys, but you know it’s something I
– So, you’re relying on other people with more experience than you to get that cigar where you want it.
– Well, I rely on people that I trust and me being one. I trust myself, too, because I think I have a pretty good palate. And I learned really from the best. I learned from people like my dad, I learned from people like Aristides Garcia and Sarah Gonzales, but I was a student of it and it took me a long time. I wasn’t a master blender in 1994 after I started business in 1992.
– [Rob] Right. I wasn’t a master blender in 1998 when I started it.
– But, you were still blending cigars. You were still
– No, I was working it, but nothing came to fruition because you have to have a consistent product, that’s gotta be time in and time out. And you have to learn how to be objective in tasting those tobaccos and know what those tobaccos produce. So for example, I know certain farms of mine that are gonna produce more sweet, aromatic tobaccos so much so, that when you smell them, when they come outta the curing barn, they smell like honey wheat bread. Okay? And that’s a great thing. And some of that’s in that cigar you’re, you’re smoking right there. So when I blend that particular cigar, which I did, I knew those wrappers were gonna be sweet. They were from Jalapa Valley. So, what I wanted to do is, instead of making just a really heavy, heavy type cigar, I wanted something that would accent that wrapper and the sweetness. So, what I did is, I didn’t use as much tobacco from Jalapa, I mean, from Estelí, I used more tobacco from Jalapa Valley because I knew that would accent that wrapper. But if you taste a cigar and you go, this is what I like, you can offset the flavor characteristics. It’d be no different than putting too much starch, or too much sugar, or too much salt, or too much pepper. You know what I mean? How do you get that pepper each and every time into that cigar the way you want it. It’s easy when you can measure something, like in food, but in tobacco it’s different. The leaves are different sizes.
– [Rob] Right.
– They’re different textures. You have to go to different farms. So what we do, I just don’t say we’re gonna use tobacco from Jalapa, Estelí, and Condega. We have them in lot numbers. So, we’re gonna use Seco from, you know, lot number 17. And those are the Secos we’re gonna use, which are light tobaccos. We’re gonna use Visos from the Condega Valley upstream over there. And we’re gonna use that from lot number 22, because on lot number 24, it overpowers and it masks the Jalapa. A guy learning how to do that’s not gonna understand that. So, a lot of people and I find it disingenuous, like when we do our factory tours, guys will come over and go, “Yeah I went to a factory and I was blending my cigars.” And I’m like, I was- I said, “How long you been in a retail?” I’ve been in two years. First factory you went to last year in whatever country was, yeah. And you blended your own cigars? Boy, that’s a big thing to say, because that that’s like me. I don’t even know how to cook and I’m gonna make Beef Wellington with, with Gordon Ramsay. You know what I mean? I can’t do that, because I’ve never made Beef Wellington before. You know what I mean?
– But I get, so there’s a definition there that you have in your head of blending a cigar that might be different. So, would it be better if I said, I go on the same tour and I say, “Oh, I got to make my own cigar.”
– You could roll your own cigar if someone taught you, but to be able to build an ingredient, to make a specific flavor, because there’s so many variances and I’m talking about just me and Nicaragua.
– [Rob] Right.
– How about if you add, how about if you wanna come up, like, we make a blend for a guy that’s got tobacco from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It’s not a Perdomo brand, but now you got three really offset types of tobaccos. And what we have to do is we have to watch because we know that Dominican tobacco has to come through. It doesn’t have much flavor, but it has a distinct flavor, and that particular customer wants that distinct flavor in the blend. So, I gotta go to certain farms that have lower mineral contents that are tobaccos that are more loamy in ground. So, those tobaccos don’t have as much texture to be able to offset so I can taste that Dominican tobacco because that’s what my customer wants, in that particular sense. A guy coming down to Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic is not going to know what tobaccos those are. And a lot of that comes really, to be honest with you, with the tips of your fingers, the tips of your nose or the tip of your nose by smelling it in your eyes. My dad always said something, “Tobacco’s pretty simple.” You have to smell it. You know if it’s fermented and you know if it’s raw. You touch it, if your fingers stick, the tobacco needs more time in the fermentation pile, right? And you have to,
– I don’t know.
– Yeah. I’m sorry. And you look at the colors and if those color casks aren’t uniform and Secos, which are light tobaccos, have a certain color, Visos have a certain color and Ligeros, our strains of tobaccos have a certain color. You have to look at that. You have to make sure that the guy who processed the tobacco didn’t apply too much water and burn the tobacco. A lot of guys, this is why I like to be vertical and grow my own tobacco, A lot of guys like to pump a lot of water in there, make them look really dark and fool the guys and go look, this is Ligero, but the texture never lies. When you pull it, you know if it is. It’s not just color. So, there’s a lot of varieties, a lot of variances you have to look at.
– But that’s all surrounded by blending.
– [Nick Jr.] Yes.
– Which you’re saying,
– Takes a lot of experience and a lot of years because you have to know what the leaf actually does. You know, in the old days, when a cigar roller was learning how to make a cigar, he had to take a whole class on tobacco growing. He had to know all the different classifications to tobacco, not just fillers, but what makes binders and why a wrapper’s a wrapper. Then he had to feel the textures. So, when he worked, he knew exactly what he does. Today, the roller gets so much Seco, so much Viso for a blend, so much Ligero. So many binders, so many left-handed wrappers, so many right-handed, or so many left-handed binders, so everything goes according to plan. So you don’t have any cross veins and he makes cigars, but he doesn’t know what he’s working with. Everything is done for him and divided in boxes in the rolling tables. In the old days they had, they had to learn. And what we do is we still, we just opening up a training center because look, we have a lot of our rollers have been with us for over 20 years. So, we have a lot of, we’ve never really liked to train people, but we started a training center just about 30 miles south of us in Estelí. And we’re doing the same training program that we did when we started there in 1995, which is the right way to do it. Teach them what the leaf does, teach them the textures of the leaves teach them the anatomy of the leaf. We actually have, we show them. It, it’s good that they learn and they visually can learn by seeing what this tobacco does. And then we go in and we teach them how to learn, how to make cigars, whether it be bunching or rolling. And that way the guy has the full circle and close it. To me, it’s almost blind. It’s almost like me learning how to speak Spanish, but I don’t know how to write it. I think it’s important you know how to write it, too. You know what I mean? And know the nouns and the verbs and so on and the adjectives. And I think that’s important for us, for our future that our workers really know everything from the tobacco, from A to Z, not just rolling the cigar or bunching the cigar. And I think they have a lot more attention to detail if you teach them that. And I think you agree with that too, right?
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah.
Are Cigar Rolling Events Just a Dog and Pony Shows?
– I just keep getting off hand. I just keep hearing people, “Yeah, I went down to Dominican Republic and just got in the cigar business three months ago and I’m blending cigars.” It’s almost like me going, “Yeah, I just decided to start cooking.” And I just opened up a massive restaurant in downtown Miami and I’m making French food, you know?
– I gotta get to the definition of blending cigars then, because your definition and my definition of blending are different then.
– Okay. My definition I think is, okay, explain.
– What is your definition?
– My definition is making a recipe of almost making food and making a cigar that has a distinct taste that you’re going to run into a production and sell worldwide to millions of people. And it has to be consistent.
– But you didn’t start out that way with Nick’s Sticks, did you? I mean, you didn’t start out.
– No, but you know what I did, I had Alvaro Alonso. I had a professional do that because it was still my company, even though I started out of the garage.
– Were you smoking what he was making, though?
– Oh, absolutely. And I was learning too, because remember just because I owned a cigar company and it was small, to say the least, out of my garage, I was learning. You know, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. And I was listening and I was listening intently.
– Okay, so tell me, let’s go back. What’s the gentleman’s name that you just mentioned?
– Alvaro Alonso was the first guy. He passed away years ago, but I worked outta my garage.
– I get that. So you go to Nicaragua?
– No, we went to Nicaragua at the end of 1994. My father un-retires, says, “I’m gonna come work for you.” And we were one of the first guys to move into the country, Nicaragua after the revolution.
– Where did you start blending the cigars then with Alvaro?
– Yeah, that was in Miami.
– In Miami.
– Yeah, we were working out of our house and then, eventually, I moved to a factory on Flagler Street. Had my second
– Well, you would just drive over to his house and he had all the tobacco there?
– No, he would drive to my house. I would buy from the brokers and they would sell me tobacco because of my father. Okay? Because they knew him.
– What brokers?
– [Rob] Right.
– People that are still dear friends of mine, 30 years later.
– I interviewed John Oliva.
– Sure. Good friend of mine.
– And so you’re buying tobacco from him.
– At the time I was, yes.
– Okay, so you buy the tobacco.
– Nicholas has known him since he was a baby.
– Yeah, you buy tobacco from John Oliva and then you use, is it Alvaro?
– [Rob] Alvaro.
– To help you blend that tobacco.
– [Nick Jr.] Blend the cigars. Yep. And he was also the roller.
– [Rob] So that you can actually sell it and enjoy it.
– Yeah. Yes.
– And he’s the roller
– And he was the roller.
– [Rob] It’s a one man operation.
– It was a one man operation with him, my wife and I. we would, we didn’t even have money for boxes. We would band the cigars. We would buy them from a place called the Sticker Factory in Fort Myers, Florida. And then, you know, I had a shrink wrap machine and I couldn’t afford to buy a box. I would shrink wrap the bundle and I would go to guys like Jim Bennington and sell him $500 worth of cigars and say, “Hey, could you please pay me? I don’t have any money for gas to drive back.”
– Okay. But is that then blending according to your definition, because you’re not worldwide or nationwide.
– He, he would, no, Alvaro was blending, yeah. And we were selling, listen, the last three months of the year, I sold 9,460 cigars. It wasn’t wasn’t much of a production, but you gotta start somewhere. You know what I mean?
– [Rob] Right.
– But I wasn’t going around telling everybody I’m a master blender and I’m blending cigars for everybody.
– Right. You’re not a master blender.
– No, not at that
– But would you say you’re blending cigars to sell?
– No, back in those days I wasn’t and I was really selling cigars. I own the company. But to this day, there’s people been in the cigar industry longer than I, that still don’t blend their cigars. They have people that they pay to do that for them
– Are more knowledgeable.
– That are more knowledgeable. What I tried to do was, I wanted to walk the walk to talk the talk, too. So, for example, have I picked tobacco? You better believe it. Have I watered tobacco? You better believe it. Have I fertilized tobacco? You better believe it. Have I been up in curing houses, 30 feet and up in the air with this old guy where I could kill myself? I have. Have I fermented tobacco? Have I made fermentation piles? You’d better believe it. Have I rolled cigars, have I bunched cigars
– That’s your personality. You want to know it all.
– I want to know it all because I want to be able to walk the walk before I can talk the talk. And it was important for me at a young age, because you gotta remember, I started younger than Nicholas when he started with the company and I wanted to learn every single aspect, whether it be working a lathe and cutting wood to planting tobacco, okay? Where in the old days, we would use a spade
– [Rob] Yeah.
– And we’d go down, we’d take a coupling, and we’d, we’d transplant plants. And I would do it one by one. I wanted to learn it, no different than driving tractors.
– [Rob] Right.
– Doing ground prep
– Right, so you’re learning, you’re technically not blending tobacco. You’re having somebody who’s more knowledgeable doing that. And so you classified yourself more as like a salesman.
– [Nick Jr.] Not to
– [Rob] Selling, I’m selling Nick’s Sticks.
– [Nick Jr.] In the beginning, yeah, absolutely. That’s what I had to do
– [Rob] And then you learn and learn and learn
– Yeah. Yeah.
– From these experts to the point where you feel confident in saying, I understand the basics enough to try to blend my own cigar.
– Yeah, 20 years
– Versus me, I don’t know any of all that stuff that you just talked about.
– [Nick Jr.] Right.
– Neither do probably half these, or 90% of the people out there.
– [Nick Jr.] Right.
– We’re cigar smokers.
– [Nick Jr.] Right.
– So, when somebody sits us down to a table and says, “I got Visos over here, I got a little Ligero over here. I got some Seco over here.” What you kind of want to do is, you want to grab more Viso here and this and that and this, they kind of show you and then you kind of do it and you smoke it and you go, eh, that’s not so bad.
– But in reality it’s a dog and pony show because they’re actually making the cigar the way they want to make it. Because if you say,
– They set the right recipe out.
– Yeah, hold on, yeah, they set it up for you where you can’t fail.
– [Rob] Right.
– So, in other words, if I go, I want three leaves of Seco because I wanna make it a little lighter. Well, guess what happens? The cigar’s gonna be acrid. It has too much Seco. You can’t have that many Seco leaves in a bunch. Or if you go, I wanna make it really strong. I’m gonna put a bunch of Ligero in it. The cigar won’t burn.
– [Rob] Right.
– Okay? Because it’s too thick.
– Timing and then the other stuff burns quicker and you’re like, what the heck?
– [Nick Jr.] Absolutely, then starts telling stuff. So, you have to learn that. That’s part of learning how to blend and what happened about 21 years ago, I said, I have really learned. I have sat down and sat down and sat down and sat down. But mind you, you know, I’m talking 13 years, you know, I’ve been doing, I’ve been studying this and studying this. And I started coming in on Saturdays and trying to do my own thing. And you know, you eventually learn stuff if you put your head to it.
– [Rob] Right.
– My dad always said our head wasn’t just to grab our hair. You gotta start thinking about it. But you also have to be interested in doing it, too.
– [Rob] Mm-hmm.
– So, like, for example, Nicholas is going to Nicaragua in a couple weeks. Well, he’s gonna be on the farms. He’s gonna be doing his and you know what? You better believe it. He’s gonna be learning at the same time. Even though he’s extremely much more advanced than I was at his age because he started much younger than I did,
– [Rob] Sure
– He is still learning. And you know what? I’ll be honest with you. I’m learning every day still to this day. When I hear guys that are masters, I mean, you know, I was telling you earlier about Aristides Garcia
– He’s the guy who’s 92 years old who’s been in the industry for 79 years. He tells you every day, I’m learning every day. My dad always said, if you’re not learning, you should take a gun and shoot yourself in the head. You gotta be learning every day.
– But aren’t those master blenders still learning because they’re actually learning
– [Nick Jr.] Absolutely.
– The new tobacco that’s being grown and the changes.
– They just have these basic fundamentals that allow them to guide quicker.
– Yeah, I think,
– [Rob] Versus a guy like me, who’s like, ah, I have no idea. Just, will this work? And you go, eh, I would probably remove some Viso, put into this. Oh, thanks, Nick. Okay. Great. Well, that’s, that smokes really well.
Do Ring Gauges Affect the Flavor of a Cigar?
– Yeah, and how about ring gauges where you got,
– [Rob] Right.
– You gotta decide, Hey man, I’m gonna make this. You think I wanna make big ring gauges? I make more money on smaller ring gauges, but I have to work with the customer wants, right? So, when we come up with brands, sometimes we say, okay, this brand is gonna be 54 because optimally, the flavor that we want, we have to have a 54 ring gauge to be able to carry all those leaves in the filler to be able to be uniform and work harmoniously, to make that cigar taste wonderful. So, sometimes we have to do that. When we came out with a brand, Lot 23, for example, this particular brand, we really zeroed in on a blend. It was a project between me and my father, but we knew the 50 was the right, the right size on that cigar. You know what I mean?
– [Nick Jr.] Like, when you came out with the 6 1/2 by 48 on 20th Anniversary, you know, we had to really work on that because you had a smaller ring gauge there and we didn’t want to just overpower it
– [Nick Jr.] Being more concentrated. You know what I mean? So, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of intricacies. It just, yeah. I don’t wanna belay it too much, but just sometimes I hear these guys, you know, “Yeah, I blend it.”
– It makes sense now.
– [Nick Jr.] You know what I’m saying?
– After you define it. Because yeah, it’s so much.
– Makes sense. I just want to caution with, when I say I blended a cigar, I sat down at a table with people who know how to do this. They gave me some ingredients and some guidelines. Just like I would say, if I was with Gordon Ramsay and he was teaching me how to cook, I cooked with Gordon Ramsay.
– Spot on. You’re a 100% right.
– [Rob] With Gordon Ramsey. I did, Did I know what I was doing and why we were adding paprika because he wanted this to come out?
– [Rob] And the lemon for the citrus.
– I don’t know.
– [Nick Jr.] Right.
– But it turned out great because he was my guy.
– Right. It’s like you, you love to cook,
– But you’re learning every day, too.
– [Rob] Right. Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes sense now. It’s coming together.
– And I’ll tell you the honest truth. I respect it so much that it agitates me when a guy says, you know, this thing of I’m gonna fake it until I make it. It’s very disingenuous to the retailer and to the consumer.
– [Rob] Oh, absolutely.
– [Nick Jr.] And I just don’t like it because,
– And guess who pays the price.
– The consumer and the retailer, in reality because the consumer gets mad when he tries something and it’s inconsistent. It’s unfair to him. And also who takes the brunt of it? It’s usually the retailer. And I think it’s unfair.
– [Rob] Sure.
– That’s why I’m so resolute and when we come up with something. Like, people go, “Why don’t you come up with a new brand every year?” Maybe I’m not smart enough, but it takes me two to three years to come up with a blend. Like, for example, the cigar we’re smoking here. We had a brand called Champagne Noir, very successful brand, but I wanted to change the packaging of it. I didn’t like the way it was looking. I thought it was long in the tooth. And then I decided, you know what? I’m gonna re-blend this cigar. And the reason I’m gonna re-blend it is because I have some incredible fillers from the Jalapa Valley. They’re gonna work great with these wrappers we have and I’m gonna be able to accent that wrapper. So I,
– You don’t make Noir anymore?
– No, no. We retired. This is the new brand that they carry.
– I remember when Noir came out
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah. Oh, yeah.
– Your rep in Minnesota told me this is like drinking a 9%, 10% beer. It’s strong. You’re gonna want to drink water. You’re gonna want to have, you know, ready for this.
– That was like our Glenlivet 12. This is our Glenlivet 18, is what this is. But I wanted to come up with something totally different. So, check this out. It took me literally until we zeroed in on the blend, and it was my baby. And look, to get consensus with eight people that I have on our tasting panel, it’s almost impossible. But I zeroed on this and I worked so hard on this particular cigar, that I knew this was right. And when we pass these cigars out and everybody said, “This is awesome.” That was a great feeling for me because one, the respect I have for these guys
– [Rob] Right.
– Who smoke cigars and everybody, including my son and Arthur and everybody, we pass them around. Everybody loved this particular cigar and people love it to this day. But I see these brands coming out every three months and I’m thinking to myself, well, again, I think it’s unfair to the retailer. He’s got
– [Rob] Right.
– Plenty. I mean, how many more lines can he put in cigars? He’s only got so much shelf space.
– Well, wait a minute. On shelf space, you’re the king of shelf space. What you do, is you bring you ask for space, but you ask for it to be organized. When I look at your brand, I see organization. And then I also see like, it’s pleasurable to look at that facing and see order. We were actually looking at some photos of disorganized shelf space and it was very unappealing for me as a consumer to grab that.
– [Rob] Sure.
– And it was your brand, but as soon as you applied the kind of matrix that you have, I was like, oh my God, it was like a breath of fresh air. Like, I can see clearly now.
– And that’s what we want our retailers to have. I mean, how many out stores do you outfit daily where we’re doing planograms and what we’re doing is.
– Planograms. That’s what you guys call it.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah. Yeah.
– Planograms, which is just planning the space that that box is gonna sit on.
– Yeah, because we want the retailer to be successful because if he’s successful, we are, and our consumer gets a lot of bang for their buck because of the ease of shopping. I mean, how many stores do you do a day that, you know?
– Minimum five stores. A day.
– [Rob] You do do five stores a day?
– [Nick III] Minimum. But that’s
Why Planogram Cigars at a Smoke Shop
– On planogramming.
– Correct. That’s, you know we, I have 16 salesmen that, that I work with daily. So, I mean, on average, I would say five. There’s certain days where I’ve, I’ve done 8, 9, 10 stores.
– What was also interesting is, like, you have a great customer that has 66 Perdomo facings
– And they’re not planogrammed properly. And you say, “Stop.”
– [Rob] Let me cut it down to 48 and I’ll tell you why.
– And then you do it and they sell more. 67% more gets sold because it brings organization to the human eye that can’t stand chaos and disruption. How much is each person walking into my shop worth? They’re worth $54.97. Okay, great. What can we do to possibly increase that? What can we do to let the customer buy more cigars and feel confident?
– [Nick III] Sure.
– That’s where Boveda sits as well. Where can we sell more cigars with retailers so that the consumer can feel confident in storing those cigars that you need to sell them?
– [Nick III] Right.
– Because if we don’t solve that problem of you guys feeling comfortable with, I invested in seven Perdomo sticks. I put them in my humidor and it’s rock solid. When I go to pick up that seventh Perdomo cigar and smoke it in 30 days, I know it’s gonna taste just like the first one I smoked the day I took it off the shelf.
– [Nick Jr.] Well, I think our companies have kind of very similar mindsets.
– [Rob] Very.
– It’s not about just selling a box of cigars to a retailer. It’s about continue selling and having a strategy where we keep moving products. And I think that’s how we built our company so exponentially in the last 30 years, because we didn’t follow the cigar industry. We followed companies that I really look up to like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark. These are the companies that I really looked, looked upwards. Harley-Davidson was another company that I really like.
– Your business is very similar to a convenience store.
– It is. It’s all about the square inch because the retailer pays for that. And when,
– I know.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah, and when he carries a Perdomo brand, it should pay for every square inch. But the only way that square inch pays correctly, is if it’s merchandised correctly.
– If it’s picked up and bought.
– [Nick Jr.] Yes.
– And if it sits on my shelf for more than 60 to 90 days, we have a problem.
– Oh, believe me. If it sits more than six to nine days, we should have a problem.
– And you were saying your average.
– Our average turnover is about eight days.
– Eight days.
– [Nick Jr.] Eight days. But that’s because,
– Eight days.
– [Nick Jr.] That’s, that’s if the stores are merchandised correctly.
– [Rob] With the planogram.
– Yes, which I would say probably 7 1/2 out of every 10 stores that are Perdomo authorized dealers carry it correctly.
– Seven out of 10.
– [Nick Jr.] Seven out 10.
– We’re hitting that 70%. We’re doing good.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah, but we,
– [Rob] We’re not at a hundred days.
– Yeah, no. No.
– [Rob] Sorry. We’re not there. We’re definitely not at 25%.
– [Nick Jr.] Definitely not, but,
– [Nick Jr.] But we’re gonna work hard to continue building it. And we see our consumers and our retailers. They see how it works because we didn’t invent the wheel.
– [Rob] No.
– It was done by the greatest companies in the world.
– What I see, which is key there is, you’re not asking me for more shelf space. What you’re asking me to do is organize the boxes into a method that increases sales.
– And you’re always gonna give me more shelf space because when you see it working and you’re making money and I’m paying your indirect and direct cost and your rent and your son, Jimmy’s, you know, guitar lessons, you’re more, more viable to give me more shelf space, right?
– You’re more viable to use the plan.
– [Nick Jr.] Absolutely.
– Use the plan,
– [Nick Jr.] Absolutely.
– To your benefit. And also to the consumers.
– Like, one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about was that we were talking earlier, you and I, was the bag display that you came up with and what, what that did for the company. Impulse buying. Another way for the retailer to make an extra sale and another way for the consumer to get more bang for his buck. And this was something that Nicholas came up with that I was dead against it,
– Did you come up with?
– [Nick Jr.] But it actually worked phenomenally.
– Wow, that’s interesting.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah.
– What did you come up with?
The Son Influences the Father: the Inception of Perdomo Humidified Travel Bags
– Well, I came up, I went on a sales trip. So important to go out on the road with your salesman, because you always learn something. Not only just from the salesman, but you learn from your customers, too. And I was fortunate enough to be in central Florida and one of our really great retail customers has a big, great cigar store called Cigar Life in Lakeland. He used to work for Publix. He was a big executive and we were talking, we were talking about merchandising and I always like to pick his brain because he’s, he’s got a tremendous understanding of it as well. So, you know, he explained to me about, you know, end caps. And I’ll never forget, you know, we talked and, you know, he was telling me, “You know, you should do something where you create an end cap and you feature a certain cigar, put a box of cigar.” Say this month, we’re running, you know we’re talking about Perdomo Champagne or the following month, 20th Anniversary. But I said, I remember saying in my head, I said, “You know what? What about bags?” What about humidified bags? You know, you just grab, catch ’em, you know, you just grab ’em. And so, I worked for about six months, a friend of my dad’s, you know, he worked for a company called Sonoco. And so, they do, corrugate different types of cardboards. So, make a long story short, worked about six months creating, you know, the dimensions, making sure it fit properly and, you know, trying to take into consideration a lot of retail stores are smaller. So, you know, it has to be a good presence, the footprint, but also has to be at a perfect size, too. So, that I think we came out with that probably about four, four years ago, 3 1/2, four years ago. So, that was something, you know, I thank my dad for giving me the chance to come out with something, you know, to really give a presence to our bags. And I think we’ve, our sales have significantly increased.
– What about it, about that project, did you say no to. Why were you saying, “I don’t like this?”
– I thought it would impede on the box sales where somebody would say, well, I can just get some bags and I’ll buy four, eight cigars instead of buying a box of cigars, but I was totally wrong. And I’m glad I was, to be quite honest with you. What we noticed is, is the salesmen that sell the most bags have one thing in common, they sell the most boxes of cigars. So, you were right. And I think we started with 30 of these displays and we’ve literally bought thousands of them. And they’re sold all over the world today and kudos to you, man. It worked. I was at the store about five months ago and this gentleman bought two boxes of Perdomo Reserve Champagne, and when he went over, he grabbed two bags. So, I had,
– Of the same cigar?
– Of the same cigar.
– [Rob] Why?
– That’s what I asked. So, I said, excuse me, I appreciate the business. I saw you buy two boxes cigars. Don’t mind me asking why you’re buying two bags of Champagne, too. He goes, I don’t wanna break up the boxes. This is great. I can throw these boxes, or I can throw these bags on the passenger’s side. I’m gonna go golfing. I’m going with a couple guys. I got eight cigars. I don’t have to break those boxes. The boxes I’ll break up and put in my humidor. So, now this guy not only buys 50 cigars, now he buys eight more. What a great impulse buy. You amortize that by customers. It’s, it’s just massive. It’s not only massive for Perdomo, it’s massive for the retailer. And what it’s done for us. It’s also allowed a lot of people to taste a lot of our different brands. Because we have a bag for Sun Grown, Maduro and Connecticut outside of Champagne and I was just recently I was, I’m trying to remember where I was at. I was somewhere because I’m always traveling. And a guy said, “You know, I smoke Perdomo Habano Sun Grown. And I want boxes.” He goes, “You want me tell you how I learned about that brand?” I said, “Yeah, please tell me.” He said, “I bought your Sun Grown bag and I loved that cigar.” So, that bag helped propel a sale
– [Nick Jr.] Of a box of cigars. So, it’s a nice ping-pong effect. It goes back and forth, so. It’s a win. Excuse me. It’s a win-win situation for us, those bags and great job on that.
– [Rob] Unbelievable.
Business Tip: Employ the Best People Who are Smarter Than You Are
– So, as a present CEO of a company, sometimes you gotta listen and trust. Trust,
– [Rob] You’re darn right.
– Trust your guys, you know, when they come up with stuff and these guys go to college. I only went to Hialeah High School, you know? But they, they you know, they study these algorithms, study all this stuff, study all these statistical information. They read and stuff and they come up and bring up some great things that we can learn from also. You know what I mean?
– Why else employ them?
– [Rob] Because otherwise, you’re just being the master blender and setting out the recipe and telling them to go.
– [Rob] In this way.
– You’re spot on.
– [Rob] Go down this road.
– Yeah. It’s a great analogy.
– What if I wanna go to the right?
D-I-S-C (Does It Sell Cigars?)
– Right. Yeah. Absolutely. My whole thing is, is to try to employ the best people that are actually smarter than you are. One of the greatest things I love, is when I go to the trade show and I’ll go, “Can I help you?” And they’ll go, “No, I’m waiting for, you know, Arthur. I’m waiting for whoever the salesman is.” I don’t get bent out for that. I think that’s a compliment because that means that my guys are doing a great job where a lot of owners might get all ruffled. There’s no ego here. My whole thing is DISC. D-I-S-C, Does it sell cigars? And if the customer is comfortable with the salesman more so than with the owner, God bless ’em because that means that my employees are doing their job and doing a great job and I commend them for it. I certainly am not jealous of it. I’m happy that they’re doing what they’re doing. And they’re building relationships with their retailers and doing what they’re supposed to do. To me, that means we’re doing good.
– Does it sell cigars?
– It does.
– [Rob] Starts there.
– [Rob] And you’ve kind of shown me that as you walked me around your whole facility here. Everything you guys are doing is does this help sell cigars?
– [Nick Jr.] And, you know, I think, I think we built a great foundation because if you look at our company, one of the greatest thing about our company, we’re completely debt-free. We don’t even owe the bank a dollar. Zero. Everything’s paid for. We’ve never taken a loan. We’ve never taken a line of credit. After 30 years, we’ve done that because,
– [Nick Jr.] Never.
– You’ve never
– [Nick Jr.] Never.
– Had to asked for cash to keep going.
– No. No, I ate at my dad’s house for three months because I didn’t have food to eat, but I made sure all my employees ate. True story. Yeah, so.
– [Rob] What?
– I’ve never, yeah, true story. I was,
– [Rob] Three months?
– Three months I had to eat at my father’s because I didn’t have food to eat, but I made sure that all my employees got paid. Look, everybody struggles in business. If people tell you they don’t, they’re liars, but I’ve never used bank financing. Nothing. Everything you see here is paid for. I remember telling Arthur Kemper, “What do you think? Over a million square feet of building space, thousand employees.” I go, “What’s the most beautiful thing?” He says, “We have a phenomenal foundation. We have vertical integration. We make top quality products.” And I said, “Another thing too, is, everything that we’re standing on, we own, 100%” And you have to be a good steward of your money to do good in business, too. And you have to know how to do it.
– [Rob] Right.
– And look, I’ve made a ton of mistakes. When I built my box company, I would buy a machine and I would pay for it and I’d buy a, well, it took me seven months to do that. I probably should have borrowed money from the bank at the time, pay 6% interest.
– Because you’ll get there faster.
– [Nick Jr.] I would’ve got there much faster.
– Make more money.
– But I think of my mother all the time, you know, and my mother says,
– [Rob] Don’t overextend.
– Don’t extend. Don’t borrow money, pay everything. You know, my family’s old school. So, I was brought up in that old school mentality. It was probably in some cases wrong. But, you know, when I look back at it, to be honest with you, after 30 years, I’m glad I did, I did what I did.
– Was there a point where you almost said, “I’m kind of done with Perdomo Cigars. I don’t wanna do this anymore.”
– I never did because you can’t jump in the water unless you jump in. And once you jump in,
– [Rob] So, the risk is key.
– The risk is everything and, you know, it becomes a game about winning. Today, the only thing I care about and I tell this to my son all the time, is that you the retailer are confident in selling our cigars and our consumers always say, “I never had a bad Perdomo Cigar.” To me, that’s the only thing I care about. Look, in my stage in my career, I can walk off in the sunset right now and live the rest of my life. But I work today for my son, for my daughter, for their spouses, for our workforce here in Nicaragua and for my granddaughter.
– [Rob] Right.
– That’s what I work for. You know, and I work every day for it. The money I make today, I will never ever use it or spend it, but I do it for them. And that was through a lot of hard work and making very good decisions by having great, a great workforce. I say this all the time, but it’s the truth, and I even had an ad on it, even when Smoke Magazine was out, the greatest resource and greatest asset of Perdomo Cigars is certainly not Nick Perdomo. It’s our workforce. And I’ve always believed that. You know, we’ve won 19 straight trophies for, in 19 years with Cigar Journal. And every time I raise that trophy, I always offer that trophy to my workers and to my family and the last guy that needs the credit or has to take the credits is I, because I’m certainly not the smartest guy in the company, but I’m a good listener. And I try to lead the ship in the right direction. And I always think, what would my dad do? Because my dad always led that boat in the right direction. So,
– I bet you you ask yourself that a lot.
– Sure. I absolutely do. I forgot who I was talk, I said that a couple nights ago. I forgot. I think it was with my wife. I think we were talking, we had a conversation. I said, well you know, I think, “What would my dad do? What would my mom do? What would my grandfather do?” Sure, sure. Especially learning from your family, from your dad, your mom, your grandparents.
– If your dad wasn’t here today, No, no ill will there, obviously. But if for some odd reason he wasn’t here today, do you feel confident that you could carry on the business?
– Yes, because my dad has built an incredible company with incredible people and as I go along the way, I would continue to learn, but also but almost, you know, my dad’s the captain of the ship and he’s built something incredible, that it’s bigger than any of us. But, you know, there’s certain systems that are in place that, you know, I think that, yeah, I would have no, no issue. I mean, there would be a learning curve, but, you know, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s thanks to him.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– [Nick III] You know, thanks to him building,
– [Rob] But then in, you have to turn back in.
– [Nick III] Mm-hmm.
– He’s not here anymore. You have to turn back into yourself
– [Nick III] Sure.
– And say, this isn’t gonna be easy. Do I have the passion to keep going?
– That’s what, that is what would make it happen.
– [Rob] You do have the passion.
– Passion. Of course, of course. Of course.
– [Rob] And you wanna keep it going.
– I think the will. I have the will to keep it going, sure.
– So, no matter how hard it is, you gotta you gotta eat outta your mom’s fridge for three months.
– I don’t think it’d be that bad, but no.
– [Rob] No? Not that bad.
– [Nick III] No, no.
– He’s got it pretty good now.
– [Nick III] Yeah.
– What are you gonna tell him to remember to do when you’re not here?
– Well, I want him to follow his passion. I want him to see the sacrifices his father did. And look, if he decides one day that he wants to sell the business, God bless him, if he wants to do it. I made my decision at my age, especially. I wasn’t old enough. If it was 10 years later, 15 years later, maybe I would. But I want him to follow his passion because that’s what he wants to do. You know, you have to, you have to, I have a lot of faith too, in God.
– [Rob] Mm-hmm.
– If I didn’t, I’d probably shoot myself with all the things I’ve had to, have had to go through in my life.
– Running any business is very difficult. And the way I did it methodically with never borrowing money, never using money,
– [Rob] Right.
– Struggling and struggling and just building little by little by little, you know, someone just recently asked me, when did I think I made it? And I told him, “Last year.” And he looked at me very perplexed. And I said, yeah, it was a Saturday. And I was with Arthur and we had chairs and I said, I wanna walk around with these chairs and I wanna look at the facility. I never really see it. And I had this second floor office above the rolling room and I remember looking and I went, “Arthur, man, this is big as shit. I can’t believe how many rollers we got here. This is huge.” Because I’m always looking at what’s going on with the draw testing, what’s going on with quality control, what’s going on with here. I’m looking at all the good, bad, and ugly in every single process.
– [Rob] Microscopic.
– Microscopically. Almost like you’re looking in a cubicle, almost in a vacuum, right?
– [Rob] You went 30,000 feet that day.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah, and then I go and I’m looking at sorting and selecting and all you hear is whoosh, whoosh, the leaves. And I’m looking and I go, oh my God, this is massive. There’s how many people here? There’s 972 women who are sorting and selecting fillers and binders and wrappers. And I remember when I bought my first bale of tobacco, I called my wife to take a picture and it was $360. And the UPS guy asked me if it was marijuana. I said, “No man, it’s tobacco.” Because they were delivering to my home because that’s where,
– [Rob] Yeah.
– I made cigars. And I felt like Superman. I had my arms up in the air. But you gotta start somewhere and you have to be humble. And I remember the first guy I saw smoke my cigars, He had a paper and I saw him with the cigar and I go, to my wife, Janine, and I go, “Look, he’s smoking one of our cigars.” We’re in Miami Beach. We had two towels. We didn’t have a pot to piss in. I walked over and I go, “Sir, you enjoying that cigar?” And he looked at me and he said, “Yes.” One word answers, one of those guys, right? And I go, “I just wanna let you know, I manufactured that cigar.” He says, “That’s nice.” And he put the paper back up. So, you ever see the movie “Tommy Boy”?
– [Rob] Yeah.
– So, remember when he made the first sale, he went, he turns around and he goes like this. I turn around. I go like that. And my wife goes, “How was he?” I said the guy was a complete jerk-off. But, I was just so happy
– [Rob] Right.
– That he was smoking my cigars. So, people ask me today, “Why do you guys go out on the road so much?” Nobody buys boxes of cigars and says to me, “I’m having a horrible day. I’m buying a box of cigars from you.”
– [Rob] Right.
– I had a, everybody’s happy to see you.
– [Rob] Right.
– So, to me I feel so humbled that I can go out and talk to people that enjoy our product that have a passion for, you know, from a guy who’s saying, look, here’s a box of Perdomo, the original Perdomo Reserve Champagne. 22 years ago, I bought this box. This is a guy in Chicago. This is my son. He’s getting married next Saturday. I’m buying the same box now. Now it’s called 10th Anniversary Champagne. But you know how good that makes you feel?
– [Rob] Right.
– When you do something. So, I’m humbled by it because when you build something, you really are humbled by it. And one of the things that I was so stringent on Nicholas was, I wanted him to see the endeavors, the sacrifice, the stress that not only I did, but his mother did, because Janine was unbelievable
– [Nick Jr.] In helping me build the business. My mother who still comes to work every day at 90.
– [Rob] Yeah.
– My father who literally died in Nicaragua trying to help the company. I wanted him to be there. And he was there when my father died in Nicaragua. So, he’s seen all the tragedy and all the roughness and all the things. So, I feel very good when I ride off in the sunset that we’re gonna be in great hands at Perdoma. Yeah, I do.
– Hopefully our viewers got a little taste of what it takes to run not only a cigar company, but a family-run business that really puts every effort into making sure you guys are enjoying cigars. Can’t thank you guys both enough.
– Thank you.
– [Nick Jr.] Thank you, my friend, I appreciate it.
– Nicholas, I’m looking forward to the future with you and seeing what else comes of it because you’re a smart kid. Smart guy. Man. Sorry.
– It’s all right.
– [Rob] And Nick, I can’t thank you enough for
– Thank you.
– [Rob] For starting a brand that we all get to enjoy and pass on to our legacy and say, “Hey, smoke these cigars that are 20 years old on your wedding day.”
– Thank you for being so prepared and being such a good interviewer, too. You know, we do a lot of these and, you know, a lot of guys are never prepared
– And you were extremely prepared, extremely functional and very professional. And I want to thank you for that.
– And you made it fun, too.
– [Nick Jr.] Yeah, you did.
– That’s the best compliment I can get.
– [Nick Jr.] You did.
– I didn’t, I didn’t come here to talk about cigars. We talk about cigars because we’re passionate about it, but I came here to understand you guys and I hope they got that.
– I think they did. Thank you guys.
– [Nick III] Thank you.
– Yeah. That’s another episode of Box Press. I’m your host, Rob Gagner. And as always, keep those cigars protected with Boveda and pick up a box of Perdomos. You will not be disappointed. Cheers.
Learn about who makes 10th Anniversary Champagne:
- 07:46 Fathers and sons working together
- 10:50 Do you trust getting cigar recommendations from a younger cigar smoker?
- 15:26 Why you should have a second child
- 16:30 What’s the hardest part about cigar making?
- 18:58 When tobacco grows, it sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies® cereal
- 20:15 What’s the most important aspect about growing tobacco?
- 24:14 The first thing to check if you want to farm tobacco
- 27:14 The truth about blending tobacco for cigars
- 41:47 Is a cigar rolling event really a dog and pony show?
- 44:23 Do ring gauges affect the flavor of a cigar?
- 53:48 The son influences the father: the inception of Perdomo Humidified Travel Bags
- 58:25 Employ the best people who are smarter than you are