Taking on much of the work and responsibility of pulling their store together not only brought them closer together as friends and business partners; it also helped them to better connect with their new business before it officially opened its doors. Now they had a personal story to tell about how their new cigar store came to be and the way that working closely together created a stronger synergy between them and served as real motivation. The pair had some must-haves when it came to planning their finished store, such as comfort and cigar selection. To make it stand out from other stores, the two also wanted to focus on bringing in quality brands that they both put their stamp of approval on.
Cabezas and Reo-Coker search for products that they view as being different to stock their store with and to distribute through their online subscription service. Even though they prefer boutique cigars, what matters most to them is their overall impression of the cigars, so both Cabezas and Reo-Coker must smoke each product and put it through their own review process and also speak to the manufacturer before making that final decision of whether they will ultimately stock it.
“It just has to be something different that maybe the common person that is traveling to South Florida and comes to the shop might not see at his shop, wherever they are from,” says Cabezas. “We’re just trying to introduce different selections and different cigars to people that are coming in that area.”
What Cabezas is also noticing after several decades of working in the tobacco industry is that today’s cigar smoker is different from the ones of the past. People who are coming into her store now are of a younger demographic, and they aren’t asking for the classic premium cigar brands that one would likely expect. Instead, they’re asking for suggestions. They aren’t loyal to just one brand and are open to smoking something new to them. In fact, the classic question of “What’s new?” is also being asked less often, and they aren’t smoking the cigars that are being hyped in the major cigar publications.
“I think that palates are changing, and consumers’ interests are changing toward cigars,” says Cabezas. “Our approach right now is fitting in nicely because we’re open to introducing them to something that perhaps they didn’t think that they would like. They discover cigars that they really like even more so than the ones that they were originally smoking. That’s always nice to do that.”
As someone who drinks and appreciates wines, Cabezas has become focused on not becoming complacent but instead challenging one’s palate. During her time in the cigar industry, Cabezas has observed how in the past people would stick to smoking one particular cigar and then try to push what appealed to their palate onto others within their social circle. As a tobacconist, this is something Cabezas now discourages doing because no two palates are the same, thus she sees it as her job to help guide customers through different cigars and blends to help them develop their own palate and find what they like rather than suggesting they opt for the ones she prefers.
Cabezas and Reo-Coker quickly learned the value of using social media to engage with customers while also showing the world what makes their store and business so different. Social media has allowed Terrible Cigar Club to connect with a wide range of customers in the South Florida area and beyond. It has also helped them build a diverse community, allowing Terrible Cigar Club to become a haven for minorities who are looking for a place to come together, united by a shared love and passion for cigars.
“I think that to be a good tobacconist you have to know how to listen,” she explains. “You have to know how to grow your capacity of tasting different spices, different herbs, different foods, different wines, liquors and all of that because the more knowledge you have about taste, the better tobacconist you can be to suggest to a person the type of cigar that they should smoke.”
For those that can’t experience the Terrible Cigar Club in person, the company also offers its online subscription club that features a wide range of cigars that will introduce cigar smokers to something new each month. During her many years in the industry, Cabezas has come across an assortment of cigars that go underappreciated and unnoticed for various reasons. Hoping to expand the typical cigar smoker’s palate with the club selections, the Terrible Cigar Club’s selection of cigars will not only challenge your palate but is also aimed at increasing subscribers’ knowledge of cigars by providing some context as well as the story of some of these lesser-known releases. For more information about Terrible Cigar Club’s subscription service and to sign up, visit theterriblecigarclub.com.
This story first appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Story by Antoine Reid, senior editor and digital director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.