It isn’t easy being a small tobacco company in an industry dominated by giants—so when you see a relatively small company operating out of Wilson, North Carolina thriving in today’s turbulent marketplace, you know that they’re doing something right. Such is the case for East Carolina RYO, founded in the heart of U.S. tobacco country in 2006.
After cigarette prices skyrocketed in the aftermath of the Masters Settlement Agreement, a handful of tobacco company and retail veterans came together to give smokers a reasonably priced alternative, recounts Andy Shango, one of the company’s founders. “We decided to turn history back and see if people would go back to making their own cigarettes if it meant getting a much lower price,” he explains. “That was the whole concept.”
The company’s original product, Kentucky Smooth, was a hit with smokers, who quickly embraced the roll-your-own trend and appreciated East Carolina RYO’s commitment to quality and its ability to deliver value. “We were able to draw on the industry experience of our founders to put out one of the best products on the market on every level, from the smoking sensation to the quality of the tobacco we were buying,” Shango says. “And because we were a small company we were able to have a very reasonable price.”