The mantra from the man who founded/rebranded the Lone Wolf Cigar Company in 2000 is that there’s a lone wolf in everyone. “Regardless of race, religion or background, we are all the same; we are all in this alone,” David Weiss tells Tobacco Business, who says the Lone Wolf brand epitomizes people’s inner struggles. “We all feel like we are on a deserted island.”
He adds, “I believe in the spirit of the lone wolf, but the survival backbone is friendship and community, which is why I’m building lounges.” Lounges represent a new era for the company.
With roots that date back to 1893, the Lone Wolf Cigar Company is no stranger to rebranding and reinvention. The company operates as a trilogy—with manufacturer, retailer and lounge operator components. Since 2014—when the 3,000-square-foot retail space opened in West L.A., housing the Lone Wolf Cigar Lounge—the company embarked on its most recent rebranding phase. Today, it’s in a position to offer the expanded smoking space that smokers crave.
“I remember back when I was single and we only had the small store in Santa Monica; I would make it a point to invite other ‘lone wolves’ to the store’s little lounge on holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah,” recalls Weiss. “Those of us with no friends or family nearby would hang out and smoke cigars, and be alone together.”
The new lounge is now home to a lot more cigar camaraderie in “upscale vintage” surroundings that inspired a new logo and website, as well as the short- and long-term plan for more locations of its kind under the Lone Wolf banner.
Lounge of the Future?
What does the Lone Wolf lounge of the future look like and how will it evolve? Weiss notices that real estate is shifting to more experience-driven retail, something that already fits perfectly with the Lone Wolf concept.
“We are here to offer more experience and [a] destination, not just things for sale, which is why I like lounges—there is more to do than just buy something,” he says. “They have an incentive to purchase, yes, but ultimately we offer a great, comfortable, luxurious space.”
Moving forward from a conceptual level, “we would love to offer additional and great pairings with alcohol and food, where legal,” notes Weiss. “We can’t do it in L.A., but where we can, we want to do culinary elements and spirits, beer and wine. The great part about cigars is the celebration behind them—deal signings, a child’s birth, weddings—I would like to provide spaces for that.”
Weiss sees great cigars, dark chocolate, fine cheeses and spirits in Lone Wolf lounges of the future. “We would like to see municipalities allow people to congregate in this fashion, getting smokers away from common areas of the buildings, taking them out of the shadows and making the feel free and comfortable. I have children and elderly parents, and I’m opposed to smoking in their faces; I want cigar sanctuaries.”
That’s why Weiss believes strongly in helping the new legislative approach and not fighting against it. He also believes in supporting the green trend and more. “I’m a dad with two little kids, and I feel passionate about protecting our liberties and freedoms. But I’m just as passionate about those who don’t want cigar smoke in their lives. If we don’t protect non-smokers, we lose our rights. You have to really care about your neighbors, and that’s why I stopped the [on-premise] smoking in Santa Monica—it was the right thing to do.”
A Grandfathered Manufacturer
From a manufacturing perspective, “we’re a grandfathered brand, which puts us on a very fortunate list,” says Weiss. “We were established in the mid-’90s, which is why we can expand from a regulation standpoint—it means we have an easier time with the accreditation process with the FDA. We have history and pedigree; now it’s time to scale up.”
By scaling up, Weiss means he is entertaining the idea of “strategic alliances with other great cigar people. It’s tough to say now, but we’re talking to a few different players about joining together for different aspects, wholesale primarily.”
Regarding the FDA’s intervention in the cigar business, Lone Wolf intends to “stay focused and follow the rules, whatever they are,” according to Weiss. As a company, “we’ve already been through a lot of struggles: Proposition 10 in California, the raising of our taxes, the death of the cigar fad, the 9/11 market bubble, the housing crisis—there were and will be a lot of difficult times, but the lone wolf survives and thrives.”
– Story by Renée M. Covino. Photos by Max S. Gerber
This story first appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.