Today Cigar Coop celebrates its seventh year in operation! It was August 15, 2010 when Cigar Coop was born.

Last month, we hit a five-year milestone of continuous daily publication of original content. The roots of this website go back to a cup of iced coffee in New Orleans, followed by some observations of the 2010 IPCPR. The content was rough, the photos were awful, but through the past seven years, there has been a process of continuous improvement. We’ve come a long way.

The past six months were probably the most challenging and most rewarding in the seven-year history of Cigar Coop. For starters, we successfully re-established Cigar Coop as a standalone brand. To support this, we built a solid back office infrastructure and upgraded our servers. We hired staff including contracting with an IT company to support our infrastructure. We also launched two podcasts, Prime Time and Prime Time Special Edition, that have quickly become successful. The additions of Aaron Loomis and Bear Duplisea to partner on these podcasts has been invaluable. The result is we have been able to operate much more efficiently while expanding our content and improving our quality. We also added two strategic partnerships with the Smooth Draws Radio Show and Kiss My Ash Radio.

I find it ironic that we launched a couple of coffee brands to coincide with our seven-year anniversary – after all, this website started with a cup of iced coffee.

While there have been peaks and valleys, I’m proud of the history of this brand and where we are now. Today, I take you through the seven most memorable events I have had with Cigar Coop. These are listed in no particular order. Thank you to our audience, sponsors, and strategic partners for your support over the past seven years. This would not be possible without you.

Destination Cuba

We recently named the opening of Cuba as the biggest story in the cigar industry over the past five years. Back in 2010, I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to visit Cuba. It was exactly one year ago when I was in Cuba (and it was Cigar Coop’s six-year anniversary). It was an amazing trip during which the initial ground work was laid for me joining up with Gary Laden and Nick Syris for the Smooth Draws Radio Show.

I recapped my experience in Cuba in two feature stories. The first covers Cuba from a cultural standpoint while the second covers Cuba from a cigar enthusiast’s standpoint.

Feature Story: Havana Cuba-In My Mind’s Eye

Feature Story: Dancing on the Jetty-Cigar Smoking in Cuba

The Jorge Padrón Interviews

It’s not the easiest thing to get an interview with Jorge Padrón, but with the help of Craig Cass of Tinder Box of Charlotte, I was able to get two interviews.

The first interview took place in December 2014. Seth Geise, now of Developing Palates, joined me as we discussed the Padrón 50th Anniversary and the Padrón Family Reserve No. 50 releases. I was joined by Stace Berkland for the second interview, which took place in November 2016. In that interview, we discussed Padrón Dámaso and Padrón Serie 1926 No. 90.

As you will see, Jorge is not afraid to push back in an interview. Particularly, when I asked him about rounded cigars in the 2016 interview.

The Jorge Padrón Interview 2014

The Jorge Padrón Interview 2016


The IPCPR 2012 Interviews

At the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show, still in the infancy of Cigar Coop, I decided to do the video interview thing (this was pre-Stogie Geeks). That project was not one of the more successful ventures in Cigar Coop history. I had no equipment, and frankly a poor game plan. However, there were two bright spots that still stand out to me.

First, I managed to score an interview with actor Joseph R. Gannascoli. Joe was best known for his iconic and groundbreaking role of Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos. At the time, Joe was in the cigar business, with his own brand and line of accessories. During the show, he was kind enough to give me some time to chat, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Following the interview, Joe even got baseball great Gary Sheffield to sit down with me for an interview. Gary could not have been nicer, and to this day it’s an interview I’ll never forget.

Visiting the Eiroas in Honduras

Over the years, I have gotten to know Christian Eiroa through my work at Cigar Coop, Stogie Geeks, and visiting various events. When I found out his brother Justo Eiroa was getting into the cigar business to bring their father Julio R. Eiroa’s brands to market, I figured I would make a phone call and introduce myself.

What followed was quite interesting. We interviewed Justo on Stogie Geeks on the night of the FDA Deeming Regulations being announced. While there was a bit of a dark cloud, it was a positive and fun interview. Justo and I met in person at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, and we developed a media-to-brand partnership as well as a friendship.

Earlier this year, Justo invited me to stay at Camp Aladino and visit the Eiroa Tobacco Farm and spend a week with both Justo and his father. They personally took me through the farming and manufacturing process.

I have written several pieces on this visit, and will have more this year as well.

Feature Story: Bayer CropScience a Daily Best Practice of Eiroa Operations

Feature Story: A Visit to the JRE Tobacco Company Operations: Part 1-The Corojo Farm

Feature Story: A Visit to the JRE Tobacco Company Operations: Part 2-The Agriculture and Curing Operations

The Michael Giannini Phone Call

This is something I haven’t disclosed on Cigar Coop in the past.

Many times when we release content, we will hear the negative, or not hear anything at all. When you get a positive phone call it really feels good. Last year was one of those special instances. This occurred when I received a phone call from Michael Giannini following a Feature Story I penned when he departed General Cigar.

Cigar Coop started in 2010, and I’d like to think we had a front row seat watching Giannini’s career develop at General once he took over La Gloria Cubana. In the piece, I chronicled Giannini’s career at General Cigar – starting at La Gloria Cubana and then moving to Foundry and a cross-brand role at General. I  attempted to fairly evaluate Giannini’s impact at General – both positive and negative. Some consider Giannini’s tenure at General controversial and when recapping his time there, I had to note that in the article.

When that phone call came from Michael Giannini, I will admit, I was a bit nervous. However, Giannini could not have been nicer. He acknowledged I was very fair and honest in the article, and appreciated the article. Michael Giannini is now one of the biggest names in one of the biggest cigar companies in the world. Even though he had departed General, he still took the time to give me positive feedback – and I appreciate that.

Feature Story: A Look Back at the Michael Giannini Era At General Cigar

The Ass-Pressed Cigar Episode

This was an episode we filmed on Stogie Geeks with guests Mike Bellody and Nick Melillo. In this episode, Stogie “Mark Feeley” Santa loses his cigar. To this day, it is one of the most talked about episodes of a great run I had with Stogie Geeks.

Stogie Santa was a valued member to work with. The Stogie Geeks show never had the same vibe after he left. It’s a friendship I’ll value forever.

The fun starts at the 30-minute mark.

Restructuring Cigar Coop in 2017

I mentioned it in the introduction that earlier this year, I made the decision to take Cigar Coop in a different direction, which included stepping away from the Stogie Geeks show. While I was grateful for a wonderful 3 1/2 year run, it was time to build a business around the way Cigar Coop operated. I knew this move was a huge risk and I questioned at times if it would pay off.

Other big things were happening as well. Two strategic partnerships were established: one with Smooth Draws Radio (where I co-host) and the other with KMA Talk Radio (where I am the News Editor). In addition, two new Cigar Coop brands were established: the Prime Time Show and Prime Time Special Edition. Partnering with Aaron Loomis of Developing Palates and Bear Duplisea of Michael’s Tobacco in Euless Texas has been an honor and huge asset to Cigar Coop. Hat’s off also to Gary, Nick, and Chad at Smooth Draws Radio and Abe, Adam, Erica, and Paul at KMA Talk Radio. All of these people are top-notch professionals and I am grateful to work with them.

Meanwhile, we launched a new business model, a new back-end office system, and contracted with an IT company to host and support our new upgraded infrastructure. Finally, we launched a coffee brand with the help of Logan Lawler of Layne Coffee.

The support of our sponsors, strategic partners, audience and readers has been incredible. Thank you. You’ve helped make Cigar Coop what it is today.