“Vienna has long been a crossroads city of the world. Much like the city we all face crossroads moments – aka decision points and Cigar Coop is no exception. Today in this final installment, we look at those decision points”

It was musician Billy Joel that penned one of the greatest songs of all time called Vienna. He had been inspired to write the song from a trip to Vienna. Vienna has long garnered the reputation of being the crossroads city between Eastern and Western Europe. It was scenes of epic battles between the Christians and Muslims. Joel took Vienna and looked at it more as a metaphor and in the lyrics he uses it to describe those crossroads moments. As I close out this ten-part series where I looked back at ten years of Cigar Coop, there were many crossroads moments.  I prefer to use the words “decision points” – namely there was a point I reached and had to unveil some big decision points throughout Cigar Coop.

Decision points come in many flavors – whether in the strategic direction of Cigar Coop or in the content created. Some decision points are bigger than others. We’ve covered a lot of the strategic decision points over the past nine installments. Today I’ll wrap up the series with the content side of the house. There are two big ones that I’ll mention here.

IPCPR 2019 and the Proposed CigarCon

Sometimes when you see something not right, you have to say something. This was the case with the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show and subsequent announcement and cancellation of CigarCon.

The 2019 IPCPR Trade Show featured major announcements of a rebranding of the IPCPR to Premium Cigar Association (PCA) – and a planned consumer component to the 2020 PCA Trade Show called CigarCon. Weeks before the announcement was made, information had been leaking to members of media, including Cigar Coop on this. While we mentioned this on our Prime Time Shows, given Cigar Coop’s #rumorfree #teaserfree policy there was a decision made to table “leaking” the information, but continue to monitor the story to evaluate in the post-game mode.

It turns out that the plans for the rebranding and CigarCon came off the tracks very quickly. For starters, news of the CigarCon leaked out a little over a week before the 2019 Trade Show where the announcement was scheduled to be made, creating controversy among many in the cigar industry. The IPCPR/PCA attempted to ride out the storm after the leak until the official news of the rebranding and CigarCon came out. Unfortunately, that did not work and the rumpus continued well after the Trade Show was over. Most of the controversy revolved around CigarCon and how such a component should be executed. The kerfluffle was not helped by what was perceived as low foot traffic at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show.

I’d like to think Cigar Coop has had a good relationship with the IPCPR over the years. They have been very good to me, and responsive to inquiries I had made. I respect the people and the work they do. However, the leaks, the lack of a plan around CigarCon, and the disaster of the low foot traffic at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show is something that I could not ignore. I realized I had a job to do, and that people wanted to hear my opinion. The decision was made as I broke down CigarCon and the 2019 Trade Show as well as commented hard on the low foot traffic. These were not glowing assessments.

As a reminder, the subsequent cancellation of CigarCon actually took down the Cigar Coop servers due to overload.

While some applauded what I wrote, others were not happy – especially those within the PCA and close to the PCA. I think fences were mended in recent months and I still feel if I had to make the same decision again, I would do it.

Rudy is going to Save the Cigar Industry

Disclaimer: We don’t discuss politics on Cigar Coop unless its the politics of Cigars….

Another big one was the Rudy Giuliani story. For many years, I’ve been fascinated when a famous person shows an interest in cigars – and one that comes to the top of the list was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I had been a fan of Mayor Giuliani for many years, but as I started to cover the industry, I frankly had been underwhelmed by Giuliani in relation to our industry. Sure he was “interested” in our industry, but was he committed to helping our industry?

This all came to a head the night of the 2016 Presidential Election. That night, Giuliani made an appearance on Fox News during the early part of the U.S. Presidential election night coverage. During his appearance, Giuliani was assessing some of the results around the State of Florida. He had stated that Republican candidate Donald Trump was going to win Florida and there were certain neighborhoods indicative of this. One neighborhood was Little Havana and it was the comments around Little Havana that set the cigar industry into a frenzy.

“I know the Cuban Community in Little Havana and I happen to spend a lot of time there; for a total irrelevant reason – the fact that I love cigars. I know all those families very well, the Padron family, Don Pepin Garcia. They’re big Trump supporters.”

The problem was this: the cigar industry took that quote and transformed Giuliani into a White Knight for the cigar industry. Many were convinced between the Fox segment, his love of cigars, and his relationship with the new President that Giuliani was going to be a champion of the cigar industry. I questioned it, and I debated going public with it. After all, discussing politics on social media is not a fun topic.

In the end, I penned a controversial article called The Myth of Rudy Giuliani Saving the Cigar Industry. The article broke down where I felt Giuliani did not have the “commitment” to help us. It was not received very well and led to a flood of angry emails. I even addressed some of the criticism in an editorial. The emails and messages kept coming, and most were not kind.

A few months the IPCPR secured Giuliani as a keynote speaker for the 2017 Convention. At the time of this decision, I thought the IPCPR made a good move, but I raised the point “actions are louder than words” in regards to how Giuliani would engage the industry at IPCPR. Once again the negative emails and messages came. In the end, I thought Giuliani missed the mark with his keynote address – and by a wide margin. This resulted in more emails and messages.

I’ll leave it up to you if I was right or wrong about Giuliani. I will say, the negative emails are gone, and any emails today I receive on this topic are along the lines are “perhaps you were right.”

This was a challenging decision point and several times I felt pressure whether to pursue my position or not. In the end, my position was to create awareness from a story that I felt really wasn’t a story.

An epilogue to this is back in February, Mayor Giuliani and I both attended The Great Smoke’s VIP Event with the Red Meat Lovers Club. Many people wanted me to confront him, but he was not there for a political appearance. He was there to enjoy himself, and I felt it wasn’t the time to debate his commitment to the cigar industry….but what I can say he sure had an interest in cigars!

This concludes the ten-part series looking back at ten years of Cigar Coop. Thank you to our sponsors, strategic partners, and audience. Special thanks to the folks who have been a part of the team – Aaron, Bear and Dave. We will hopefully do this series again in 2030.