The Boutique Cigar Association (BCA) announced it is changing its mission statement from a trade association for small family-run cigar companies to a social platform for those companies. As a part of this change, the BCA will no longer operate as a non-profit organization. Finally, BCA President and Founder Dr. Gaby Kafie also announced his resignation.
The announcement is not a surprise. Most of the communications from the BCA as of late had seemed more “community-driven” and less like ones of a trade association. In the past year the BCA has operated its own podcast, “Protecting the Legacy”, and it’s clear that the podcast’s mission has changed. What originally appeared to be a forum to discuss the challenges faced by the small family-run companies have evolved into more content involving interviewing industry personalities and open virtual herfs. The change in direction of the podcast seemed indicative the BCA was changing.
More recently, the BCA was promoting a B2C platform called “Boutique Smoke” where BCA member cigar companies could sell directly to consumers. Business-wise, it was unclear how Boutique Smoke and the Boutique Cigar Association were related (but both did have the same contact phone number on each respective website). and it’s unclear if this led to the decision to change the non-profit status of the organization. Since its inception, the BCA had closely aligned itself with the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) and Cigar Rights of America (CRA). Several PCA retail members expressed concern to Cigar Coop about the Boutique Smoke project.
Finally, if there were any fundraising initiatives by the BCA, they were not very well promoted. Fundraising is something that is vital to the long-term survival of a non-profit organization.
The following is a statement by Dr. Gaby Kafie posted to the BCA Social Media in regards to the change and his resignation:
The Boutique Cigar Association was founded for 1 basic principle. To protect and defend the rights of small family-owned boutique cigar companies in the United States against FDA regulations. The idea was to create a platform that would serve as a voice for many small producers. After 4 years of being active defenders and participants in the process of challenging the over-reaching FDA regulations on premium cigars, the BCA finds itself in a blessed position. Our goals in the short term have been achieved.
First of all, the FDA is not enforcing all tobacco regulations on premium cigars. It appears that we have bought some time (2-3 years or more) from substantial equivalence testing.
This is huge!
Second, the premium cigar industry through the efforts of Cigar Rights of America and the Premium Cigar Association along with countless businessmen and women from our industry have managed to properly define premium cigars in the eyes of the FDA. Yes, we are no longer lumped in with all other tobacco products.
As the founder of the Boutique Cigar Association, I have spent the past 4 years of my life helping our industry and small brand owners in ways that have led us to the beautiful place that we are at (where we can stay in business). The BCA was set up as a non-profit organization and remained as such for the past 4 years. I have dedicated hundreds of hours and countless dollars defending our “family-owned” business as well as other small premium cigar businesses.
I firmly believe the fight is not over, it never will be. In the near term, there are no threats on the horizon. For this reason, I have decided to shift all of my focus to our business (Kafie 1901 Cigars & Kafie 1901 Coffee) and my family. I am officially stepping down as the head of the BCA, and the focus of the BCA will shift to a more social one.
There are a few individuals whom I would like to thank, they were the wind beneath our wings. First and foremost, I need to start at the top with Glynn Loope . From day 1 that he and I meet many years ago, his passion and love for our industry (and defending it) was contagious. The man had dedicated his life to this mission. He was a huge inspiration to me and to the foundation of the Boutique Cigar Association. We are where we are today because of his efforts.
Also, I will list many names of people who were the founding fathers of this fight. Last names only as they also represent their families and their companies.
Fuente, Padron, Patel, Rubin, Eiroa, Newman, Levine, Borysiewicz, Dababneh, and many many more. To those I did not mention, I apologize. I’ve attached a photo below for you all to see the strength of CRA. Let this be a wake up call of what we can achieve when we all come together.
To our original Board of Directors (Boutique Cigar Association).
Joel Vazquez Marrero
I would like to take a moment to thank you all for your efforts towards achieving a de-regulatory environment. Special thanks to Kerry Horney and Armen Caprielian for their massive efforts in supporting the cause. Together we made a difference.
We achieved some great things over the past 4 years. We had some true challenges, historic ones. I say historic because the Boutique Cigar Association literally made history. Our voice mattered, our voice made the difference.
In light of the pandemic that exists and that has affected all of us in different ways, I am personally shifting my attention towards our business and our family. It was a tremendous honor to be the voice of so many boutique cigar companies. I am excited to know that we are no longer threatened by substantial equivalence testing (in the short term). Now is the time to take a break, and prepare for whatever battle may come next. The best way to prepare is to become stronger.
The Boutique Cigar Association moving forward will serve as a Social Platform for small cigar brands and producers. We’re going to make this a fun platform. In the months and years to come should we need to revive our lobbying efforts we will be bigger and stronger than ever before.
I have spoken to many individuals including Glynn Loope on this approach. Based upon that, I know that there is a legitimate role for the BCA to have in the political and regulatory process, now more than ever with the new administration in Washington, and a host of state issues in 2021. I want the BCA to be a voice for our small business community on these issues, and we will make ourselves available for those challenges and opportunities. That won’t change. We will play a support role for the PCA and CRA, now and in the future. Let’s consider this a reset moment to adjust our priorities and plan for the future.
Thank you all for the privilege and the honor to represent family-owned boutique cigar makers. Our goals were achieved (for now). I pray that you are all doing well and that 2021 will be a positive year for us all, in light of the new challenges we are all facing.
Through our podcast, Protecting the Legacy we’re going to continue to highlight different brands, owners, and cigar industry topics relevant to small family-owned business. Our focus is changing, now that our goals have been achieved. We are not going away, we are just evolving.
I pray for our community of cigar makers, brick and mortar retailers, online retailers, and connoisseurs. Please stay healthy and let’s help one another get through these difficult times we are facing with this pandemic. The road ahead will present new challenges to all of us. Together we can overcome anything.
I love you all, God bless.
Dr. Gaby Kafie
Founder and President
Hi William, thank you for sharing the message. What of the painful transitions that I am currently experiencing is in the process of developing a website http://www.boutiquesmoke.com that can facilitate access of our products to end connoisseurs. My goal is to price protect all brands on the site. If you look at the site now our company offers over 150 different products. We do not have any retail partners anywhere that carry our entire portfolio, yet customers have always expressed interest in being able to buy direct. Now, in an effort to protect brick and mortar retailers I am currently developing an affiliate program (NOT EASY) in order so that such transactions can go through our participating retailer network both in the U.S. as well as our 41 international distributors. As this is still a work in process and will be for the next month or so, I can not commit to any formal statement. I will say though that the changing business climate (due to the pandemic) has made realize the significance of a strong online presence. More to follow. Please don’t jump to any conclusions as I have not made any final decisions yet. My number 1 goal is to protect B&M’s as well as to facilitate access of our products to customers. The development of http://www.boutiquesmoke.com will also serve as a platform to bring our coffee front and center. We also have plans to develop select lines of single source origin chocolates, with a focus on cigar and coffee pairings. Thanks again William Cooper for sharing the news, as we continue to build this platform I will keep you informed. In the meantime we have set up a link for retailers to register with our company for the affiliate program (https://boutiquesmoke.com/retailer-registration/). Happy Holidays, Dr. Gaby Kafie