Day in the Work Life: Tobacconist

Marketplace Staff Apr 20, 2007
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Day in the Work Life: Tobacconist

Marketplace Staff Apr 20, 2007
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TESS VIGELAND:
Not so long ago, just about every restaurant, bar, and airplane in this country had a smoking section. Not anymore. And most of those gray things are more pleasant that way, less risky, too. Smoking can, well, kill you. But you now what, it is legal. And like lots of risky things, many folks continue to indulge. On this week’s A Day in the Work Life, a purveyor of high-end tobacco makes his case for the business. He’s a cigar shop owner and educator.

JORGE LUIS ARMANTEROS: We’re sitting in a humidor where we keep the cigars at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity. That’s the optimal conditions for the cigars that need to be preserved indefinitely.

My name is Jorge Luis Armanteros. I am the president and founder of Tobacconist University. So what are some goals, above all, I think is to try and help elevate the level of credibility and professionalism and customer service, and perhaps, above all, the appreciation of the product. I’ve seen people like the cellophane. I can’t stand it when they try and mash out a cigar like you would a cigarette. I see people smoke the run end of a cigar.

Ultimately, what I can stand is the rush through a cigar. You cannot rush it. It will not allow you to rush it, you know? It’s like flagra through a straw or something. If you can help one person save it at a time, better. Then that to me, it’s what we do.

I’m originally from Miami. My parents are Cuban or of Cuban descent. First cigar, sitting on the front porch of my grandfather’s house, some creaky, rusted, rocking chairs like you did every night. So I always had a fun memory of the smell, or the time spent enjoying the tobacco.

The cigarette is about giving your body nicotine, as a great cigar is about the time you take to savor it. I borrowed $45,000 in the early 90s, and opened a store in 1995. You can get a cigar for $3 or $4 and they go all the way up to $41.60 or higher. You know, the La Aurora 100 Anos, which is only about 400,000-cigar production. This is will be the last year. They’ll never be, they’ll never exist again. But this is not a business where you become millionaires. I mean, there are some millionaires. I’m not one of them. You get into this business because you have a love for it. Over the last few years, I’ve put everything I have into the university.

You know, anywhere from $75 to a couple of $100,000 a year, so. What I make a year is $150,000. Those are the range. It is more of a sort of passive aggressiveness that you see in people who pretend to cough when they walk in front of the store. And they’re obviously being transported. Smoking is bad, and there are definite, negative health consequences to that. I just feel that so much of what we do has negative health effects. So it’s hard to say, what’s black and white, right and wrong. I wanna live in a world where tobacco is not an . . . to the culture.

But really just an accent, and an accent that, you know, maybe half of the population enjoys once a month, once a year because there is something to it. Cigar making and entrepreneurial is an individual creativity or intuitively linked. Because you take a rancid leaf and you blend it with five other leaves. And then you have to have your patience, and the lack of profit motive to wait for that leaf to develop, and to do the right things to it, to make it develop. Great cigar makers are far more concerned with their tobacco than any level of profit that they’ll ever make. And so it’s the product that matters. And that’s refreshing to me in today’s day and age.

VIGELAND: A Day in the Work Life was reported by Adelie Helasky.

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