Cigar Talk with Brandon Hayes & Dan Reed

Speaker 1:
All right, Brandon, I'm smoking this amazing cigar called the Hendrix. I've noticed you've been releasing a lot of new cigars lately. What is going on with that?


Brandon:
I'm glad you like the Hendrix. I'm crazy about that cigar myself. Yeah, if you ask Scott, I've gotten a little carried away. Ultimately, I think that after watching customers over the last five years, customers just really want a good value in a cigar, right? Customers seem to want to $10, $12, $15 cigar that they can buy for $8. Ultimately, that's what I've been trying to create. I've been trying to create a cigar that's a really good value for the customer, and also it's good for me creatively. It's something I really enjoy doing. I put it out. I tell you, it's just really fun when you can make something and watch other people enjoy it. It's been good for me, and hopefully it's been good for the consumer.

Speaker 1:
It's definitely been good for everyone in the shop. We all seem to love the fresh rolls. I think you've said that they're your number one sellers.

Brandon:
You know what? They're by far our number one selling item here at the store. I don't always separate them by blend. I have a pretty good idea, because I know what I make in each of the blends, but probably about 30% of our business is stuff that's exclusive to our store. That's a little self-serving. I mean, we get the opportunity to offer an exclusive product that people can't go elsewhere to get. Again, I think it's also good for the customer. I mean, people are asking me all the time, "What's next." I had somebody the other day telling me, they've smoked several cigars every single day over the last two weeks, and they haven't smoked anything that wasn't a store exclusive. I'll tell you, it's fun for me. That really motivates me to just try to get better and create better product.

Speaker 1:
Well, that's good, because it's fun for us too. We enjoy it. How did all this get started with the houseplants?

Brandon:
A lot of you guys, a lot of people probably know Noel Rojas. Noel and I had a project together three, four years ago now where we had a little stake in a factory in Nicaragua. We ended up coming up with some tobacco that we really liked, but we didn't have enough to do a big production with it. We decided that we would bring a roller here, and we would take that small batch tobacco and just make a one-time release with it. Really my goal was to like to make five, 10,000 cigars, sell through those five, 10,000 cigars. It would be a fun project. We get used in tobacco that we otherwise couldn't use. It was too good to just sit on. I never thought it would turn into this. It really has become a big part of our business and really a big piece of a lot of our customers rotation. We started making them all here. That was fun. We still make a lot of them. Noel still makes a lot of our fresh rolled stuff.

Speaker 1:
It's not about doing some outside.

Brandon:
Really. We had to find a way to scale it. Again, on a lot of this, you'll find it's both good for the consumer and self-serving, but there's a lot of manufacturers that I've always thought it would be really fun to work with and that continue to put out good product. It's a way for me to cut out the middleman, provide a good value to the customers for the cigar, but it's also a way for me to check that box, that I got an opportunity to work with some of the people that I think are the best in the business.

Speaker 1:
I'm excited about that, because one of my favorite manufacturers is Christian Eiroa.

Brandon:
Yeah, so our newest release, which is the wine house is using a Christian to help us fulfill that. That's made it Christian's factory using Christian's tobacco. It's a medium to full offering. If you remember, or actually you're smoking the HendriX now.

Brandon:
The HendriX was a project that I did with Christian's dad and brother. Ultimately I knew that I wanted to use that Corojo that they're growing. I think they grow the best Corojo around. Christian's dad and brother made, made the Cobain, which is the mild offering and the HendriX, which is a medium bodied offering. It took a little work, but ultimately Christian ended up working with me and doing some stuff. That's where the wine house came from. That's our medium plus offering. Using that 100% Corojo, it's really amazing the difference between the three blends. We've got a mild, we've got a medium, we've got almost a full bodied cigar all using tobacco from one region, but offering three wildly different experiences.

Speaker 1:
Yeah, that's fantastic. I noticed a theme in the names of them.

Brandon:
Yes. Yeah, so we can't talk a ton about that, but a lot of people can probably connect the dots. We're doing it with respect, but I don't know. We probably need to talk to a trademark attorney we talk about that. We're doing it just as a respect thing.

Brandon:
Speaking of names, we're doing something a little bit different. We'll be dropping this. The cigars are here now, but I haven't put them out yet. We're going to let our customers select the next fresh roll. One thing that I looked at is obviously we've done some projects. Our eight year anniversary, which was a huge success, our nine year anniversary cigar, which just sold out a month ago. I've gotten a lot of good feedback with that. That was a Dominican cigar made with the Ventura factory, Henderson Ventura who's become a friend of mine. I think he's one of the most talented, young cigar makers today. His At Ventura adventure line ...

Speaker 1:
100% agree.

Brandon:
... has just been on fire here. It was fun to do those projects with him. He did a great job with those. Then we're doing projects with the Aurora's in Honduras. I realized that everything I used to do is Nicaraguan, but I don't really have a Nicaraguan cigar right now. I had a Nicaraguan factory. We came up with five blends. Ultimately, I let Scott pick his two favorite out of the five blends. We're calling those for now, it's going to be blend one, blend two. We're going to let the customers pick their favorite of the two blends. Both of them are Nicaraguan. Both of them are medium bodied cigars, what you would expect out of a really nice Nicaraguan cigar. One of them's got a little more spice than the other. The other one's a little bit earthier, but both obviously Nicaraguan cigars when you smoke them. We did 1,000 of each. We're going to let the customers vote. The winner is going to be the next fresh roll.

Speaker 1:
Fantastic.

Brandon:
We'll come up with its final name once we select the cigar.

Speaker 1:
I'm sure they'll be an event involved.

Brandon:
Well, we'll see. Yeah, we'll see.

Speaker 1:
A little party.

Brandon:
Yes, but so you guys keep an eye out for that. I think that'll be fun. A lot of people ask me, what am I going to do with the other one? What if it's really good? Well, I hope they're both winners, but just one of them is going to make it into what we call our fresh roll cabinet, right?

Speaker 1:
Ah.