How Caleb Networks in a Cigar Lounge

Brandon:
What's up Caleb?

Caleb:
What's up, Brandon? How have you been?

Brandon:
Good man. A stressful few months, but we're here. Surviving, man. So I can't really complain, man. I'm glad you sat down with us today. A lot of you guys know Caleb. Caleb is one of our part-time guys here. He works Saturday shift, typically. During the summer months we try to utilize him a little bit more when we can, when you're not traveling. It seems like you're always gone, but I can't blame you for that.

Caleb:
Got to have some fun.

Brandon:
But you're a school teacher, right?

Caleb:
Yes, I am. I teach over at Lake Highlands High School in Richardson.

Brandon:
And then you're also a swim coach?

Caleb:
I was coaching swim when I first started and then decided I wanted a little bit more time with the wife and have some fun. And like you said, travel a bit more. So, cut that out.

Brandon:
So what do you teach?

Caleb:
I teach world history and then this year I'll be teaching sociology and psychology. So I'm excited. It's going to be new for me, but it's going to be a lot of fun.

Brandon:
How is teaching high school kids similar to working at Renegade?

Caleb:
Well, at least it prepares me to deal whenever I have somebody possibly complaining a little bit extra and they're acting not quite their age. Well, I'm used to dealing with people sometimes not acting their age or their age when I'm dealing with the 14 or 15 year old kids. So, it keeps my patience level.

Brandon:
That's good, man. Sometimes I lack patience. I imagine if you're a high school teacher, you got to have a lot of patience. But at least you have like a parent you can call. If somebody is acting inappropriate here, you can't call the parent. You got to deal with them directly. At least you have that at school, right?

Caleb:
Not as often as I'd wish, but a lot of times me and the kids, we do find a way to sit down, have some of those one-on-one talks. And I really do look towards a lot of the men that I meet here at the shop to guidance and their own stories, that then help me reach out to these kids and possibly work through some of the problems that they've had.

Brandon:
That's awesome, man. That is one of the greatest things about working here is you get to sit around with all different walks of life and just have really unique conversations with people from different, like childhood backgrounds, from different parts of the world. I was sitting here talking the other day, a guy just moved from Canada by way of Europe. So you just really get to have a lot of conversation with people of all walks of life and different professions. As well.

Caleb:
The different professions has been a huge bonus to me. Getting to learn about what the different men in the shop do. Some of the ladies that come in, what do they do? And then I can share that information with my students, when they tell me they're interested in whether or not they want to become an attorney or they want to go into the train industry.

Caleb:
We have a guy here that does a lot with the rail industry here in Dallas. So I can tell them, "Hey, I have a connection that you could reach out to if you want to ask some questions." And everybody here is always welcome, when I tell them that I have a student interested, could I send them your email to ask you a question? And that's a huge bonus to me as a teacher.

Brandon:
That's absolutely one of the greatest things about our customers is how willing they are to help. I can't think of any time that I needed something that I haven't been able to find a customer that either has that expertise or is willing to research and help me figure it out. Same thing with our staff. We really got good staff and that's why I wanted to sit down with Caleb.

Brandon:
A lot of people come in and they take a quick cigar recommendation, but they don't get the opportunity to sit down and utilize the lounge, especially in times like today. We're limited in our capacity. And we also have people that just feel more comfortable smoking on their own patio during this pandemic.

Brandon:
But we really got great customers. We've really got a good staff and I've always tried to find people from outside the cigar industry to work, just because I think there's some value add from what you've learned in school and the training that you're getting there. And then you can bring some of that skill set here. The cigars... We can teach cigars, but you were, I think you were actually a customer of Renegade when I bought the place, is that right?

Caleb:
I was. I started coming to Renegade in 2012 before you owned the shop and then you took it over during my first year of teaching. It was right along that same time. And I've loved it ever since. And when you reached out saying that you needed somebody to work Saturdays, I jumped right on it. Because I was just like, "Well, I'm going to be here anyways. Saturdays was my day to smoke and come enjoy." And I was excited to get to have a part of this industry and learn more about the industry as well.

Brandon:
And what, you've been here four years now? I guess three and a half?

Caleb:
About three and a half. Yeah.

Brandon:
It's crazy. Time flies. I know you like to travel. What do you like to do? You've got an Instagram where you're doing cooking now. So just tell us just where you'd like to travel, what you like to do. Favorite thing to cook.

Caleb:
Absolutely. So my favorite thing to cook is probably gumbo. Recipe that I got back from my grandfather and he passed it down to me and I just enjoy cooking that for everybody. I love cooking for others. It just makes me so happy. I look at some of the cigar roller store manufacturers that come into the shop. And when they see a customer smoking one of their sticks and they're just happy, that's the same feeling I get whenever I cook a good meal and I get to see that person enjoy it and they're like, "This is awesome." That's what I look forward to.

Brandon:
It's a good analogy. I haven't really thought about it that way, but yeah, when you're passionate about something and you put a lot of energy into it and then you see it even change somebody's life or even just change somebody's afternoon, that's got to be a pretty cool feeling. We're just spit balling here. So we didn't plan any of this out. What is the most challenging thing about working with me or in the cigar lounge?

Caleb:
Most challenging part is probably with the fact that during the school year, I only work once a week and even then it's probably about three times a month because I'm going to the family ranch or going to see my parents or whatever it might be. And I come back and maybe you or Scott have rearranged something or I look online and you've released three new cigars and I'm like, "We have a new product?" People come in, they're like, "I really want to try this new cigar that y'all released." And I'm like, "We did? That's awesome. Let me call Brandon real quick to find out about this for you."

Brandon:
I can be bad about that. Often some of our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. And historically, in business I've been able to pivot quickly when the economy changes or a pandemic or whatever happens. I've been able to pivot quickly and sometimes I've made really good decisions and sometimes I've made decisions that later turned out not to be as good. But I don't spend a lot of time thinking about those things. I just react and try to get everybody on onboard and we move in one direction.

Brandon:
But that's probably been especially true over the last few months. A lot of the new releases we had, I worked with Robert Caldwell. I've worked with Henderson and we had these blends and they were ready, but they were releases for like the next 18 months.

Brandon:
And we just kind of had them, ready. Because when I go to the DR or work on a blend, I try to work on two, three, four blends while I'm there. And sometimes he'll do some variations and we'll change it. We'll change the wrapper, but we still think the original one was good. So we'll release it with a San Andreas wrapper and then we still have kind of a Habana version that we can tweak and do.

Brandon:
But I try to accomplish a lot when I'm there. And then this thing hit and it was really hard with COVID. And so one thing that we did to really stay alive was do a lot of really quick releases. And those emanated from trips, six months, a year ago, year and a half ago. But we just had to get them out, and get some momentum going.

Brandon:
And our customers were really supportive, but it was just quick. It was like, "Hey, how quick can you get this? What can we do for packaging?" Some of the packaging we did locally because we couldn't get it done in the Dominican because things were shut down.

Caleb:
It's been fun though. I mean, all the new blends that you've put out there, the different release, the different packaging, it sounds like you and Scott have had a lot of fun with the different names, with the graphics that you've done on the stickers. It's been awesome.

Brandon:
Correct. I've had a lot of fun. Scott's had a lot of work.

Caleb:
This is true.

Brandon:
Scott and I will sit down and I tell him... I always start with, "Hey, I've got a really simple design idea this time." And I said, "it won't take you any time." And he gets his laptop open and we drop in the base graphic or the idea. And then about seven hours later, I'm still changing things. "And what if we did this? What if we moved the dog logo? What if we changed..." And I know Scott's probably hated me over the last several months. But ultimately, he takes some pride in the work he's done. So I think once it's done, he likes it. But the process, I've got all these crazy ideas and putting them together is Scott's job.

Caleb:
Customers come in and they're like, "This is such a sick logo. That French bulldog logo that you have gets complimented all the time."

Brandon:
That's awesome. We actually designed that for something else. I was going to do a series kind of like this, but it was just going to be a cigar education series. It was going to be called, Made by Hand. And that was the logo for that. And then when we didn't pull the trigger on that, we ultimately decided to just kind of convert that to a Renegade logo. So that was one of those things that just kind of sat around for a year and we never used it.

Brandon:
Well, let's wrap it up with a couple... I'm just going to ask you a couple of random questions. Your desert island cigar, what would that be? One cigar you got to smoke for the rest of your life.

Caleb:
B-A-G-H.

Brandon:
Awesome. Shout out to Edgar on that one. What is your favorite small format cigar like quick 20, 30 minutes ago.

Caleb:
The Scotty. That Scotty's perfect.

Brandon:
What is your favorite adult beverage with a cigar?

Caleb:
Old-fashioned or just a glass of whiskey.

Brandon:
Yeah. Okay. And then what is your favorite place to visit, like either you've been to or what's your bucket list like want to go to?

Caleb:
Favorite place to visit is the Cayman Islands. Been there many times. My bucket list is Germany.

Brandon:
Germany, man. I've been there. It's incredible. You've got to do it. So when things open back up, man, book that trip because you'll really, really like Germany. Munich is one of my favorite cities.

Caleb:
We had plans to go in 2021. And right now we're like, "Is this going to happen? Is it not?" I'm hoping by 2021 we're good to go.

Brandon:
2021, 2022. Just don't kick it down the road too long. Because you'll really like Germany. Anyway, man, I appreciate you spending a few minutes with me. Appreciate you working with me. I appreciate you putting up with my shit. We have a lot of fun, man. And I just enjoy being around you and glad that you're in Rockwell now. We get to hang out outside of work some. Playing tennis with us now. So, get to see a little bit more of you than what I did before, but it's always fun, man.

Caleb:
Absolutely.

Brandon:
Cheers.

Caleb:
Cheers.

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