Renegade Regulars: Ray Huddleston

Brandon Hayes:
So, thank you for opening up your patio today.

Ray Huddleston:
You're more than welcome.

Brandon Hayes:
What a beautiful day, man. I think we're going to set a record, they said. 92 degrees, early April.

Ray Huddleston:
It is. It feels good though.

Brandon Hayes:
It's pretty nice right now under this cover.

Ray Huddleston:
I'm tired of the wet, sticky weather. So, it's nice.

Brandon Hayes:
Yes, it's a nice break. So, we are quarantining. I think we're six feet away, playing by the rules here. So, we wanted to just do something a little outdoors and stay in touch with you guys. And I've done a lot of these over the last year or so, but I hadn't sat down with Ray. And I thought it would only be appropriate to do so. Because actually, I kind of inherited Ray with a store. Isn't that right?

Ray Huddleston:
Yeah. You should have read the fine print when you bought the store, as I've told you before.

Brandon Hayes:
Somehow Ray stuck it out with me. It was kind of funny when I visited the store several times before I finally closed the deal. And Fridays were crazy around there. Crazy.

Ray Huddleston:
Was I never in there?

Brandon Hayes:
No, you were probably there, but I remember going on Fridays a couple of times, and Fridays was kind of their big deal.

Ray Huddleston:
In the evening, yeah.

Brandon Hayes:
I think they did a little wine happy hour. And I stopped by, and that was the only day I was there. There was 20 people on a Friday. I came by a week or two later there was 20 people there on a Friday. And then I closed on the place and it was me and you.

Ray Huddleston:
That's right. That's right.

Brandon Hayes:
I think you're the only one that stuck it out with me.

Ray Huddleston:
That's right.

Brandon Hayes:
No, a lot of people end up coming back, which was awesome. But I think a lot of people naturally don't like change. I kind of stepped in and I changed some of the rules from the beginning. And in hindsight, I probably would've done a few things a little bit differently. But hindsight's always 2020.

Ray Huddleston:
It doesn't seem like it, but that's a long time ago.

Brandon Hayes:
It really was.

Ray Huddleston:
I mean, gosh. And then it was opened what, five years before you bought it?

Brandon Hayes:
Yeah, so I bought it, actually, I bought it three days or four days after their fourth anniversary.

Ray Huddleston:
Okay.

Brandon Hayes:
And then I've had it a little over five years, six years now.

Ray Huddleston:
Right.

Brandon Hayes:
So, we're at 10 years, basically, for Renegade. And we're in our new location now, and you followed us over to the new location. In fact, you had a lot to do with that come into fruition. So, publicly I'd like to say thank you for that.

Ray Huddleston:
You're welcome. I was selfishly looking for a place to spend time with my buddies. But it's great. It worked out.

Brandon Hayes:
So, at the lounge, man, it's kind of funny because our circle of friends now, I mean like me, you probably have a circle of non-cigar friends, but probably the guys you talk to the most are the guys I talk to the most. We share a lot of friends that emanated from the cigar lounge, so.

Ray Huddleston:
We do. We do. Done business with people in there. Originally when I went there, I was working on a deal with a guy. And we would just meet there in the afternoons, right after it opened 10 years ago, or whatever that is now. And so that's how all that got started. And since then a couple of business contacts, friends, friendships that you never would expect to sort of blossom. And so it's been really neat. And now that you're closed, it's interesting that those people are texting and talking and Zooming. They're making a real effort to stay in touch with each other, which is nice.

Brandon Hayes:
It is. That's one of the things that always kind of surprises me about the lounge, is people that would have never met outside of that place, right? You know, I've got friends that are 10 years my junior, 20 years my senior. I got people that are retired.

Ray Huddleston:
Hey, don't look at me when you say that.

Brandon Hayes:
No, but people that are retired that I wouldn't cross paths with in normal course of business. And that's kind of the cool thing about the shop, is it's brought a lot of those people together, right?

Ray Huddleston:
It has. It has.

Brandon Hayes:
You've got guys that you play golf with that you met at the shop. I mean, and then we're down, and it's like ... I don't want to say we're down. The doors are closed at the shop, and it's kind of the boys from the shop are all trying to figure out a way to stay in touch, which like you said is pretty awesome.

Ray Huddleston:
It is good. And that social network has grown outside the walls of Renegade, even when you were open. You know, these guys were playing tennis together. They're playing golf together on a regular basis. That little bit of work has to go into making that happen, but then everybody kind of gets involved. And before you know it, it's not really only about cigars anymore.

Brandon Hayes:
No.

Ray Huddleston:
It's really more social and more about friendships. And a lot of business has been done in there. A lot of guys have made contacts. And I mean, I get legal advice from people I met there. I get accounting advice from people I've met there. And some people get pour advice from me occasionally. But it's unique. I've been in other cigar stores, and I don't really know exactly what it is beyond what you've tried to do. But even in the cigar world, it's really unique.

Brandon Hayes:
I think so too.

Ray Huddleston:
Yeah, it is.

Brandon Hayes:
So, tell us a little bit about you, man. Tell us your story. What's your professional story? Kids? Wife? What do you got? What's going on?

Ray Huddleston:
Where do you want to start? Well, I have Maya. I got two boys, Sean and Conner. And Connor just graduated, and he's working up in McKinney making hand sanitizer like a crazy man. And Sean is out of school and at home. And like the rest of us, going a little bit stir crazy. So, I think he's staying up half the night playing X-Box and like all of his friends are right now. So, we're sort of almost at opposite schedules right now.

Brandon Hayes:
Yeah. He goes to bed while you're cooking breakfast?

Ray Huddleston:
Yeah, if I get up really early, I may pass him sometimes. May pass him on the way up. But you know, what else is he going to do? They can't play tennis. The club's closed down here. The courts are closed. The courts are closed at school. So, it's a little bit tough. It's a little bit tough for them. So, but it's worked out well. You know? We will make it work anyway.

Brandon Hayes:
And then you come from a storage background, but you've kind of done a little bit of everything. Real estate background, I guess, more.

Ray Huddleston:
Really, after college I was really in retail. Because I had worked in retail paying my college bills, right? So, naturally graduating, and that's what I went ahead to do while I was sort of figuring my longer-term plans out. Well, that took about 10 years. So, I was in retail a long time. And it was not my calling, but it was good. Sales and retail were good experience because I did get into real estate about 20 years ago or so. And the retail and the sales background and environment really applied to real estate in a way that those people were not used to. The old school axiom is location, location, location, right? So, and that's kind of what they believed. And so I was able to teach them that, yeah, location's important, but the people in there and how the businesses run and how its account, that's stuff is important. So, that worked out really well. More recently, I've done some consulting and helped a variety of people out occasionally. Not enough, but-

Brandon Hayes:
Some here or there.

Ray Huddleston:
That's what I've done in the last several.

Brandon Hayes:
You not, it's funny. You said something about location, location, location. And I think for certain businesses, right, if I had a car wash, I'd want to be on a hard corner. Right? And there are certain businesses where I think that without question, that's still important. But I sometimes wonder if it's the millennial in me, but so much business now is about reputation. It's about social presence. It's about being able to be searched on Google. Just the reputation you have. And I sometimes wonder, I've been looking at real estate, I just moved the shop nine months ago. And there's been a lot of thought that I've had of whether that's still as important as what it used to be.

Ray Huddleston:
Not for the average business. I wouldn't say so. I mean, but it isn't that long ago when that was the very first and most important thing people would look at. They always wanted to see visibility and access. That's all anybody wanted. Because otherwise, again, it's not too long ago when if you wanted to find a business, you went to the yellow pages. They weren't as accessible. They weren't as obvious. And by the way, everybody wanted to be on main and main, because you didn't have GPS to take you there if it's two or three blocks off. So, there's no question. It is not as important as it used to be. It's still a nice tiebreaker if you're looking at a location, but it's not a deal breaker if you're not sitting on that absolute great real estate.

Brandon Hayes:
I just drive down the highway now, and I see people with their phones in front of them, right? I know when I check into a hotel in a new city, the first thing I look for is best restaurants near me, or cigar shop near me. I don't go down the road anymore and just look left and right and see what I can find.

Ray Huddleston:
Right. I don't think anybody does really.

Brandon Hayes:
Yeah, so I think that's changed. So, it's funny that you brought that up because I've spent a lot of time over the last five years thinking about that. Well, let's finish it up, man. What do you like to smoke? I know you're kind of all over the map. You're a Herrera Esteli guy, but I think you've got a cigar with your name on it at the shop. The Ray-Ray?

Ray Huddleston:
Yeah, there's a Ray=ray. I couldn't make it again with a gun to my head, but I probably know less about cigars than any of your customers. But I know what I like, you know? So, it's like barbecuing or something. I make it to my own taste, right? And then if other people like it, that's great. But I don't know enough about it to make a boutique blend or anything like that. But I know what I like. And then you help a lot. I'll tell you my knowledge is limited. So I'll say, "Man, I need something new." And you know what to give me, because you sort of know what I enjoy and what I don't enjoy.

Ray Huddleston:
So, that's kind of a nice thing too. But you know, if I was going to the chair and you said, "You only get one cigar," right? I mean, it would be a Padron 64, which would not be the choice of a lot of guys. A lot of people would say, "No, no, I want to this other." I won't say the brand, but anyway. But I just love those cigars. So, whenever I've smoked something and I'm not sure what I want-

Brandon Hayes:
You're just in a rut. You need something new. Just go to old faithful.

Ray Huddleston:
It always kicks off. But I like those Serie V's. I like those Melanios, you know? I like the Aroyas. I like the Padrons.

Brandon Hayes:
But Padron is your desert island cigar?

Ray Huddleston:
Yeah, it would have to be just because I, for whatever reason, it just hits me exactly right. You know? It draws the way I like a cigar to draw. It burns the way I like one to burn. And I just enjoy it. And I keep waiting for one to kind of grab me more than that.

Brandon Hayes:
But nothing has.

Ray Huddleston:
And it really hasn't.

Brandon Hayes:
Next time you guys are in the lounge, check out the Ray-Ray. It's an interesting bland that we've got. It's got some Peruvian tobacco in it, some Nicaraguan tobacco. Nice creamy blend, but we really blended it to Ray's liking. He sat down with us, I don't know, four hours. And we kind of went back and forth. I had a pretty good idea of what strength profile you wanted.

Ray Huddleston:
A while back. Yeah, yeah.

Brandon Hayes:
What you were looking for. But he wanted more of this, less of this.

Ray Huddleston:
We just tweaked it for a while.

Brandon Hayes:
Tweaked it for a while. And I think Ray got dizzy, but all that work was worth it.

Ray Huddleston:
That is true.

Brandon Hayes:
Because we probably sold, I don't know, 50,000 of them since we came up with that blend. But most of you guys know Ray, if you hang out at the lounge. But we've got a lot of guys that are in and out that probably don't know you. So, I thought it'd be cool to spend a few minutes just kind of introduce you to the customers, smoke a cigar together on this beautiful day. And what are we sipping on here, man?

Ray Huddleston:
That is a gin and tonic.

Brandon Hayes:
Mine is a gin and tonic.

Ray Huddleston:
Which is [crosstalk 00:11:18].

Brandon Hayes:
Which is kind of a given, but what is yours?

Ray Huddleston:
Well, that's also a given. Mine's a vodka tonic.

Brandon Hayes:
Vodka tonic, man.

Ray Huddleston:
That's not a big stretch either.

Brandon Hayes:
Well, let's ...

Ray Huddleston:
It's a nice day.

Brandon Hayes:
Let's do a cheers. And thanks for spending time with me, brother.

Ray Huddleston:
Cheers to everyone's health. All right. Thank you.





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