Cigar retailer, event planner, radio broadcaster, and IPCPR Board member are just a few of the hats worn by Abe Dababneh of the Smoke Inn in Palm Beach. Abe has done it all in a relatively short period of time, and his shining star is continuing to rise even higher above the world of premium handmade cigars. I first met Abe at his third annual Great Smoke cigar event back in 2009, and at that time, he owned and operated three retail cigar stores in Palm Beach County. As of this writing in early 2013, he now has 11 retail locations in South Florida, and more could be on the way. Abe is involved in many facets of the cigar industry, and despite some tough competition for the title, he is one of the most interesting men in the cigar business. Find out more about Abe, the Smoke Inn, and the Great Smoke Cigar Event in our exclusive three-part interview.
Part I - About Abe Dababneh
About.com: It may not be wise to publish too much personal information online, so I will just ask you to say anything about yourself that you would like to share. Who is Abe Dababneh? How many different hats do you wear, how many nicknames do you have, and which are your favorites?
Abe: I am the son of Roger Dababneh, an immigrant grocer. Working in the family business as early as I can remember, my father pounded in my brain a work ethic, which has now become the bane of most of those in my employ. I am an entrepreneur, radio host, father and husband. I like to believe I am a mentor to those who have worked for me. That in some way I have help mold them to be better men & women in the workplace and in their personal lives. We are like a big family here at Smoke Inn and the care I show my staff is due mainly to the dedication and constant devotion they give to the company.
As far as nicknames, Jonathan Drew gave me my first nickname “Ming” as in “Ming the Merciless.” They actually released 2 Acid cigars under that name. Then when the radio program stared, “Honest Abe” stuck mainly because I will tell it like it is, good, bad, or ugly, you are getting it straight. There are those who admire me for it while others just think I’m brash. It is what it is. Then last year, at The Great Smoke actually, Matt Booth called me Big Delicious and obviously that has become the inspiration for our Microblends project. While I believe “Honest Abe” fits me best, “Big Delicious” is so much more fun!
About.com: A couple of years ago, you began your own cigar radio program known as Kiss My Ash. Do you enjoy being a cigar broadcaster? Any future plans for the show? Anything to say about another cigar broadcaster from Tampa?
Abe: It started out just as a whim, but go figure it has become a big hit! We have listeners call in from all over the country, almost 20,000 downloads on iTunes, and currently working to be on XM/Sirius. At first it was nerve wrecking and tedious, but the gang and I have found our groove and shows pretty much flow naturally. Our goal is not just to be informative, but to be entertaining as well. Heck I laugh out loud when I listen back to the podcasts. The radio gig is something I have really come to enjoy doing. What we are most looking forward to is moving the show from the studio to broadcasting in front of a live audience at our Boynton headquarters in March 2013. We did a live remote last year from W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist covering his Annual Little Puff event. It was by far our coolest experience and one that we enjoyed the most. Being in front of a live audience is the best. Their reaction and interaction works well on the air for this type of show. Plus we will be able to actually smoke while we are on the air!
As far as Cigar Dave, there is not much to say. I publicly aired our laundry and gave him the chance to redeem himself. Of course he played duck and cover and that’s that. When I first started the show, I listened to a few of his archived shows. Honestly all I heard was two hours of self-worshiping. I could barely stay awake. In reality he truly was an innovator ahead of his time. The first to really make a national radio talk show and has been on the air for sixteen years. The problem with some folks is that when they feel they are on top, they get complacent. Quality begins to suffer, and I believe that is what has happened with Dave. No worries because he is making room for the rest of us, because true success come to those who never feel like they have reached the top.
About.com: Amongst your many other endeavors, you also serve on the Board of Directors of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association. To say that you have your finger on the pulse of the cigar industry might be an understatement. Can you share your vision of the future for the premium cigar industry?
Abe: I sit on the Board of the IPCPR, The Financial Committee for the CRA, Select retail Advisory positions, and Founding Father and Board member of the Sindicato Cigar Group. With that being said…wait one second while I grab my crystal ball. What a question. This industry has been in perpetual change over the last ten years. Ten years ago there were a handful of “boutique brands” and most were unsuccessful. Today they have taken over the humidor. In fact some have even opened stores just carrying “boutique brands”. The former “Bigs” Consolidated Cigar (Now Altadis USA) & General Cigar have swallowed up many companies over the years. These former greats are now run by European number crunchers that seem to be unable to relate to the American Cigar consumer. Legislation is a constant battle and we are losing ground daily. The future in this industry is truly uncertain. All I can do is continue to strive to do the best I can and pray that that will be enough.