Tell us about Famous Smoke's house brands and/or exclusives.
Our house brands is another area where we have been extremely successful. We take great pride in them, too, because most of them offer lots of value for the money. Some brands like Don Tomás Special Edition Connecticut, Nicarao, Rafael Gonzalez, and Independencia are distribution exclusives
Then we have selections that are made exclusively for us. Rocky Patel has provided some of our bestselling "house brands," such as the Rocky Patel Cuban Blend, American Market Selection and Rosado selections, to name a few. We also carry two Plasencia Reserva Organica selections, the first 100% Certified Organic cigars, which are made for us in Nicaragua by Nestor Plasencia. Plasencia also makes our La Floridita bundles and La Floridita Limited Edition cigars, not to mention many of our Famous Value Line and "Thousands" bundle selections. General Cigar makes our Olor and Olor Fuerte selections, and Oliva makes our Olor Nicaragua and Georges Reserve cigars.
There are way too many to cram into this interview, but the one thing I can tell you that's consistent throughout all of our exclusive brands, is that we are very involved in the blending and quality control process. If you have a house brand, and it's basically crap, it just makes you
look bad, so we do our best to provide the highest quality in our "boutique" brands at the most reasonable prices. Obviously, they can't all be winners, but the best compliment is when we hear our customers have recommended our house brands to their friends, or smoke them exclusively.
How do you think your prices compare with the competition? Talk about overall prices in general, and your best everyday prices on specific national brands. Also talk about periodic special deals, sales, etc.
In terms of price, no doubt we're ahead of most of the competition on the national brands. The industry boils down to only a few top players, and often the difference in price is negligible. At the end of the day it comes down to the "comfort level" between the customer and the retailer; more specifically, trust
, which is what we try to build.
The most frequent form of online marketing we do are email sales, banner ads, and key word advertising. We do four regularly scheduled emails sales a week. A one day sale, a weekly sale, a weekend sale, and a weekly auction email. We also do a lot of special Holiday email sales. All of our emails are opt-in. We don't force them on our customers or trick our customers into receiving them with pre-checked boxes on the registration page. They have
to request them.
Do you sell a lot of cigar accessories, humidors, etc.?
Actually, we do pretty well with cigar accessories and humidors. We carry most of the top accessory manufacturers like Csonka, XIKAR, and Firstland, but we also offer a lot of free accessories and humidors with boxes of cigars, too. The online humidor marketplace is very competitive, but we carry a pretty good selection across the board, even the high-end humidors by Davidoff and Diamond Crown.
Which cigars are your personal favorites, and do your tastes change over time?
Rather than rattle-off a list of my personal favorites, I'd rather talk about the type
of cigar I like, because the list would be too long, and I'd probably offend somebody by leaving a brand out. I tend to prefer cigars that are creamy, medium-to-full in body, earthy, complex in flavor, and somewhat sweet. I suppose if I had
to cite an example it would be the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Toro. I don't think I've ever had a bad one.
As far as my tastes changing, I'm not unlike many cigar smokers, in that, over time I've developed a palate for more full-flavored cigars. Over the years I've gravitated to cigars from Nicaragua and Honduras. Perdomo and Alec Bradley, for example, have really impressed with me with their last several releases, particularly the Habano and Tempus lines respectively. I also smoke a lot of Oliva cigars, and my "everyday favorite" is their Flor de Oliva 5X50 in the Sumatra wrapper. What I can't stomach are cigars that are overly powerful, spicy or peppery. I love spicy food, but not spicy cigars. Of course there are some exceptions, which may also depend on what I'm drinking with the cigar. Most often I prefer Port, but I've developed a taste for single malts over the last couple of years, too.
Why do you think Famous Smoke is the best? What does Famous Smoke do better than anyone else? Anything new coming soon to Famous Smoke?
I'll quote Arthur here by stating, "We're not always the cheapest, but we're the best." I think the primary reason we're the best is because we really care about our customers. We respond quickly to their needs, we have great expertise, fast service, and try to respond to every email as quickly as possible. Customers really appreciate that. I think the other reason is Arthur's voracious appetite for seeking out cutting edge marketing ideas and technology.
As far as new things, we recently began accepting the RevolutionCard. It's very cool because it offers a higher level of security for online purchases. To help introduce it, customers will receive a $25 rebate on each of their first two website orders with their RevolutionCard, and special rebates on future purchases of select brands whenever they use the card.
We're also working with a highly-regarded cigar maker on a very special exclusive cigar, but I'm not at liberty to say who or what it is at this time. What I can
say is, from the sample I had the other day, it's mighty awesome. How's that for a teaser?
Interview Continues on Page 3