A Conversation with Yanko Maceda:
Why the Cigar Industry Needs to Stop Being Cut-Throat
A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Ybor City with a couple other ChristianCigarSmoker guys. For a full look at our adventures in Ybor check out the ChristianCigarSmoker Podcast Episode 1 (coming soon). One thing that is not captured on this episode was a thought provoking conversation we got to have with Yanko Maceda the owner and operator of Tabanero Cigars in Ybor City.
Tabanero is a boutique lounge that produces and sells their own cigar brand in addition to running one of the best lounges on the historic Ybor strip. With a lifetime of cigar industry experience and the opportunity to be a key part of the culture in the city that is the capital of cigar culture in America, Yanko provided a perspective that I had previously not considered.
The main message that I took away from the conversation was the cigar industry is causing itself suffering by holding onto an out of date cut-throat mentality!
When we first starting talking with Yanko we didn’t realize who he was, but we quickly picked up on the connection as his stylized picture appears on the Tabanero cigar collar. As we started to talk he quickly became eager to find out more about us. In addition to being a great host, he was drawn to the fact that we were there simply to connect cigar smokers in community and not to make a profit.
He expressed the opinion that cigar smokers are stronger, better off, and more profitable when they are unified. They will see far greater success when they advance the industry together instead of fighting over their small part of the existing pie. Capitalism in the industry is one thing, but a failure to see mutual benefit is all together different.
He gave us a great example of this right there in Ybor. He said he often hears people remark they would love to open a lounge or boutique like his. He told us when he hears this he always replies, “great, you should look at doing so right here in Ybor.” He told us that the response to this is almost always, “no, I wouldn’t want to fight the competition of all the other lounges that are already in the area.”
At first glance this seems to make sense, but Yanko explained that Ybor is great, not because it has one lounge but because it has many lounges. People come to Ybor to experience the variety and the multiple cigar spots. The more spots and lounges that are there the more people are drawn to Ybor as a destination. In this case a rising tide really does raise all ships.
This argument rang true for us as that is exactly why we had come to Ybor. Now Ybor is a great spot that every great cigar lover should visit (again, take a look at our Ybor episode for more info). At the same time, the history of Ybor is far more grand than it’s current offerings. Ybor is the best there is, and what is there shines brightly, but it is only a shadow of what it could be. Most importantly I think that this same statement could be applied to cigar culture in our time in general.
Cigar culture has some amazing things happening in it in our time, and yet it finds itself on the margins of society. It has been pushed there by a fast paced, anti-thinking culture and the war on cigarettes. It has stayed there because those in the industry see each other as mere competitors rather than allies. The industry relies on a few select groups like the CRA (Cigar Rights of America) to fight their battles, while national lounge networks and social groups for cigar smokers are almost nonexistent. You may have noticed this is one of the things that ChristianCigarSmoker is trying to change.
Again, Yanko Maceda gave us a great example in Ybor of this played out on a smaller level. He told us how he encouraged the other boutique cigar makers in town to add some branding or collars to their cigars, but they could not be bothered. We saw this to be true of all the boutique rollers on the Ybor strip only Tabanero Cigars sported a collar or logo of any kind.
When this suggestion failed, Yanko tried to get the other producers to ship their cigars in custom marked boxes. However the other sellers prefer to continue to ship any products sold in unmarked bundles. Yanko even tried to sweeten the offer. He has a box maker that does a burn etching on his wood boxes at a good rate, but that rate could be reduced for everyone if the other lounges in the area decided to go in together on the same box producer. Again, no one was interested.
Yanko showed his wisdom by remarking that the better the branding for every lounge and boutique in Ybor the bigger the draw would be for cigar smokers to come to the town. After all, these boxes would be used to ship the very product that the cigar sellers are trying to promote, and good branding is critical to increase interest and excitement, not to mention conveying a professional image.
Seemingly the other owners and rollers in the area can’t see that success of their business depends far more on the success of the cigar culture in general than on being the best lounge or boutique in town. 50% of a 1,000 smokers is far better business than 100% of 100 smokers. I think this is a lesson that a lot of people in the cigar industry would do well to learn.
One of our big hopes here at ChristianCigarSmoker is that you join us in fighting back against the “fighting over the scraps” mentality and instead fight for a revival in the culture. A cigar culture that has proven to be one of the last bastions of diverse, civil, and deep conversation and fellowship in our nation.
One way you can do this is by joining or starting a cigar group and joining the ChristianCigarSmoker groups network (coming soon).
[article by: Pastor Smokey]