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Written by Puff Staff

Tuesday, 12 August 2003

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On a warm day in Miami, T25C world traveler Rob Shibata visits with La Luna and it's charismatic owner Gael de Courtivron.

 

La Luna Offices In Miami

July in Miami.  Hot.  Balmy.  Unforgiving to those from drier climates (like myself!)  Gael de Courtivron (prononced “Ga-el) took time to visit with T25C at his “Calle Ocho” (8th street) offices located in Little Havana.  The French born, former heavy metal rocker and Coca Cola memorabilia designer showed me around his company, La Luna Cigars.  15,000 sq ft of warehouse for distribution with an office/store front for sales, administration and accounting. 

 I meet J. Marta Perez for the first time, de Courtivron’s wife, master roller (trained by Estelo Padron) and biggest cheerleader.  She is busy making some “fresh rolled” cigars for an order.  Gael offers me my first cigar of the day and pours us each a cup of black coffee.  His office reflects his love for memorabilia.  La Luna’s walls are plastered with the artifacts from de Courtivron’s colorful past.  There is de Courtivron-designed Coca Cola memorabilia and photos of Gael’s life, as “an old rocker” as he puts it.  There are also pictures of Gael with George Hamilton and other cigar smoking celebrities that reflect his current passion, cigars. 

 I light up an African Fuerte robusto.  The cigar has a flawless wrapper, perfect draw, and a flavorful, balanced, six-country blend of tobaccos.  A very tasty medium bodied smoke.  As we get into the cigars and coffee, the conversation drifts towards La Luna and the cigar industry. 

 Gael tells me, “It’s all about the cigars and good marketing, but the bottom line is that the cigars must perform.”  “You can’t just re-package last year’s leftover cigars” he says, straight faced, “but some companies do”.   

 “There are a lot of premium cigars being sold in the US market today….  a lot”, Gael says between sips of coffee.  “The prices, overall, are cheaper than ever and some bundles in the secondary markets are probably actually firsts, not seconds,”he says, referring to first grade cigars versus second grade cigars.

 I ask de Courtivron what direction he wants to take his company amid all the competition.  Gael takes a long draw on his cigar followed by another sip of coffee.  His tone turns serious.

 “Well, there are 2 factors that will affect our future.  First, as you can see, we are not a big company.  That means we don’t have the budget for sales reps to do cigar tastings all across the country or for monthly full page, glossy ads in the press.  We can’t buy the market with sales hype.  We put all the money we have into our cigars.”

 “Secondly, we have an intensely loyal, cult-like following…. the “”Luna-tics””.  Have you heard of them?,” he says with a smile.  “People who smoke our cigars like them.  We have a recognized brand, great blends and very good quality manufacturing behind us.  Our goal is to put our cigars in the hands of as many cigar smokers as possible.  I have confidence that our blends will appeal to cigar smokers.”

 Gael sits back and takes another long draw from his cigar.  “You might fool the customer once, but not twice.  There are too many choices in the market for cigar smokers to be held hostage by a cigar they don’t like.  As I said earlier, the bottom line is that the cigar has to perform..”

Gael de Courtivron Talks With A Customer

As we get into our second cigar, a “Natural Fuerte figurado, Gael launches into ideas he has for selling cigars into existing and alternate distribution channels.  “I have to protect my retail tobacconist customers.  However, there are other opportunities for private labels and special promotions.”  He even talks about a “value line” of cigars under another brand that gives lower price point customers a chance to try La Luna cigars.

 “Price point is very important.  We are already very competitively priced.  However, the trend is towards smaller selling units (boxes) at price points attractive to the customers.  I’m looking at standardizing La Luna on 20 count boxes of cigars instead of the 15 and 30 count boxes I have now.  That change would also help me be more efficient with my box and cigar inventory.  I’m also considering a 5 pack to satisfy the customer who likes our cigar but does not want to buy a whole box.” 

 As we finish our cigars, our conversation also winds down.  I leave La Luna knowing that Gael de Courtivron has many plans for the future.  He is a man committed to his cigars and his customers.  As I turn for the door I ask him if he has a message for Top25Cigars.com readers.

 “Tell them that Gael is still fighting it out in Miami!” he shouted with a smile.  We say good luck to Gael de Courtivron and La Luna Cigars.

La Luna Cigars
1638 S.W. 8th Street
Miami, FL 33135
Ph  877 Y LALUNA (952-5852)
Email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.lalunacigars.com

Gael de Courtivron




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