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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Friday, 23 January 2009

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Jorge Luis Armenteros is the proprietor of two tobacco shops; both named A Little Taste of Cuba. One, the original shop, is in Princeton, NJ (70 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ - 609.683.8988 - www.cubacigar.com). The other shop, his second, is in New Hope, PA (102 S. Main Street, Ste D - 215.862.1122).

Perhaps of greater importance is the fact that he founded and operates Tobacconist University - an educational concept that brings professionalism to the retail tobacconist, and credibility to the industry; particularly in these difficult times for cigar makers; Tobacconists and smokers alike.

jorge-luis-armenteros

I met Armenteros in 1997 when I was marketing my ill-fated Arzt de los Reyes cigars. While he did not choose to purchase those fine smokes, we did develop a casual friendship and communicated, off and on, over the years.

Here is a passionate young Tobacconist that knew what he wanted to accomplish, and one not inclined to 'settle' for less. As you will see from this conversation, he is much more than a retailer. He is an ardent exponent of the qualities and pleasures of fine, no make that the finest cigars. All that has lead to his becoming one of the industry's leading activists - and he is still young. Who knows where he goes from here.

Jorge and I sat down when he was last in Miami to conduct a seminar for Miami Cigar & Company's Sales Force. This is his second such session for Miami Cigar and I can vouch for the fact that all their CSRs and Reps have been certified - I have seen the Certificates.

Hell, Jorge does this so thoroughly that even Nestor Miranda was certified! Well, with an Honorary Certificate.

I truly enjoyed this conversation and learned a great deal. I hope you will do both as well.

Puff: Jorge, you grew up in Miami, FL. Now, being Cuban the fact that you gravitated to the cigar industry is understandable, but what took you to Princeton, NJ?

JLA: I was attending American University in Washington DC; walked into Georgetown Tobacco my sophomore year, immediately fell in love with the place and cast of characters, and decided I wanted to be a Tobacconist.  I spent the next 3 years writing the business plan, spending time in Georgetown (and any other shop I could find), meeting cigar makers, and looking for markets to open my first store.  I could only borrow $50,000 from my family and credit cards to open the business so I needed my father's help to build the store.  Around the time I was graduating college his company asked him to move to NY, NJ, or CT so I spent six months looking for the right town and ended up falling in love with Princeton.  My family actually moved here for a year and a half to help me start A Little Taste of Cuba.  Princeton had the demographics, history, character I wanted, but most importantly it did not have a cigar store - the previous one, 'Tom the Pipe Carver' had closed in 1991.  I was lucky enough to have family to loan me money, a couch to sleep on, and my father helped me every day after work, while my mother chipped in as well - she was my first and only unpaid Tobacconist.

Puff: How long has the Princeton shop been open? When did you open the New Hope shop? 

JLA: Princeton opened September 8th, 1995, I was still doing major construction and only had two brands on the shelf (Padron & PG) - there was more exposed     shelving than product.  But I had run out of money so I needed to open.  Please     note, I am not recommending this approach to anyone, but I was lucky enough to     have the cigar boom wind at my back.  In fact, I had enough wind that I was planning my New Hope shop within months and opened it on November 5th, 1996     I used to open Princeton in the morning, wait for my relief Tobacconist to come in     the afternoon and go to New Hope to do the construction; most nights I just slept     on the floor and went straight back to Princeton in the morning.... It was mostly     sweat equity, masked by the smell of cigars.

Puff: How would you describe the difference between the two shops and their respective markets? 

JLA: The shops are both distinctly "A Little Taste of Cuba" in their boutique and premium product focus as well as heavy ambience and distinct décor and merchandising, but Princeton is a little more classic with wood floors, walls, ceilings, etc... While New Hope has a more contemporary twist to suit the artsy Delaware River tourist town market.  I love having the same Tobacconist Brand in two distinct markets because the clientele varies so much.  Princeton is classic, international, smart, diverse, and always has people on the couches, while New Hope is artsy, more eclectic and economically diverse - and also very warm weather touristy.

Puff: Do both shops have lounges for your clientele?






Comments 

 
0 # President TUJorge Armenteros 2009-01-24 04:28
Thank to Gary Arzt and Puff for writing and publishing this article. The questions were great and I thouroughly enjoyed the process. Looking forward to many more years of productive and proactive communications...

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