Cigar Sponsorship for Tampa Arena
TAMPA - Custom Cigar Imports Inc., a Tampa company that offers private-label packaging, has signed a sponsorship agreement making it the official cigar provider of the city's Ice Palace sports arena and the city's NHL and AFL franchises - the Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm.

As part of the new corporate marketing partnership, Custom Cigar Imports Inc. will construct a full cigar bar at the Ice Palace.

Custom Cigar, which recently began marketing name-brand cigars for Tampa's annual Gasparilla Pirate Invasion festival, will renovate the existing XO Club lounge to feature a greater variety of cigars and amenities such as private humidors.

Sean Henry, vice president for administration of the Ice Palace and the Lightning, envisions a "big role" for the cigar bar. "So many of our guests come from out of town, especially in the wintertime," he told the Tampa Tribune. "Tampa is the cigar capital of the world. It's nice to have a reflection of that in the building."

The cigar bar, which will be located on the facility's club level, is expected to be ready by the end of the year. It will have an independent ventilation system, full cocktail bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows to allow smokers an unimpeded view of the ice.

For Juan Luna, head of Custom Cigar Imports, it's more than just a chance to sell cigars. In addition to branding and licensing projects such as the Gasparilla cigar, Luna is attempting to become a full-service cigar provider to corporations and high-end events.

"It's a huge opportunity for us to establish a quick presence in the corporate arena," he said. "Our objective is to brand and package cigars to fit a name brand. We're targeting corporate America."

The Ice Palace follows Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg in catering to its cigar-smoking fans. The Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar opened in 1998 at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' ballpark.

"The Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar has always been one of our most popular amenities," said John Browne, the Rays' vice president for sales and marketing. "It continues to do very well."

Luna said Custom Cigar will spend more than $1.5 million in licensing, construction, and support costs at the Ice Palace.

He has a five-year deal that puts his company "in charge of everything that has to do with cigars at the Ice Palace," he said. That includes the rights to produce official Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm cigar brands.

Although the target audience is the corporate crowd in the elite XO Club and club-level seating, fans elsewhere in the building won't be ignored. Luna said Custom Cigar staffers will be selling cigars throughout the arena for fans to enjoy in traditional smoking pavilions.

Havana Republic's New Las Vegas Emporium an Instant Winner
Launches Improved Retail Website

Havana Republic, a "bricks and clicks" retailer of premium cigars and accessories, held a grand opening on March 20-21, 2001, to celebrate the launch of its new Las Vegas emporium. The shop, located in the Desert Passage at the Aladdin Hotel, opened for business on February 25, 2001.

The event drew more than 200 VIP's, members of the media, and executive personnel representing all major Las Vegas hotels and casinos. Guests saw viewed the store's wide selection of cigars, accessories, and their fine presentation.

"The grand opening exceeded our highest expectations," said Stephen Schatzman, c.e.o. and president of Havana Republic. "To have so many Vegas decision makers attend is a testament to what we have built. There is a buzz in the industry that Havana Republic is the place to go to receive top merchandise, selection, and service."

For the first month of operations ending March 31, 2001, the company says that unaudited reports show the emporium booked approximately $65,000 in revenue, with approximately a 61% gross profit margin.

Havana Republic attributes results to a"highly refined retail experience and the insatiable appetite of the Las Vegas consumer," says Schatzman. "Walk-in traffic continues to grow daily. To be cash flow positive after only one month makes clear that our decision to concentrate on gaming centers was the correct one."

Separately, the Weston, Fla.-based company has also unveiled a redesigned website. Consistent with the company's upscale cigar emporiums, www.HavanaRepublic.com offers for sale fine cigars and related merchandise, including brands such as Elie Bleu, S.T. Dupont, Mont Blanc, Davidoff, Peterson, Daniel Marshall, Michele Perrnoud, and Colibri. Enhanced features include an Education center and an Investors Arena.

Havana Republic has engaged the services of Equifax to integrate the latest technology in on-line shopping security into the website.

A Winner in Stewart-Beckwith Name Game
Humidor and display case manufacturer Stewart-Beck announced the winner of its "Name Game," which asked retailers to name the latest addition to its Executive Series standing cigar display.

"Suggested names ran from beautiful to the obscure, to just plain hilarious," said John Stewart, president, Stewart-Beckwith. "Of all the entries received, none expressed the integrity of our humidor and the spirit of our Executive theme better than ÔThe Entrepreneur,'" which was selected as the winning entry, submitted by Michael Youmans of Savannah, Ga. "The name embodies class and culture while staying true to the names within the executive series." Youmans received one of the humidors valued at over $1,600 (shown right).

SMOKESHOP - April/May, 2001