Las Vegas - you can fear it, you can loathe it, you can leave it, or you can make the best of it. Clearly, the Frey Brothers have chosen the latter. And then some. By Laurence Fohrman

No one could have said it better than did Bahia Cigar mini-mogul Tony Borhani, when, during his opening remarks at his 1999 RTDA party; "Ladies and Gentlemen, there are two boys who own this town, and they are seated right here, the Frey Brothers of Frey Boy Tobacco..."

Later that evening, in private, Borhani continued: "What these two guys have done in the last few years is truly incredible. They have come to dominate a marketplace...They are the cigar connection in Las Vegas. It really is a great achievement. They seemingly can do no wrong in their hometown."

These are hardly disputable facts. With seven high-profile stores in some of the world's most famous hotels (The Art of the Cigar at Harrah's; Bombay Cigar Co. at Mandalay Bay; Colosseum Cigars at Caesars Palace; Cuba Libre Cigar at the Hard Rock Hotel; Marti Gras Cigars at the Rio Hotel; Matador Cigars at Sunset Station; and Medici Cigars at the Monte Carlo), the Frey Brothers are flying pretty high.

Not that their flight didn't have a little turbulence along the way. Come and gone are the Kansas City river boat location and the mega-costly and highly publicized Frey Boys - It's Smoking store in New York City's recently restored Grand Central Station, which closed in July.

I caught up with the Freys (Michael, the older and lankier one, has a tendency to be more gregarious; the younger and more contemplative Robert has a square shape and more serious demeanor) a few days after the exhausting pace of the RTDA had worn off - it's never easy being the hometown hosts. The two, who only faintly have a family resemblance, muse that "During our first year in the business..." starts Robert, "...no one could tells us apart," ends Michael. Well, maybe if they didn't finish each other's sentences, people would have.

We met at one of their favorite haunts, Wolfgang Puck's infamous Spago. Unlike its older sibling in Hollywood, this Spago is located a stone's throw from the Frey's Colosseum Cigars in Caesars Palace. If the home-court advantage were ever so apparent, it would be here tonight. Both brothers know the entire restaurant staff, as well as most of the customers, and both seem to have an ease about them- they are, after all, locals.

Top: Robert and Michael Frey. Above: Colosseum Cigars at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.
A Wing and a Prayer
Over the traditionally pricey Puck fusion cuisine, we discussed how the two brothers got their retailing start at the height of the '90s cigar boom without even opening a store, how they grew from one store to seven and how they plan to stay on top in the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week crazed town they call home.

Michael had been a cigar smoker for ten some odd years when he started to talk with his brother about opening a cigar kiosk in one of the mega-resorts that began dotting the world-famous Strip in the early '90s "The idea came to me on a flight home to Las Vegas from L.A.," recalls Michael. "Robert said that it was the first good idea I ever had."

"It just seemed like a natural to me," responds Robert. "No one was doing anything like Michael had described to me here, so..."

Michael jumps in, "Danny Marshall (the humidor manufacturer) was an old acquaintance, and he told me that if I wanted to get in the industry - I mean it's amazing, neither of us had any cigar business experience - that we should go to one of the Big Smokes to meet people."

And so they did. The pair first went to a Big Smoke in Washington D.C., with no store, not even a signed lease - just a concept, they trotted off on an exploratory mission to see what their adventure would yield. By the end of that first show, they had signed-up two accounts, including Tony Borhani.

But keep in mind the brothers still didn't have a store. "We didn't even have a place to put the cigars we had just ordered," says Michael. Upon their return to Las Vegas they built a make-shift warehouse/humidor in the back of a third brother's cellular phone and beeper shop.

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