RTDA 2003
Trade Show

Smaller crowds, better Service highlight this year's RTDA Show in Nashville, TN.

Staff Report

Rumors swirled among exhibitors before the doors opened for the 71st Annual RTDA Convention & International Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn. on August 2 that preregistration of retailers signed up to attend the show was down. Dramatically. And as the show progressed, many agreed that traffic seamed lighter, but in the end hardly anyone was complaining. Business was good; even exceptional for many exhibitors. Retailers who attended wasted little time window shopping and got right down to business; qualified buyers abounded.

Retailers felt the lighter traffic afforded them more quality time spent with key exhibitors, and less time fighting through crowds.

Ironically, perception played a bigger distortion than reality: attendance was in fact down from last year, but only slightly; a total of 2,297 retailers attended this year's show, representing a total of 770 individual stores, compared to 2,502 retailers last year representing 957 individual stores.

Smoke shops sampled numerous new cigar brands and line extensions, with tradition abounding. Cameroon and Corojo wrappers were extremely popular; even the long-lost Connecticut Havana-seed leaf returned to market. Traditional round shapes were featured by manufacturers known primarily for Cuban-style box press cigars, and numerous limited-edition, vintage, and ultra-exclusive lines provided contrast to the many value-priced ones that dominated in shear numbers. Despite predictions several years back that only a handful of cigar makers would exist by now, a healthy variety of tiny to large manufacturers continue to provide welcome competition in premium cigars.

Tobacco Valley Cigar Co. owner Michael Tarnowicz and Rich Cafiero displaying the company's extensive Nicaraguan-made Battleground cigar line.

The winner of a Kareoke singing contest from Ted's Pipe Shop, Tulsa, Ok. at CAO's Boots & Butts Party at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon is presented a one-of-a-kind Gibson guitar by CAO vice president Tim Ozgener (center), courtesy of MusicYo.com and Gibson Guitars.

Nashville-based tobacco distributor Music City Marketing hosted Tennessee-based wood carver Vic Hood of Leatherwood, Inc. and his meticulously crafted smoke shop Indians, which he demonstrated carving onsite.

Simon Glendenning, managing director, Alfred Duhhill Pipes, (right) presents the Golden Pipe Award to Dunhill's 2003 Retailer of the Year, Bruce Goldstein of Arnold's, New York City.

Whit Beebe, director of marketing for Hoyo de Monterrey cigars presents contest winner Lisa Schraub, owner of The Tobacco Haus in New Branfels, Texas with the one-of-a-kind Honduran folk art painting used in the package design for the Hoyo de Monterrey Seleccion del Arte cigars.

Guillermo and George Rico of GR Tabacleras Unidas of Honduras, maker of the Grand Habano premium cigar line.

Tobacco grower and cigar maker Henry "Don Kiki" Berger and wife Karen at the booth for his new U.S. distribution company, Cuban Crafter Cigars.

Edgar Cullman Sr., chairman (far left) and Edgar Cullman, Jr., president and c.e.o. (far right), General Cigar Co., with Wayne and Brent David, father and son tobacconists and co-owners of David's Briar Shop, Omaha, Neb. David was awarded the Macanudo Robust Jeep as the lucky grand prize winner in a random drawing.

SMOKESHOP - October, 2003