In April of 2019, I found myself in sunny San Antonio. My wife had a work event to attend, but the trip was all pleasure for me. Cars flew along on the nearby 1604 Loop, but I was oblivious. Sitting in the Cigar Pointe lounge enjoying my first Aganorsa Leaf Signature Selection cigar, the freeway was a distant buzz and that’s it. The lounge was small, but quaint. I sat alone until a local, “Larry”, arrived. We shared an hour of conversation from family stories, to cigars to a handshake and an exchange of names. I headed up front in the store to sit with the owner, Gabriel Garcia. Larry called him Gabe, so I will too. Pictured below, he’s the much better looking fellow on the right.
Gabe is sort of my hero. I mean, he doesn’t live in my current home state of Oregon and we had never met prior to that day, but still, my hero. Ten years ago Gabe was an average cigar consumer wading through the cigar world, enjoying his journey. But he was going into shops and didn’t see the boutique cigars he was looking for. When that happens to me, I find a shop that has what I am searching for. Gabe on the other hand, opened his own shop. Thank goodness he wasn’t car hunting for a Maserati. I hear those are expensive startups for dealerships. Gabe told me not only did many of the shops not have the cigars he searched for, but they were relatively naive about the brands he had in mind.
This is how Cigar Pointe came to be. Gabe identified a niche in the consumer market he felt was not met in San Antonio and did something about it. Cigar Pointe is a small shop, but boasts a humidor full of boutique brands. I strolled by boxes of cigars stamped with names like Choguii, Roma Craft Tobac, Casdagli, Warped, Tatuaje, Protocol, Casa Fernandez, Padron, Arturo Fuente and Sinistro. I know, some of these brands aren’t really considered “boutique”, but I mention them to show he has a rounded selection of boutique and “core” brands. The short list above doesn’t even scratch the list of brands he carries (check out the pics of his humidor!) You’re looking for HVC? He’s got it. Viaje fan boy you say? Yup, that is there too. I even spotted Muestra de Saka, a cigar I have not seen in any other shop around my own stomping grounds.
One of the coolest things Gabe shared with me about his shop is the fact his father is a home builder…leading him to design and build all the shelves and cabinetry in the humidor. That’s a dad scoring big points in my book.
Our discussion also included which brands are big sellers in his shop. He identified Roma Craft (well, this IS Texas), Choguii, Leaf by Oscar, Tatuaje, Warped and Casdagli. None of these surprise me. He told me his first love of a cigar was with the Tatuaje Cojonu cigars. All of his top sellers are on my favorites list and it seems it’s a good thing I don’t live closer or I’d have to up my cigar allowance each month!
Conversely, we discussed brands who’s sales have dipped in his shop. This led to a discussion about how finicky we cigar smokers can be and how “brand loyalty” can shape sales and utilization of humidor space. Shelf display space means dollars and cents for the brick and mortar guys.
One anecdote he shared with me revolved around a local rumor starting when he opened his shop. Seems a rumor began stating he arrived at having such a great selection through the help of one of the already established local retailers. Gabe told me about all his sweat equity efforts to reach the cigar manufacturers of the brands he carries. He felt the rumor was a slap to the face of all the work he did to start his own shop. The rumor grew, including the fact if you bought cigars at his shop, your receipt would show the name of the rumored “help” he had from another retailer. In 2009 Instagram didn’t exist, Twitter was a baby at three years old and Facebook was barely out of preschool at 5 years old. MySpace had all but disappeared. Finding people and getting your business launched to the broad public wasn’t as easy as it is now. If you post a viral video now, you can be an overnight sensation…or a national laughing stock depending on the video.
The last question I posed to Gabe was this….share an industry secret all consumers should know. “It’s not really a secret, but one thing when it comes to the cigar world, always, always support your brick and mortar shops. It’s harder all the time with online and laws. We have everything going against us. We go…the industry will die, in my opinion.” I shared with him I do my share of online purchasing, but I always purchase from my local guys too…besides, they have great lounges for me to sit and have conversations in, just like Larry and I shared. Virtual lounges are great, but nothing can replace the epic experience of your local lounge.
Just last week, I attended IPCPR 2019. As I strolled around the convention I spotted Gabe checking out some of the new cigars being offered by different manufacturers. I instantly recognized him, He and I shared a handshake and a “hey, how how you been”? I told him to enjoy the show and I am certain he did. Cigars have a way of doing that in case you didn’t know. Cigars bring familiarity even after just one meeting.
Check out Gabe’s shops, Cigar Pointe, online at www.cigarpointe.com. You can also find him on Instagram @gabecigarpointe. If you find yourself in sunny San Antonio, Cigar Pointe is definitely worth your time and a great place to stop and smell the tobacco.