Interview with Paul Shoberg

Stogie Spotlight6 Comments on Interview with Paul Shoberg

Interview with Paul Shoberg

You may have noticed in past reviews we make mention of a web forum called Club Stogie. We make mention of this site due to the friendly atmosphere and open advice shared among the community. To be completely honest with you, I really feel as though Club Stogie is a home away from home in terms of Cigar websites. I am sure Jerry and Brian both feel the same way.

Because we mention the forum as much as we do, I thought it would be a great opportunity to speak with Paul Shoberg (pds), the man behind Club Stogie and Top 25 Cigar.

SR:
Paul, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Stogie Review. For those that do not know who you are, you are the man behind Club Stogie. How did Club Stogie come about?

pds:
Club Stogie was really an off shoot of Top25Cigar.com. Back in late 1997 when Top25Cigar was starting to get some traffic, I thought it would be nice to have a place to exchange thoughts with the readers of the site. Microsoft FrontPage had this little addition to their web design software that created a forum on your site¦so I installed it and named it Cigar Talk.

That software died an early death even though the forum was getting very popular. About a year later, I re-named it Club Stogie, gave it its own site, bought some better software, and the rest is history.

SR:
Club Stogie is a community made up of a lot of very nice people. I have been a member since March and find myself hopelessly addicted. What one thing would you think makes people come back to the forum time and time again?

pds:
Initially folks come for cigar information, but after awhile I think the true community nature of the site reaches them. We have had a different philosophy about CS since day one. We have never wanted it to become an adversarial site where you are jumped on if your cigar experiences are not as varied as someone else’s.

We ask all users to simply treat others with respect and dignity, and from that the community aspect is spawned. Believe it or not we have had members not agree with that philosophy and go and start their own forum¦which is perfectly fine by us. Club Stogie is what it is due to its members, just like any community.

SR:
Everyday we see more and more new folks joining Club Stogie. What do you think is responsible for this spike? Are we in or headed into another cigar boom?

pds:
Cigar Boom, scary words to many in the cigar industry. I have asked that same question of people like Jose Blanco of La Aurora, Jorge Padron, Litto Gomez and others, and their answers are all the same. No cigar boom, just a controlled growth because the quality of cigars is better. They also mention that since many of the upstart companies from the prior boom are out of the industry, quality is king once again. I think they believe saying “Cigar Boom” can be bad luck like mentioning “no hitter” to a pitcher with a no hitter going!

From a CS perspective we are growing faster than many think. CS deletes all users that have been inactive for over 12 months and have only a few posts. So we have a much higher percentage of our members that are active than other forums. We gain about 5 – 10 members a day, and most of that is due to the content on the site, and the great members we already have that make new users feel welcome and not intimidated.

SR:
Managing the forum must be a lot of work. At the end of the day, what makes you look forward to spending your time and effort to work on it every day?

pds:
I won’t lie, there are many days where at the end of the day I don’t look forward to working on it anymore. Thankfully those are more the exception than the rule. At the end of the day, there is no doubt what keeps me working on CS¦the members.

I have met so many good friends, and seen so many good things happen as a result of the camaraderie of the members of CS, that it’s easy to keep working on it.

The greatest moment to me at CS was when we had a member lose his house and belongings to fire. Once this news made its way to the forum, the members banded together to help in any way possible. It was quite the outpouring of help, and I still get chills from the pride I feel for our members when I think about it. This is truly the measure of a community. If something as insignificant as Club Stogie can make a small positive difference in someone’s life, I’ll work on it free until they have to drag me from the keyboard.

SR:
There has been talk of new features being added to the Club Stogie Forum. Are there any upcoming features you could share with us today?

pds:
We have gotten large enough that I had to invest in a dedicated server, and much more expensive hosting. The positive side of that is it gives us more horsepower to run the site and we can add new features we could not before. We just added a credits system called CS Bux, and an arcade. Basically, just fun little diversions while on CS. We are looking at adding additional features in the future, but want to make sure we don’t lose focus on our core subject, which are of course cigars.

SR:
Along with Club Stogie, you work on Top 25 cigar. Can you tell us a little bit about how that started?

pds:
T25C came about before Club Stogie. Top25Cigar came about due to a problem we have all had. I was at business meeting in Puerto Rico in 1996. I had been into cigars for a couple years, and was always amazed at how my opinion of a smoke differed from magazines like Cigar Aficionado. I bought a cigar for a evening event at the tobacconist that was at the resort, and purchased it due to the review they had taped under the box. The review came from Cigar Aficionado, and absolutely glowed with descriptive like burnt vanilla, citrus overtones, etc. The cigar sucked¦big. I looked at a buddy of mine and said:

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was somewhere you could go to get the public’s opinion of a cigar, not some glossy magazine that gets thousands of dollars in advertising money from the manufacturer?

That’s how the idea and the site were born.

SR:
Top 25 Cigar is a very large database of cigar reviews written by many people. What made you decide to go that route?

pds:
To me, nobody’s opinion of a cigar is more important than the publics. They pay good money for cigars, they are the ultimate judge. Any magazine that takes money from manufacturers, in my opinion has a biased view of a smoke. Why do you think the worst review you’ll ever see on a cigar in CA is around 84 on a 100 point scale? I guess those boys have never had a bad smoke. This is also the reason why we never have and never will take advertising money from manufacturers.

SR:
Working on both Club Stogie and Top 25 Cigar must take up a large portion of your day. When do you find the time to enjoy a cigar?

pds:
Not as often as I would like, but nothing is more enjoyable for me than having a cigar while I relax or take my dog for a walk.

SR:
If you could only choose three brands of cigars, that were readily available, to smoke for the rest of your life, what would they be?

pds:
I’m not sure I can answer this, my opinions change weekly! The term “readily available” eliminates many cigars since I live in the US, Cubans are out, and most of the boutique brands are not “readily available”.

Lately, anything made by Pepin Garcia has been darn good. It’s hard to deny the continued quality of the Padron 1964 line. I would also have to give La Aurora a thumbs up, as they have come a long way in the last 3 -4 years. I smoke so many different lines, as many manufacturers now ask me to try their smokes before release that it’s tough for me to pinpoint any more.

SR:
Is there any particular cigar that is soon to be released your most interested in smoking?

pds:
We’re doing this post 2006 RTDA, so most of the new stuff is out there. That being said new cigars from Padilla and United Brands have me curious. Oddly enough, both of their new brands are rolled by Pepin Garcia! Cuban Edicion Limitada are always a curiosity, but absolutely not a guarantee that they will be stellar.

SR:
What is the most disappointing cigar you have smoked?

pds:
The company is no longer around so I don’t mind saying it. Los Santos Churchill. Tasted like I was smoking hay with hints of burnt carbon. This cigar put the “D” in dog. T25C was actually asked to review them, so we sent the cigars out to our reviewers, and comments started coming in like “What did I ever do to you?”, and worse. Once we actually got around to publishing the review, we tried to get a hold of Los Santos, and they were gone. Wonder why?

Paul, thank you very much for your time. I really hope you enjoyed taking part in this interview as much as I did.

For those of you that are not familiar with Club Stogie, I strongly suggest visiting the forum to see what it is all about. Don’t forget to visit Top 25 Cigar for a huge database of cigar reviews.

enjoying cigars since 2005

6 thoughts on “Interview with Paul Shoberg

  1. Great interview, and a great interview subject. I’ve been posting to T25C for a couple years now and joined CS about six months ago. CS is addictive because the level of conversation, even when it’s ridiculous, is really smart. There are a lot of bright people with a lot of cigar mileage on CS, and a lot of plain good people too. CS is a shining point of light (the glow of a lit cigar?) in a sometimes gloomy world. A brilliant interview idea Walt! Hats off!

  2. A great interview with a awsome guy!Paul is as giving a person as you will ever find.The time and effort he has put into his labor of love seems endless.The world would be a better place with more Pauls on it!Thanks Walter for the interview and thanks Paul for being you…

  3. Great interview from the mastermind behind my latest addition! I have been with Clubstogie for two short months and I have already fallen prey to the viral addition of the CS philosophy! I highly recommend, ANYONE who is interested in this hobby, to join up with CS.
    KASR

  4. Excellent interview Walt!

    I had the pleasure of meeting Paul (and Rob) at the 2006 RTDA and they are top notch BOTLs indeed.

    Thanks to you and Paul for taking the time to do the interview. It’s nice to get to know about the man behind the curtain!

    Well done
    ~Mark

  5. Paul has given hundreds of BOTLs a “home away from home” at Club Stogie. You won’t find a more dedicated or passionate person about a website anywhere on the Net. Thanks Walt for giving us some additional insight into what makes Paul tick.

  6. CS is definitely a haven for any passionate cigar smoker or one who’s just learning. Paul has created a world of cigars, friendship and respect that makes for looking forward to. Thanks for this interview.

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