A couple of months back a message came across the contact form that grabbed the attention of Jerry, Brian, and myself. It was a message from Hayward Tenney of Famous Smoke Shop in Easton, PA. Over the last few months we have been chatting with him fairly often through the Twitter service.
The email from Hayward was an open invitation to attend the Famous Smoke Cigar Expo as members of the press with VIP privileges. The email went on to tell us that they asked nothing in return, just wanted us to come on out and report on the event. With access to the entire show, we thought it would be a blast and made plans on attending.
Unfortunately, during the closing weeks Jerry found out that he would be unable to attend and mailed me a ticket, that he purchased for his brother, with the instructions to make sure my father got it and had a good time. When it finally came time to check out the event, Brian made a twelve-hour drive up from Atlanta while I made an hour long trek across Pennsylvania with my father.
About a mile away from our hotel I glanced down at the clock and mentioned to my father that we were going to miss the shuttle to the expo. A few days before the expo, I learned that Rocky Patel had sponsored a trolly to take people to and from the expo after a long day of cigars and beer.
Being early for check-in, we headed into the hotel to get registered and check on our room. To my surprise, check-in took about two minutes and we were informed that our room was ready to go. On the way back out to the car to grab our things, the trolly pulled up out-front. We dropped the bags back into my trunk and we were on our way to the expo just a few short minutes later.
After I sat down in the empty trolly, I grabbed my phone and gave Brian a call to let him know I was on my way. He was already at the retail store and had a message for me from Jose Blanco of La Aurora. Jose wanted Brian and I to smoke a new concept blend that he was working on and didn’t want me lighting anything up until I had a chance to meet with him.
A few minutes on the road and we were parked outside of Famous Smoke Shop and ready to get the weekend started. My father and I found Brian inside the retail store standing next to a bucket of Presidente beer talking with Jose Blanco. After the greetings were taken care of, and everyone’s hand was shaken, I was handed a cigar and asked to light up.
Brian, my father, Jose, and I all talked for a good while, while smoking the concept blend. The consensus was that it had some power to it but was not aggressive in the least bit. After our cigars were finished, Jose had some business to take care of so we parted ways for the time being.
We all headed outside to get registered for the event and took notice of the dark clouds and stiff wind gusts. Before long the rain was coming down heavily and everything was drenched, including the boxing ring which was left uncovered in the parking lot. While we stood under a large tend, Pete Johnson came our way and talked for a bit. It was the first time I met Pete and I was impressed by how open to conversation he was. During our conversation, Pete went on to tell us how much fun he though Jerry’s interview questions were and looked forward to more in the future.
Just like with Jose, Pete had some business to attend to, so we parted ways. We made our way over to the food tent to get some beer and find a table to eat at. We were joined by Mike and Gary from Avalon Cigars, as well as Pablo from Flor de Gonzales Cigars. To my surprise, Gary and Mike remembered Brian and I from IPCPR in Las Vegas.
On my way back across the tent with food in hand, I met Victor Vitale from the Cigar Agency. I was a little apprehensive about bumping into him due to the review of the ORTSAC 1962, but he was very nice and thanked me for giving his cigar a fair shot.
Once I was finished eating, I grabbed another beer and sat down with Abe Flores from Pinar del Rio at the next table. Having seen him a couple of weeks before for an event, there wasn’t a whole lot to get caught up on but I wanted to let him know that I thought his new Classico Exclusivo Lancero was excellent.
I headed back to our table and talked with Brian and my father for a few minutes before Dylan Austin of Camacho Cigars came over to see how I was doing. We talked for a bit about the Black Band Project as well as something new that is going to hit the market (sorry, can’t reveal that just yet). Before moving on to the next table, Dylan handed me a new Camacho Liberty 2009 to enjoy, which I lit up immediately and thought was excellent.
After a few more beers and a lot more conversation, it was time for the Lingerie Show to begin. There was initially supposed to be three exhibition boxing matches before the Lingerie Show but they had to be canceled due to the downpour just a couple of hours before.
When the Lingerie Show was over, we all had several more beers and smoked yet another cigar while conversing. At this point Dave (dk_fxn) introduced himself and his friend. He had a story to tell about embarrassing one of the Famous employees during the Lingerie Show.
At about 9:00 PM it was time for us to part ways as my father and I had to catch the last trolly back to the hotel. The ride back was a bit of an adventure as most of the bus had been drinking and felt like singing. One passenger hopped onto the intercom and got everyone even more riled up. When the bus pulled up to the first hotel, most of the occupants left the bus and it was a nice quiet ride back to the second hotel.
Once we were back and unpacked, my father and I grabbed a cigar and headed down to the Rocky Patel sponsored smoking section outside. It was basically a 10×10 patio with a few chairs and a banner advertising Rocky Patel.
After a few minutes of talking alone, we were joined by Gary and Mike from Avalon as well as Pablo from Flor de Gonzales. We talked about the business for about an hour and half before the guys called it a night. The conversation we had was incredibly interesting and I would have killed to record it and share with you. I learned a great deal about the cigar industry from the perspective of a relatively tiny cigar company.
A couple of minutes into a conversation with my father, we were joined by three guys that were in town for the expo from Canada. We had a good time talking about random things as well as cigars. My jaw almost hit the floor when they began telling me about all of the taxes and restrictions on cigars in Canada. I knew it was bad but had no idea what they went through on a regular basis just to enjoy a fine cigar.
Once our cigars were about burning our fingers, my father and I said our goodbyes and made our way back to our room. Before calling it a night I took care of the video I shot during the day and was asleep minutes after the painfully slow upload process started.
After a good six-hours of sleep, I stumbled over to my laptop to make sure the upload had finished from the night before. I finished up what I had to do before getting a much needed shower. Feeling much better, but still slightly hung-over, my father and I headed down to the lobby for our complimentary continental breakfast.
I filled up my tiny cup with orange juice and guzzled it down. I repeated the process two more times before moving on to gathering food. Spotting a hot box at the end of the counter, I made my way over in hopes that it would contain more than the bread, cereal, bagels, muffins, and fruit that covered the rest of the counter. I almost wretched when I opened it and was hit in the face with the smell of Mexican style scrambled eggs with soft tortillas on the side.
Despite the horrible smell and my slight hang-over, I felt great after eating a biscuit, banana, and a little of the scrambled egg concoction. Before getting up for another tiny cup of orange juice, I was patted on the shoulder and greeted by Jose Blanco. We talked for a minute before he was off to have something to eat.
After breakfast we headed back up to our room to kill a bit of time before the first shuttle arrived. I spent most of that time on twitter while watching a little television. When it was time to go we headed back down and waited patiently for the trolley.
We were expecting it to be completely full but to our surprise we managed to find a couple of open seats. After getting off the bus we bumped into Dave (dk_fxn) and Brian who were on their way into the retail store.
On our way into the store, we began talking to some of the manufactures we knew who were setting up their tables. The first person I recognized was Dave from Oliva. We talked for a bit before moving to the next manufacturer which was David Blanco of Los Blancos cigars. In the Los Blancos booth I got a chance to talk to Sean of El Primer Mundo cigars. It wasn’t long before setup was starting to get hot and heavy with boxes of cigars being delivered to each table. We excused ourselves so that we wouldn’t get in the way.
While we stood outside the tent talking, we decided that it would be nice to have a cup of coffee with our morning cigars. Unfortunately, there was none to be found and had to go with bottled water instead. Not long after we cracked open our waters, attractive women with pitchers of beer started making the rounds.
With beer in hand we began making our rounds in the manufacturer tent. Our first stop was to see the Lady Liberty bike where Jon Huber from CAO International introduced himself. We talked to Jon for at least a half hour about the bike and the cigar industry. It was the first time I had met Jon and thought highly of him when it was time to move to our next destination.
Before we got away from the booth I talked to my local CAO representative, Paul, for a few minutes. I was kindly given a CAO Brazilia Box Press and a CAO Rock n Rolled t-shirt before I left. Having only “Admission Only” press passes, I was afraid that I might run out of cigars before the night was over. Gifts such as the CAO Brazilia were very much appreciated as the day wore on.
In between stops we bumped into Hayward Tenney and Gary Korb, both copywriters from Famous, to do a little chatting. We had met them both the day before while they were running around to take care of things going on. I also got a chance to catch up with Humberto, former cigar broker for Jesus Fuego, and catch up on what he has been up to.
On our way back across the tent I was called over by Eddie Ortega from 601 Cigars. Having only met him once for a couple of minutes while in Vegas, I was surprised that he remembered me. We talked for a good half hour and learned that there were plans to release a Cubao Maduro and Murcielago. The Cubao Maduro sounded delicious while the Murcielago was interesting in that it utilizes a Mexican wrapper.
After learning that Eddie Ortega was a computer science major, I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned and shook the hand of Jesus Fuego. He went on to tell me that he wanted to introduce Nestor Plasencia to the guy he has been hearing about doing reviews on the web. It seems that Nestor was told about a review of the Casa Fuego line and wanted to thank me for being honest about my opinion of the cigar. Jesus went on to tell me that even though the review probably wasn’t going to help his cigars sell, he appreciated the honest take. Both men shook my hand and told me to keep up the good work before moving on to attend to business.
When we were finished talking with Eddie, we got a beer refill and made a final lap around he tent before the general admission tickets were accepted and the crowd moved in. Dodging the waves of people, we stopped over at the Padron table to talk to Jorge for a minute about the Famous 70th Anniversary Padron. As the wave came closer, we moved down a couple of tables and talked to the Jamie and Don Pepin Garcia for a short moment.
Sitting next to Don Pepin was Abe Flores of Pinar del Rio, I broke off from the group to talk to him for a few minutes. Before leaving, he handed me a Pinar del Rio Oscuro and Sungrown to add to my bulging pocket full of cigars. At this point I was gifted a Cubao, Leon Jimenez Connecticut, Don Lino Africa, La Aurora 1495, and a CAO Brazilia, among the few that I brought along.
As the manufacturer tent got more and more crowded, we headed over to the food tent to partake in some lunch. As we walked into the tent we spotted Dave (dk_fxn) and took a seat. After we all got a little something to eat, had a couple of beers, and talked for a while, we heading back up to the manufacturer tent.
On our last couple of laps before it was time for the manufacturers to pack up, we talked to a couple more people for a couple of minutes each before we began wandering around. Aside from the manufacturers, we met a few of the Famous Smoke Shop regular customers as well as Patrick from the Stogie Guys.
Once the manufacturers were all packed up, dinner was being served back at the food tent. With the crowd packed into the tent, we each grabbed a plate of food and headed back up to the deserted manufacturer area to eat at the empty tables. After eating, I spent some time catching up on emails and tweets from throughout the day.
As the day wound to a close, we headed back to the food tent for the raffling of many amazing prizes. Brian, with his talent at getting winning raffle tickets, managed to win a goodie bag of stuff. Once the raffle was over people began moving to the Drew Estates Casino tent and made room for us to sit down at an empty table.
We enjoyed a couple more cigars and drinks before bumping into Hayward Tenney once again. Knowing that Brian and I needed to do a video together, we asked to use his office to get away from the noise. We had a blast shooting the video before calling it a night.
We headed back out to the parking lot to catch the trolley back to the hotel, which was once again an adventure with many happy drunks. People began belting out songs and hollering all the way back to the hotel. Once we were back, I did a little video editing before putting my head down on the pillow for the night.
Looking back at the events, there are several little things I forgot to mention. With this post being as long as it is, I’ll save those for a video in the near future. I had a great time at the event and hope that the guys from Famous invite us back again for next years festivities.