Box Press Podcast

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Steelers fans, you can now light up an Ike Taylor cigar! Before retiring in 2015, Ike won two Super Bowl® rings during his 12-year career with Pittsburgh. Now the former NFL® player has launched a premium stick called 1OFAHKINE (pronounced one-of-a-kind) with the new cigar brand, Howard G Cigars. Ike sampled 40 different tobaccos to develop the blend, which is in the All Pro Series. Ike and founder Howard Gumbs joined Box Press host Rob Gagner to talk smokes at 2021 PCA in Las Vegas.

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Rob, Howard and Ike are smoking the Howard G cigar, 1OFAHKINE from the All Pro Series. For a winning smoke every time, add Boveda to your humidor to protect the flavor, condition and burn of all your cigars.

 

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– Yeah you talked about maturity, and I found, somebody had said, “maturity doesn’t really happen for me until like 20 to 40 years old.” They felt like that’s when they really became mature in understanding who they were and remembering it, right? You know, once you reach 20, you don’t remember a quarter of your life, because you were so small, you were a kid, you were younger. I mean, do you remember really what your favorite color was when you were five years old? I don’t know. Maybe you do, but now that you’re 20 and above, this is where it shapes your life. That’s where you’re really starting to get yourself into a position of grooming yourself to be a better man, grooming yourself to be a better person. With you especially in professional sports, I’m sure you see young immature athletes coming up in the ranks.

– You know why? Because this is life in general. You give me a kid who’s 15, and without him even smoking a cigar, you let him hang around guys who are 28, 35, 40 years old, his maturity level gonna fast forward ASAP.

– [Rob] Right.

– Because of his surroundings.

– [Rob] He’s gonna be listening.

– Correct because of his surroundings. So, he’ll be more mature than the typical 15 year old that’s not in a cigar setting. So for me, a cigar setting, even though I’m 41, it still matured me when I was playing in the league.

– [Rob] There’s a story inside every smoke shop, with every cigar and with every person. Come be a part of the cigar lifestyle with Boveda. This is Box Press. Welcome to another episode of Box Press. I’m your host, Rob Gagner with Boveda. I’m at PCA 2021. I’m sitting across from Ike Taylor and Howie, of Howard G Cigars, thank you gentlemen for joining me.

– Thank you.

– Thank you so much.

– You’re enjoying going to the lounges right now to hang out with the older guys?

– I work out in the morning about 6:30, 7, with my nephews and my son, and after that about 10:30, 11, I’m hitting the cigar lounge.

– [Rob] Sure.

– Now, Howie and I, we stay right in the back of the cigar lounge. So, we probably talk or see each other damn near every day. Every day.

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– So, in Orlando in Sand Lake Road, Corona Cigar, Sand Lake.

– [Rob] Oh yeah.

– So, and Dr. Phillips, so we both live in the community right next to it. And so, it’s like-

– Walking distance.

– Walking distance.

– [Rob] I love it.

– So we’re pretty much there hanging out. And, like you said it’s a family.

– It’s “Cheers.”

– Yeah.

– [Rob] Oh yeah?

– Where everybody know your name.

– [Rob] Right.

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– So we just did, matter of fact, with Mr. Fred, we just did an event.

– Yeah.

– For the kids, Backpacks for the Kids.

– Pal. Police Athletic League.

– Pal. So the Police Athletic League, we just did an event at his house in his backyard, so anytime somebody got something going on, we all support each other.

– Yeah.

– [Rob] Sure.

– So, that’s how it is. Him and I are probably be youngest out the group.

– And where do you guys live?

– Orlando, Florida.

– Orlando.

– So right, and that Fred lives right there.

– I’ve know Fred forever. Fred

– Really?

– Fred’s my boy.

– Fred from Nomad Cigars?

– Yeah. The Martial Law was his cigar. We started a poker group together. The Comona Poker League.

– So the Martial Law cigar was named after you?

– No, no, no. You said Nomad so I said Martial Law, that’s one his cigars I used to smoke a lot of.

– Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– But we’re real deal friends. We literally hang out and come to each other’s house. We have parties. What I love about Freddy, dude knows more about bacon than anybody else in the history of the world.

– How about food? He knows more about food.

– But he loves bacon.

– [Rob] Yeah, well, I mean.

– And the McRib from McDonald’s.

– [Rob] McGriddle?

– The McRib.

– [Rob] McRib.

– Yeah. He puts it in our group chat that the McRib is back. Ask him. The McRib, true story.

– That guy loves food.

– [Howard] Yeah.

– I followed him on Instagram ’cause it was enticing to just be getting ideas of what I could be cooking. Oh, look what Fred’s making. I’m gonna make that too. It’s bacon and more bacon, and then add a little bit more bacon to it, and then it’s Fred approved. But I was saying earlier, going in the smoke shop, it’s kind of intimidating, and a lot of our viewers out there they’ll know, it’s intimidating to go into a smoke shop when you’re young, 18, 19, 20, 21, whatever the legal age is now. When you go in there and there’s a bunch of older guys that have been doing this for a long time and they look at you and they kind of look at you like you probably aren’t going to stick around. You know what I mean? Not a lot of young people can stick inside that uncomfortable feeling.

– And I get it. It could be intimidating, but it’s like anything else in the world, you gotta be consistent.

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– Well, you get what you put into it, is the way I looked at it. It’s like, you can get intimidated and you can walk out and go, yeah, that wasn’t for me, that was really unpleasant. Or you can fight the intimidation, just like you have to do to win a game, and you can get rewarded at the end because these guys are gonna teach you how to do things and be great mentors and great friends and have an opportunity to learn something from somebody else who’s already done it. They’ve already been there. They’ve already done what you’re seeking to do and they can help guide you in the right direction. That’s what I love about the smoke shop every day.

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– So for me, it’s life after football. So for me, it’s hanging out with guys who are more successful than me now. So I’m a why guy. Like I’m a how guy. How did you get this successful? How do you stay this successful? And what do you do? I’m a I need to learn every day kind of guy. I don’t want to know it all kind of guy. And I found this at a cigar lounge. So we pretty much call all the guys who older than us uncle. And this is all shades of life, and him and I got something in common, which we all do, sitting here smoking a cigar. This cigar don’t care what your occupation is.

– [Rob] Right.

– Whether you’re a CEO, a janitor or whatever you want to be, but if we sit down and smoke like how we smoking now, we have this in common.

– Yeah, I don’t know anything about football and you’ve been to two Super Bowls, so I would say we have nothing in common in that area, but-

– But this what we-

– We’re having a good time.

– A good time. This is for grown folks. And being grown don’t have an age limit, even though you’re 19 or whatever, the legal age is 21 to smoke these cigars, it comes with maturity, and that’s how I look at these cigars. So it don’t matter what the setting is, as long as we all smoking cigars, this is what we have in common, whether you are female or male.

– Yeah, you talked about maturity, and I found, somebody had said, “maturity doesn’t really happen for me until like 20 to 40 years old.” They felt like that’s when they really became mature in understanding who they were and remembering it, right? You know, once you reach 20, you don’t remember a quarter of your life because you were so small, you were a kid, you were younger. I mean, do you remember really what your favorite color was when you were five years old? I don’t know. Maybe you do, but now that you’re 20 and above, this is where it shapes your life. That’s where you’re really starting to get yourself into a position of grooming yourself to be a better man, grooming yourself to be a better person. With you, especially in professional sports, I’m sure you see young immature athletes coming up in the ranks.

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– You know why? Because this is life in general. You give me a kid who’s 15, and without him even smoking a cigar, you let him hang around guys who are 28, 35, 40 years old, his maturity level going fast forward, ASAP.

– [Rob] Right.

– Because of his surroundings.

– [Rob] He’s gonna be listening,

– Correct, because of his surroundings. So he’ll be more mature than the typical 15 year old that’s not in a cigar setting. So for me, a cigar setting, even though I’m 41, it’s still matured me when I was playing in the league.

– Right. So you were hanging out in smoke shops when you were in the league?

– 25.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– 26, that’s when I get into the stocks, investments. That’s when I get it into you should put your money in this one, that’s where my relationships grew, all because hanging out in the cigar lounge.

– Nice. Got to set yourself up and you’ve got to seek it, like you said.

– You’ve gotta want it. So I ain’t really… So Howard G Cigars, he started, he’s younger than me.

– [Rob] Yeah?

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– But he’s very passionate about these cigars. So he asked me like, bro, you want to get your own stick? And I said, yeah, but just listening to other avid cigar smokers, they was like, it’s a lot of guys, a lot of athletes who just put their name on a cigar and the stick isn’t isn’t good at all.

– [Rob] Right and they-

– So I to say, Howie, Howard, I call him Howie. I say, Howie, so what the hell I need to do? What’s the process? See, I don’t mind starting from the bottom.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– Because starting from the bottom, I learn every step of the way.

– You’re a why guy. You like to ask why.

– I need to know why.

– Yeah.

– So my stick is right there, the 1OFAHKINE stick. I had to smoke 40. I smoked 40 different tobaccos. One thing I learned from drinking red wine, the longer the wine sit, the better it is. We do the same thing with our tobacco. The longer the tobacco is, the better it will be when they smoke it. So we’ll rather you wait until our next shipment come to enjoy the smoke forever than to go on and push it out early, but you’ll never smoke it again, so that’s what’s making our line so popular.

– Too young of tobacco and it’s just not ready.

– [Ike] Correct.

– [Howard] Absolutely.

– And tobacco is a lot like a kid.

– [Howard] Yeah. You can take-

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– Infancy, adolescence, changing flavors a lot. Then all of a sudden, it starts to mellow out, become more consistent, more reliable. Who’s making these cigars for you guys?

– ACC, American Caribbean Cigars. Damian. Damian and Alex Menendez.

– [Rob] Nice.

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– The cool thing about it is it all comes from relationships for me. That’s all it is for me, it’s all relationships. And the number one reason I actually started a cigar line, it wasn’t my personal idea that I wanted to start cigar line, it’s that I would sit down at Corona Cigar, outside on Sand Lake, three to four days a week, from approximately 5:30 to 7:30 with Avo, the late great Avo.

– [Rob] Avo?

– I would sit right next to Avo, when it’d be a group of us all sitting outside with Avo. Avo, he was the smoothest guy I think I’ve met because when he first saw me and I found out who he was, I wasn’t smoking an Avo, and so he politely said, what are you smoking? And took the cigar and like, oops, dropped it, you know? And then steps on it- Kind of stepped on it and went in the back, and he’s like, nah, have an Avo. And I just thought that was the smoothest thing because at first I’m like, am I gonna really get into it with an older guy who just took my cigar and dropped it?

– [Rob] And crushed it?

– By the time he steps on it, I’m like, oh really? You really? And then he goes in there and he goes like this with a smile and I’m like, ah. Like that is the smoothest thing ever. So every day I would sit out there with him three or four times a week, there was a whole group of us, Fred was one of them as well, and then every year, so I met him at 85. So every year after that, in February, March/February, we’ll have a party for him for his birthday, we’d all come there and hang out. He would get on the piano, it was just such a touching moment. When he told me something, prior to his passing, it was just me and him outside, and he goes, he leans over and he goes, Howie, he said, you should be in the cigar business. I’m looking like, who me? I said, why you say that, Papa? He says, because you love the people like I love the people. Now listen, it was kinda like getting like blindsided because I didn’t expect that. So I was like oh man, that was deep. So I kind of put it in the back burner, in the back of my head, and so he ends up passing away. Maybe 12 months later, within that time, we had a celebration of his life outside of the Corona, Sand Lake, the whole- Davidoff, they all came, the whole parking lot, they put big white tents up there, we got the big thing of him. Everybody was all there to celebrate. We had a big screen and it was talking-

– [Rob] Nice.

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– And it was just a great time where I still, and that picture is inside, I have it in my office at home, every one of us that was there in that picture, we have that. So fast forward a year, a year and a half after that, a year, my manufacturer’s was like I said, American Caribbean Cigars is Alex Menendez, he’s one of my closest friends. He calls me when he, he lives in Miami. So he calls me anytime he comes to Orlando, and he calls me and he says, hey, I’m gonna be in Orlando, let’s hang out. He said, well, I know where I’m gonna meet you at, let’s meet at Corona, I said, of course. So I walk in there and I’m coming there to see Alex, but it’s packed, you know? And I walk in and I’m talking-

– [Rob] When is it not packed?

– Yeah, right. You know? So I walk in there so I’m talking to everybody, everybody’s shaking hands and stuff. By the time I said, where the heck is Alex? He’s over there in the corner, at the bar, in the corner. So when I get over there to him, he’s like, yeah, like I saw when you came in and it took you like 20, 30 minutes to get over here to me, man. He’s like, you’re the freaking mayor here. I said, well, they say that sometimes. I said, but you know what? I just love the people. He said, well, let me ask you something? You ever thought about the cigar business? And that’s when I leaned back, I was like whoa-

– [Rob] That’s twice now. That’s twice.

– I said, bro, and I talk to him differently because-

– [Rob] Yeah.

– We’re friends. So I was like, bro, I say, man, Avo said that, man. He said to me, he was like well, we do have the factory in Estelí. So I went and started talking with him and I was like, well, Alex listen, my favorite cigars are Padrón No. 88. I said, amazing cigar. Construction, everything is amazing. I said, but I personally believe in my last, all these years of being around the cigar world and seeing everything, I was like, I would like to make something that would be comparable to that for me, but I can sell it at a different price point where more people can get it, because when we came in to the cigar business or just coming around, we noticed there was a lot of 30 count boxes back then, 25 count boxes, and we noticed that, there were like, what do we call it? Like Uncle Paulie’s and the guys like that, they were buying a lot of these boxes, but then you started seeing the new age of the cigar.

– Yeah, the younger crowd.

– They getting in there and I see it. They kind of got intimidated.

– Yeah, because it’s a big cash up front, you know what I mean? It could be 3, 400 bucks.

– Four, five, six, right?

– Yeah.

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– Depending on how your palate is. So I said, well, I would wanna do something where, number one, the box, the presentation would be great. It smokes really good. But guess what? A 10 count box is great, and not take too much time in the humidor. And so we stacked the box, so it’s five with a stamp with another five on top, like that, beautiful presentation. Different style of box, it’s not like the normal, it catches the eye. And then the most powerful thing is for somebody to try it. And then they smoked the cigar and they turn around and say, you know what? I really liked that, oh, I can buy the box. The box is only $150? Oh, I got that in my pocket right here. You know, 4, $500, bro? Well, let me make sure. Well, did I pay my insurance bill?

– [Rob] Yeah, right, right.

– Did I get approval from the wife, right? You don’t need approval for the wife for $150, right? Or guess what? Let me go smoke some more expensive cigar, but then I can’t even share it with a scotch, right? Because now I’m getting out of my range. So we just wanted to do something, but to follow the same process that they follow. When the cigars are made in this row and they go into the aging room, I have the dates of every batch that goes in there and I will not get it until it’s been in there for at least 60 days. Now, I prefer 70, 80, but at least 60. And the reason why is, because over the years, I’ve seen cigars that I fell in love with that I’ve tried and then I don’t know if it was a change of ownership or a change in the people, but then I smoke it later and say, well damn, if you’re gonna cut the process time, you ain’t cut the price.

– [Rob] Right.

– That’s not fair to the consumer. So we based our business off of relationships, what this has done for- 95% of the people that is closest to my life, I’ve met them somehow through a cigar, so that’s where the passion comes for me.

– Right. What did you do before you got into this? Or do you still do something full time?

– Yes, so the cigar business is something that I’m growing the right way. I got a saying, I say I might be a slow leak, but I’m a steady drip.

– [Rob] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– We’re not trying to hey, then oh, we’re not here no more. We’re doing everything the right way. We got a lot of guidance from a lot of successful guys in the industry, different brands.

– [Rob] Sure.

– We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re just trying to do it with our style with it.

– [Rob] Oh, yeah.

– Cigar with our lifestyle, and so I’m in sales, so I own a couple of different other businesses and networking and things like that and then sales, I do well in that, but at the end of the day, I’m going to be smoking a cigar. If I have a client and the client smokes cigars, or doesn’t mind meeting me at the cigar bar, I will meet them there rather than to meet them at my office. I hate my office. It’s not fun me. I am a guy that needs to be around people.

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– How much do you think COVID changed people’s way of life because of that?

– Just in the world in general. So I feel like, due to COVID, from a corporate standpoint, it changed everybody’s life.

– Well, let’s just preface it. The people that lost their lives to it, that’s not what we’re talking about, right?

– [Ike] Correct, no.

– But there is a mental shift for those of us that are still around that made us realize maybe we put business before family.

– Correct.

– I’m huge on training and working out. And at the time before COVID, you really didn’t see kids out and family out, hanging outside.

– [Rob] Right.

– Due to COVID, I damn near had the whole neighborhood working out.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– Outside, training. Moms and dads thanking me for spending three, four hours with their kids. Now they get some downtime with each other. Now they get to go out on dates. Now they get to just get some business done in the house. Moms get opportunity to clean the house, get some time to nap, dad’s get the opportunity to come to the cigar bars. So yeah, due to COVID, on the good side of COVID not the bad side of COVID. It changed the world when you want to talk about the corporation style, thinking outside the box. So it’s not the Flintstone era.

– Nine to five, you got to show up, you got to stay late. Then you got to put in the hours if you want to be successful.

– You don’t have to do that anymore, as long as you consistent at what you do.

– [Rob] Produce, produce, produce.

– Some days, it might take two hours. Other days, it might take 12 to 15, but if you passionate about what you’re doing, everything will work out. So that’s what I learned during COVID. And from the family standpoint, I always been a family guy. And my saying is family don’t have to be blood-related, ever. Family never had to be blood related. I’ve called a lot of people family that wasn’t from my mom or wasn’t from my family tree, and I would take a bullet for a few people just because I call them family, so that’s what I thought COVID did to me. And it opened up a lot of people eyes in that aspect.

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– I definitely appreciate it because I’m an extrovert. I get energy from hanging out with people at the smoke shop and talking, and in fact, my wife, oftentimes would be like, you know what? It’s Friday, she’d called me at the office and say, I got it tonight. You go up to the smoke shop, relax, unwind. And that means I’m gonna be there until close. And that’s eight o’clock for us, because we don’t serve alcohol at our lounges and in our smoke shops so she knew I’d be there until eight. She wouldn’t tell me at 6:30, when are you gonna be home? She gave me the green light to go get my energy, which was going in, saying hi to everybody.

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-The best time to be in the smoke shop, to me, is Friday.

– [Howard] Yup.

– Friday.

– [Howard] Friday night live.

– Friday is the best time to be in the smoke shop. Everybody’s happy, grabbing cigars for the weekend. They might be going up to the cabin, but they’re gonna spend a couple of hours with you before they leave. I absolutely love it. It’s my favorite time. But for me, that’s where I get my energy and understanding, my wife understands that and so appreciative because she knows so now, being COVID, she knows that I want to socialize and have a cigar and hang out. So we would pull the laptop out on the deck and she’d let me smoke cigars on the deck and we’d watch a movie together and we talk, or we would read books together. We would actually read the same book at the same time to each other and then we would be able to talk about it. So she was feeding my need for like social engagement while we were going through COVID. She had my back 100% and I’m super grateful for that. And she also saw me struggle trying to work from home, ’cause I didn’t get my energy from working from home. In fact, before COVID, I didn’t have the internet in my house because I didn’t like all the distractions. And so she knew that I would struggle for this for like the first two weeks. She was like, just here, set up a table, do your work, do your thing, I’ll be out of your hair. She can work from home anywhere.

– You got a good one.

– I know.

– You got a good one. From how you talk, you got a good one.

– Absolutely.

– She’s amazing.

– We call that a jewel.

– You got a good one.

– For us, since Orlando is a tourist city, we come across a lot of people at that cigar bar and where we stay at and where the cigar lounge is, Corona Cigar Lounge, on Sand Lake.  I’m saying like it’s prime location. From smoking cigars to restaurants. You can literally walk to any good restaurant you want to, and that’s what we usually do. We’ll smoke and eat or make deals or do whatever we need to do. So for us, man, it’s just been a blessing in disguise. One, on what he’s got going on with his line, with the Howard G cigar line. Two, me getting into the cigar business.

– [Rob] You like it?

– I love it. And the only reason, I love smoking cigars, but the only reason I love it is because of this guy, because the passion I see from him.

– [Rob] Yeah? That’s awesome.

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– It’s not a job. When you passionate about something, you don’t mind going to bed four, five in the morning. You don’t mind waking up four or five in the morning, because you’re passionate about what you do. This is this guy right here, you know? So once I saw that, I was like, you know what? And when he asked me, I ain’t even hesitate. I’m like, bro, I’m all the way in, just tell me what I need to do ’cause I need to learn as well.

– Yeah. It takes a bit, it takes a bit.

– Correct. As far as trying to basically start a company from scratch, there’s often times where you’re faced with the inevitable. Man, I don’t know if this is gonna work. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make this, get to the next level. Have you had those opportunities yet, where you said, I don’t know if this is gonna work.

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– You know what? It’s funny you asked that because that’s kinda like why I got the name Black Moses. Because the reason I had the name Black Moses on the cigar line is because in multiple business, you have obstacles. It’s like in life, you have obstacles always. It’s never will stop. The difference is I choose to part through any obstacles in my way, like Moses parted through the Red Sea. Obstacle is something that always happens, it’s a part of living. Every single day, you’re gonna have some type of thing. You’re gonna have a great success, you’re gonna have a lot of failures as well. So I try to stay even keel with it. The difference with it is I got in the cigar business out of passion. I didn’t get in the cigar business to take off and say, alright, I have to do this, I have a quota, I have to do this, no. What’s crazy, you wanna know the God in heaven’s truth, is we were working out because I actually, during COVID, I dropped 45 pounds working out with, this guy right here is a ninja, like he never stops. And so, but the cigars were already, prior to the All Pro Series, I already had four cigars that was already in Nicaragua in the aging room. It was already done because I was like, I was gonna make cigars anyways because of what Avo said and then Alex, as we, the way we put it together, and I had already had the blends going, I was like, I’m gonna just smoke them myself and then give some to my friends. The problem is, when you have a ton of friends, you’re like, aw man, so I got to go through the list and say, well, who really smokes cigars? Who really has a pa-? I mean, a palate, that really can sit there and enjoy a cigar, not just smoke it to look cool.

– Or be honest with you.

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– Yeah, so what I did, I literally took four cigars, four different ones, and I literally put it in and gave away 5, 600 cigars to little people that are in the cigar world that I know personally, trust and got from other companies, friends of mine and different things, literally gave them out. I said, I just want you to give me some feedback. That’s it. I value your opinion.

– [Rob] Right.

– You know? And literally I got, these different people started just giving me their feedback. They started saying, Howie, I like this and I paired it with this. They were sending me pictures with the cigars. And they were like, man, you’re onto something. So what started off as what I said I was gonna do anyway, it just took off faster than I actually really expected it to.

– [Rob] Right. Because it wasn’t like balls to the walls, I had to do it. It was like this is fun. I’m gonna smoke cigars regardless every day.

– [Rob] Right.

– It’s gonna happen, it’s inevitable, right? So I have to smoke my cigars, I have to be able to be around, like you were saying, people were trapped and stuff like that, I found time to still be around people. I got them on ice. Before you know it, we have four or five people together. We work out, then we were all smoking a cigar, in the front yard, in the yard, and where we live at, we were having community parties. Everybody was getting ashtrays and tents up in the front and neighbors and everybody, and we were social distancing, having a drink and smoking cigars.

– Yeah, the front yard COVID chairs.

– Yeah.

– Everyone moved from the backyard to the front yard, right?

– And go from I need privacy to I need to see faces.

– [Rob] Real quick.

– Real quick.

– [Rob] Like two weeks quick.

– Real quick.

– It was like, ah, okay. Although even before two weeks, a lot of people were walking just because you can’t be in your house that long all day, you get kinda stir crazy. And thank God in Minnesota that it happened somewhat right away in the summer, late fall, and then it went into the winter and it was like, man, I got to get out, no matter what temperature it is, I gotta get out of this house. I counted one time, I was like I’ve been in this house for three days and I haven’t left.

– [Howard] Oh wow.

– I gotta get out.

– Yeah, absolutely.

– That’s tough.

– See some people.

– Down in Florida, it’s a little bit…

– Yeah, you can do it-

– A little bit different.

– We can walk pretty much anytime of the year in Orlando.

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– But it’s interesting how that value, because that’s old America. Old America’s is the front porch, at least in the Midwest for me. It’s the front porch house, it’s the you don’t go to the, the houses in fact were even set further back in the lot so that you had a bigger front yard, and nowadays it’s holy cow, you’ve got a real short driveway, and then like as all in the back. And you almost needed that to have a break from all the social engagements you were putting yourself through, but now without those, you crave them. I felt like the engagement got better because I learned who my neighbors were. I don’t ask who my neighbors are. Heck, my neighbor didn’t even know my wife and I were married and we were expecting, she made three blankets for us when my daughter came and I was like, had this not been COVID, I would have never had this relationship that I have with my neighbor. Unbelievable.

– Like I said, man, COVID, it hurt a lot of companies and peoples and family, especially the ones who died, but on the flip side, the good side of that, it made America kind of go back into what it used to be, riding bikes, staying off the computer, interacting with each other. And I’m just like you, if I don’t know you, I really don’t have nothing to say to you. Now, I’m a good morning guy, I’m a good evening guy, Ima speak, but I’m not gonna try to get into your business. During COVID, I’ve learned my neighbors.

– Yeah.

– [Ike] You know what I’m saying?

– You know who they are, you know what they’re dealing with or what they’re struggling with or what you can pray for them, just, you know.

– And at this time, in this era, it’s hard for parents to have trust in somebody else with their kids. These parents trust me with their kids. See how he’s passionate about these cigars? That’s how passionate I am about working out and dealing with the community and just loving the kids. You know what I’m saying? So I became, in my community, the Uncle Ike.

– Yeah.

– You know? So-

– Go to Uncle Ike’s house and go get some training.

– Go get some training.

– Play some games.

– Play some games, have a good time. Give your mom and your dad some alone time. And whenever they need you back.

– [Rob] Were you posting what your schedule was for the everyone to come in?

– Really for us, a few, yeah. But my garage, I turned my garage into a gym.

– [Rob] That’s awesome.

– So my garage always open. If you in my neighborhood, even if I’m not in the house, as long as my garage open, if you need some kind of workout, go in and do what the heck you need to do.

– So freewill.

– [Ike] Freewill.

– Kids just come in and-

– [Ike] Freewill.

– Come on in.

– [Ike] Freewill.

– [Rob] That’s nice.

– Got a TV in there, I got the cable set up. So, got the remote, set ready for you. So that’s where we was at it.

– Got the Peloton outside.

– Peloton, all that good stuff.

– That time he was going out of town, I know the code.

– Give them the code to my garage and take off.

– That’s awesome. So cool. That’s awesome to provide that too. Kids need that mentorship, that activity, that lessons of learning and working hard. That’s huge.

– In this era, kids need people skills.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– Because it was gone away for a minute.

– [Rob] Yeah, that screen time was crushing.

– Yeah. You know, with this technology, the people skills for the younger generation was fading. Now, we’re starting to getting back. So now I teach to my nephews and my son, when you talking and you meet somebody, you shake a man hand, you look them in the eyes, you know what I’m saying? And that’s what I tell others as well. So it’s just getting back down to the basics.

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– Yeah. What was your first job? Do you remember it?

– My first job was working at Schwegmann’s in New Orleans.

– Schwegmann’s?

– It’s a grocery store.

– I was gonna say, with that name, I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m like maybe he’s selling suits, maybe it’s swag.

– Nah, it was a grocery store. I used to work the night shift and I don’t know how many Gerber bottles I done dropped. So a little Gerber, I used to to the stack the baby section.

– [Rob] Yes.

– So my check used to be itty bitty ’cause I used to drop so many.

– [Rob] They make you pay for them?

– Sometimes, it was bad. It was bad, bro.

– If social media was back then and the cameras were readily available, would you have been the guy where we saw them hanging on the shelving from the grocery store and it fell back?

– I wasn’t that bad. But I was bad. But yeah, that was my first job.

– [Rob] What’d you learn from that job?

– Taking my time ’cause I used to try to rush.

– [Rob] Really?

– Because I wanted to help other people in the night shift in their aisles. So I used to try to, but it didn’t make any sense. I had to take care of what I needed to do first then I can help others. So even though I wanted to spend two or three hours helping other people, out them two or three hours, I couldn’t help because I was too busy, cleaning off all my drops.

– [Rob] Cleaning up all your rushed mess.

– So I had to take my time.

– That’s wise, though, to learn that. Take your time, do what you’re called to do, ’cause that’s how you get a paycheck, is to do the basics. And what you wanted to do was the extra curriculars.

– Correct. Correct, correct. So my motto, it’s never about me. Like I’m always here for other people. So I believe now I’m dropped here to serve. So how can I help you? You know? Take me out of it. I done did everything I wanted to do in life, so now I’m here for others. So whether it’s giving time or he got an event or he need me to watch him do something or just looking out for him, bro, I’m here to serve. So that’s where I’m at in life right now. I’m just here to serve people.

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– Sure. Do you remember your first job?

– Absolutely. First job was at Checkers.

– [Rob] Checkers?

– Checkers.

– [Rob] The restaurant chain?

– Well across the country, well in Orlando it’s Checkers, but they also go by Rallys.

– [Rob] Okay.

– So it’s a burger joint.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– Drive-in fast food.

– Yeah, drive-in fast food. But the number one thing I still remember from Checkers is that they had a system, and as a 15-year-old kid, I had to learn the system how to make a Champ burger. And to this day, I still remember how to make that Champ burger.

– [Rob] Yeah?

– You take the two buns, you put it in the toaster, it slides down, and then you had two patties. You had the big patty or you had the smaller patty. The Champ burger came with the big patty. You put the big patty up, then you had to do two rings of ketchup, one ring of mustard, it had to be like that.

– [Rob] The ratio matters.

– Absolutely. And then you had three pickles that go in a shape of a triangle.

– [Rob] Pickles matter too.

– And then one onion, one onion right there. Then you take the top, the crown of the bun, you swipe it with the mayo, lettuce, one tomato, you put it there and that’s the Checkers sandwich. And the reason I remember that so vividly, is because no matter what it is you’re doing, you have to have a systematic approach, right?

– [Rob] Right.

– Every time you go into a McDonald’s, the fries always on west side, the left side from the counter because that’s the system. And so that’s one of the things that we, it’s the little things, just the little things.

– Plan your work, work your plan. There’s a system, efficiency, dedication, it’ll all come out smooth.

– They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

– [Rob] Yeah.

– So that’s the… So I have to already have a plan in which I have a 30 days, 90 days, a year, and then I have three and five-year plans.

– [Rob] Right.

– And so I have it all, I have the system, I just got to work, work the play.

– Those first jobs, you learn so much from those jobs, I think. Kids today may not, they sometimes feel like that’s beneath them. Oh, I can’t work at a fast food joint ’cause I’m better than that, or I’m not going to learn anything. That’s where you learn. That’s where you cut your teeth.

– It’s something different when you actually did something yourself and you see the gratification from it. You appreciate it more than when you just, constantly just get given things.

– [Rob] Exactly, so… Love it.

– Absolutely.

– Gentlemen, I want to thank you for this time and this opportunity.

– Appreciate you.

– And just sitting down with me and sharing your cigars.

– Thank you. Thank you.

– Sharing your cigar and your story, which I will definitely be smoking.

– Appreciate you.

– And again, where can people go to find more about these blends and your line of cigars?

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howardgcigars.com and you have everything on there, the breakdowns of everything, the blends, and you can follow us on Instagram as well, at howardgcigars, on Facebook at Howard G Cigars. Also follow 1OFAHKINE Cigars, that’s Ike Taylor’s, that’s what his name is, right? 1OFAHKINE, and its spelled 1, right? O-F, A-H, yeah.

– K-I-N-E. So it’s spelled A-H-K-I-N-E. So we like to break down so you can see it, but he’ll you type in his name and it also Leon Searcy. He’s LSearcyJr On Instagram. And then he’s Leon Searcy on Facebook. If you just follow us, we have a lot of stuff going on. We have a lot of fun. We really, really do.

– Now do you sell straight to consumers or through brick and mortars only?

– So we have, on our website, we have available to consumers as well. And then we have a lot in brick and mortars.

– [Rob] Great.

– We started off the other way, with creating the brand the way we wanted to create it, because we have a lot of things that we’re doing and have friends across the country and people. And the craziest thing about it is the referrals. Like this guy, I get one on one with him, and I say, hey, perhaps on one of the many podcasts that you do during football season, or just talking to sports, bro, did you do something today? And he say, oh yeah, man, my bad, I didn’t even tell you. I was on the “Pat McAfee Show,” we was talking football and I was on there for an hour, we had a ball and I start telling people to go pick up the cigars. I said, because yeah, I put a hand in every order that comes in there, they came to me and I write it. And then I was saying, well, dang. I mean one order of 100 different things I got up. I said, man, I’m used to that in a week or so, but-

– [Rob] Not in one day.

– He was like, yeah, man. It’s just cool thing about it is. The events that are fun. There’s a group of Steelers guys that flew into Orlando, they were at Disney World and it was sending emails and saying hey, is it possible that I can smoke some cigars with you and Ike and stuff like that. We really wanna do it while we’re in town. Call Ike, are you around?  I be available tomorrow. Alright, meet us at Corona’s on Sand Lake Road, at this time. And to be able to see him come through, and have a cigar and take a picture, then they go back and then they’re telling everybody about it. Just being, dealing with the people, just having a good time and enjoying life. We’ve been blessed, honestly. God, we’ve been blessed, and you know, be a blessing to others and create relationships.

– That’s what it’s all about, common denominator.

– [Howard] Yes, sir. Right there.

– There it is. We love cigars. We appreciate you guys being in the business, bringing us great cigars to smoke. I appreciate you sharing your story.

– Thank you.

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– Really what it was, for me. So that wraps it up with another episode of Box Press. I’m blessed to be sitting across the aisle from these guys, telling their story. I hope you enjoyed it. As always, if you need to find out more, look up their brands, go to their websites, follow them on social media. And if you need Boveda to protect those cigars, go to bovedainc.com. Thank you.

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You never know who you might meet over a cigar at a tobacco lounge. True that for Howard.

The late Avo Uvezian approached him asking what he was smoking. Howard showed Avo, who took the cigar, stepped on it and handed Howard an Avo Davidoff cigar. Over the years, they shared sticks and stories. It was Avo who first urged Howard to venture into the cigar business.

“95% of the people that are closest to my life, I’ve met them somehow through a cigar, so that’s where the passion comes for me,” the Howard G Cigars founder said.

In 2021, Howard debuted the new Black-owned boutique cigar brand with 1OFAKINE, Black Moses, Magic Stick and the Leon Searcy All Pro Series.

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  • (2:28) Shout-out to Corona Cigars on Sand Lake!
  • (3:22) The cigar man who knows his bacon
  • (4:40) What new cigar smokers need to know before they visit a cigar shop
  • (5:49) Life after the NFL®
  • (8:48) What young Ike Taylor learned from hanging out in cigar lounges
  • (9:18) Why Ike Taylor partnered with Howard G Cigars
  • (10:40) Working with tobacco is like raising a kid
  • (11:05) Origin story of the BIPOC cigar company Howard G
  • (11:25) The late cigar legend and pianist Avo Uvezian mentored Howard Gumbs
  • (14:03) Ever think about going into the cigar business? Joining forces with American Caribbean Cigars’ Alex Menendez 
  • (15:48) Creating Howard G lines—premium cigars at a good price point
  • (25:18) How did the Howard G Black Moses cigar get its name?
  • (31:05) During the pandemic, Ike Taylor became Uncle Ike to neighborhood kids
  • (39:24) Where to buy the 1OFAHKINE Ike Taylor cigar
  • (40:09) Howard G’s Leon Searcy cigar in the All Pro Series 

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