15 Oct 2007
Smoke shop customers in Florida have been reading a new magazine over the past few months. The colorful publication with the ironic name has grown in pages, distribution, and coverage. Here, publisher and editor Erik Calvino, who is based in Miami, answers questions about starting a new publication, the Florida cigar scene, and industry concerns.
EC: Our first issue hit the street in May 2006. It was a thin, pamphlet-looking thing but we were proud of it.
SG: What prompted you to put out a magazine?
EC: I have always enjoyed writing about things that I am passionate about. And one night in 2005 while smoking a stogie and driving up to Tampa to visit a client in my previous life as an IT consultant, I started toying with the idea of putting out a magazine. I had written briefly for IT industry magazines so I knew that this project would entail ungodly hours of work…and it does. But I couldn’t wait till the morning and sometime around midnight I called my dad (and business partner) and said, “Do you know anything about the magazine business?”
SG: What niche are you trying to fill?
EC: We are all about the local cigar scene. There are plenty of publications out there that deal on a national level and do it well. We are not like them and don’t ever aim to be like them. Our niche is your town, your store, your cigar bar, your cigar-friendly eatery…that’s what we are about. Before Florida Cigar Snob Magazine there was no economically feasible and effective way for a cigar shop to let you know it was there. There was no effective way to inform you that it was hosting a herf, a smoker, a tasting, etc. Now they do.
SG: I understand you’re expanding your circulation area. Where is the magazine now available? What are your expansion plans?
EC: Florida Cigar Snob is currently circulating from the Keys to up to Orlando with the heaviest concentrations in Miami, Broward, Palm Beach County, Tampa Bay, and Orlando. We are steadily making our way northward till we hit the state line. We anticipate that by the May 2008 issue we will have most of the state well-covered. In addition, our website is a great way for folks to check out the magazine. Our site offers the ability to view the magazine in its entirety for free or subscribe to the printed version for one year for only $12.
SG: How have you been accepted in the marketplace?
EC: Overwhelmingly positive. I am grateful for the acceptance that we have received from the cigar business. Both manufacturers and retailers alike have been interested and excited about the idea from day one. As a result of this acceptance, we boast some big cigar advertisers that we are proud to have on our pages. But by far the most rewarding part of this business is the appreciation from cigar shop owners and customers as we visit the different shops in the state. Smokers love the fact that the magazine is about them.
SG: Do you do other magazines?
EC: We don’t publish anything else at the moment. Publishing a magazine of an acceptable quality requires more work than most people can imagine. But certainly as things become easier and my time gets freed up a bit, we will expand the operation further. By that I do not mean to take the Florida Cigar Snob national, I mean to start up another local publication. The local scenes get our blood pumping!
SG: What are your connections to the cigar industry?
EC: We have some solid connections in the cigar industry that were essential to the creation and development of Florida Cigar Snob Magazine. The Oliva Cigar Family, namely Jose Oliva, and I are dear friends. It was Jose Oliva that first introduced me to smoking cigars some 13 or 14 years ago. My grandfather smoked cigars and I loved the smell but I had never taken a puff. But when your friends’ family name is on the box, you have to give it a shot. So Jose gave me a quick lesson on the preparation and lighting procedure, and I was off and puffin’. Mind you I had never smoked anything up until that moment…other than secondhand smoke, I had zero exposure. Needless to say I drove home in second gear that night…and I was instantly hooked. The next day I thanked Jose and asked him where I could buy a box.
For more information on Cigar Snob Magazine, visit www.cigarsnob.com.