An Interview With Ashton's Robert Levin
Best known for creating Ashton, Robert Levin is a 30-year veteran of the cigar business.
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, July/Aug 03
(continued from page 6)
Q: How has your business evolved?
A: When I first started Ashton, everything was being done out of the retail store. But as we grew and grew and grew, we needed some infrastructure, so we rented 8,000 square feet and we had a warehouse. And I'd spend half my day at the retail store, half in the office. And as you grow, the people you hire make or break your company. We were lucky enough to have people who do a great job and made it possible for the company to grow. I hired Mike Pitkow, who really runs the day-to-day operations; I knew Michael from college, he's an old friend. And we started a sales force in '96 or '97. We have 11 salesmen now, who cover the whole country, and I feel they're the best sales team in the whole industry. They are excellent people, hard-working. Manny Ferrero is our vice president of sales. He is the spiritual leader of the sales force -- he gives them the passion and the integrity they need to be out there on the road. Chip Goldeen, he's the national sales manager. We have a great crew. We have very little turnover. We have really good people top to bottom, and that's what makes the company work.
Q: How many people do you have now?
A: We have 71 people.
Q: And when you started working for your father?
A: Five or six.
Q: What size was the business when you took over?
A: About $600,000 a year.
Q: How big a company is it today, in terms of dollar volume?
A: We're private so we don't really give out our revenues.
Q: How do your sales today compare to your biggest year?
A: We're growing every year.
Q: It's bigger now than during the boom?
A: Yeah. When we were public we did $29 million. It's a slow growth. It's the wholesale business that's driving the train.
Q: Will it also be your most profitable year?
A: No. We're expanding; we're going to double our space. We've been here for five years, and we convinced the owner next door to sell us his property and the building next door.
Q: When you first created this joint headquarters and warehouse, did you think you'd have enough space?
A: I thought we'd be here forever. I thought it would be plenty of space. But what I need is more warehouse space. We need more people space, but it's the warehouse space where we're really crunched.
Q: Six years years ago, you said your business was split evenly. What's the breakdown now?
A: More than half of the business is now wholesale. The retail is about 7 percent of the business; mail-order is 30 percent, a little less.
Comments 1 comment(s)
Tom Flack — Westerville, Ohio, USA, — January 31, 2014 7:38am ET
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