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An Interview With Robert Levin

Owner, Holt's Cigar Store, Inc., and the Ashton Brand
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 22)

CA: Other than Ashton, what are some of the brands that are in greatest demand?

Levin: All the major brands. All the cigars the Fuentes make. Macanudo and Partagas. Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, Excalibur and H. Upmann, La Gloria Cubana, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta Vintage and Savinelli.

CA: What about shaped cigars?

Levin: I have a story to tell you on that. When I first came out with Ashton, I had two shaped cigars. I had a torpedo, called Ashton Sovereign, and I had a belicoso, called the Prince of Wales. I couldn't give them away. The two deadest sizes on the line. After three years, when we moved factories, and they didn't have the molds or the experienced rollers to make those particular shapes, I said let's just start with the basic shapes. Since then, the whole market for shaped cigars has exploded.

CA: Are you able to get those shapes? And how many do you make for Ashton?

Levin: The shipments for the shaped cigars total maybe 70,000 or 80,000 so far in 1996. Tops. And in the maduros, we have well over a million cigars on back order.

CA: Do you have any plans to add stores?

Levin: There's always talk of that, but we have to see how the new store plays out. I think opening new retail stores today is a problem with setting up and getting product.

CA: Tell me a little more about the conflict between being a brand owner and a retailer. Clearly, you compete with other manufacturers, but you are their resource, too. How do you balance the competing claims on your time?

Levin: I tread a very fine line in that area and I try to be very careful about how I conduct my business.

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