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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 23)

CA: You do business with everybody?

Levin: I do business with everybody. I'm very careful with that. I try to keep the standards of Ashton high, but I never compete with our customers with Ashton. As a retailer I have some insights into the business and I've tried to help other retailers in every way possible, because I knew exactly where they were coming from. I was in the same boat. And while one of the reasons Ashton became successful is obviously the quality of the cigar, I was also already friendly with every major retailer in the country. When I came out with the brand, they put it in the store right away. They didn't think of me as competition, they thought of me as a friend. Today, of course, the market is much different, and people are happy to get cigars.

CA: Is the marketplace more sophisticated today?

Levin: There are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable consumers today. And they are constantly trying different brands, new brands. In fact, people don't stick to one brand today.

CA: Is it becoming like the wine business, where people will drink a Mondavi or a Château Latour but it doesn't stop them from drinking new wines?

Levin: Yes, and it's especially true when the chances are that you are not going to be able to get the cigar you want. So you have to try another cigar. There is simply constant experimentation.

CA: I can envision your customers coming into the store and they have a smile on their face. It's like they've entered heaven.

Levin: I know. A friend of a friend came in yesterday, and he's from Atlanta. He came in our store for the first time and he just couldn't believe it. He said, "This is like a dream! I'm moving to Philadelphia."

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