Cigar Aficionado

Retailers and Industry Veteran Form Sindicato Cigar

A group of high-profile cigar retailers, including the former president of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, have joined forces to create Sindicato Cigar Group LLC, and this week they named a 37-year veteran of one of the world’s largest cigar companies to run the operation.

Sindicato has been created by tobacconists to create national cigar brands. The company says the brands it releases will be protected from discounters, and added that brands it sells won’t be closed out, something that sometimes happens to a cigar brand that has fallen out of favor with consumers and retailers.

Sindicato was created by Abe Dababneh, the owner of the Smoke Inn chain of cigar stores in South Florida; Jeff Borysiewicz, the founder and president of Corona Cigar Co. and a major lobbyist for cigar rights; Gary Pesh, president of Old Virginia Tobacco Co., a series of seven cigar stores near the nation’s capital and the former president of the IPCPR; Rob Roth of Nice Ash Cigars and Dan Jenuwine from Quality Fresh Cigars.

“This was my brainchild,” said Dababneh, who is chairman of the board of Sindicato, which is making its headquarters in south Florida. “As a retailer, there’s constantly trials and tribulations, building up brands that sometimes fall apart or get blown out … We want retailers to know we understand that. We’re going to ensure that any brand this company releases will never be put in that situation.”

Sindicato aims to have two premium, long-filler cigar brands out at the IPCPR trade show this summer.

Sindicato has been in business since January, and this week the company formally announced the hiring of Jim Colucci as president and chief executive officer of the company. This marks Colucci’s return to the cigar industry after a hiatus of more than a year; he previously spent 37 years with Altadis U.S.A. Inc. (once known as Consolidated Cigar Corp.) first in the company’s mass-market, or machine-made cigar business, and ultimately as executive vice president of sales and marketing for the company.

Colucci retired from Altadis in July 2011. Colucci had a non-compete clause in his contract regarding cigarmaking that expired one year after his departure.

Dababneh and Colucci said that a total of 45 tobacconists have taken shares in Sindicato.

As of now, the company is having brands made under contract, but no final blend has been determined. Colucci said he was traveling to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua working on the blends. Down the road, he didn’t rule out forming his own manufacturing operation. Colucci said Sindicato brands wouldn’t be limited to brick-and-mortar shops, but prices would be protected. “The brands will be sold on the Internet, but they will be contacted brands…where you have minimum prices,” he said.