This week, the Tobacconists' Association of America is holding its annual meeting, a gathering of U.S. cigar shop owners and cigar manufacturers that has taken place for 47 years.
The meetings tend to be convivial, relaxed, quite unlike the hectic week of IPCPR trade show activity, which will take place this summer. The TAA is one part doing business and one part making new relationships and cementing old ones.
Several years ago, the show was sleepy, with few retailers and cigarmakers taking part. Now it's anything but. There's a new life to this organization, and this year's show—being held at the Casa de Campo resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic—has a record attendance. There are now 77 retail members of the TAA who represent some 264 shops spread around the United States. In addition, there are 33 associate members, most of them makers of premium, handmade cigars. All of the associate members are here at the show, and 72 of the 77 shop owners.
The associate member list is a true who's who of the cigar industry: Arturo Fuente Cigars, Alec Bradley, Altadis USA Inc., Arango Cigar Co., Ashton Distributors, CLE Cigars, Colibri Group, Crowned Heads, Davidoff of Geneva, Drew Estate, EPC Cigar Co., General Cigar Co., Gurkha Cigars, J.C. Newman, Joya de Nicaragua, Kristoff, La Flor Dominicana, La Palina, Lotus Group, Miami Cigar, My Father Cigars, Nat Sherman, Oliva Cigar Co., Orleans Group, Padrón Cigars, Phillips & King, Quesada Cigars, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., Tabacalera Perdomo, Tatuaje, Villiger and Xikar.
The site for this year's gathering is the Casa de Campo Resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic. Here in the southeastern corner of cigar country, cigars are embraced. After all, Casa de Campo abuts the grounds of one of the world's largest cigar factories, Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd. (I'll be there later today) and is very close to a new one, the boutique Le Matilde Cigar Co.
The show is a way to keep abreast of industry trends, find out what's new in the cigar world and report on exclusive cigars that will be coming to member shops (and only TAA member shops) soon. It's a big list, and you can read all about them in my story here. Look for more information to come later in the week.