Today we’d like to introduce you to David Haddad.
Thanks for sharing your story with us David. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
People often ask me “How did you get in the cigar business”? My answer is always the same: I couldn’t afford my Golf Habit!
The story actually begins over 40 years ago when I was a theater and music junky in High School in Medina, Ohio, performing and starring in many shows and programs. I was also an accomplished amateur golfer. Neither of these showed much promise as a career with failure rates in the 98% percentile. I was also the President of my HS class and major fundraiser for all the causes during that time with a high degree of business acumen.
I chose to go to the University of Denver and pursue a career in business, particularly the hospitality business. With a BSBA in the best hotel school in the country, I spent the following decade and a half in the resort, restaurant, and bar business. I learned the art of service at the highest level over that time in Dallas, Sanibel Island, Keystone Ski Resort, Billings Mt, Sacramento and finally Phoenix/Scottsdale Arizona.
After buying a restaurant to build the dream in the Biltmore area, I managed to screw up a contract with a partner badly and got tossed out of my own place, with no money left after the lawyers beat me up badly. Our cigar lounge in the restaurant was in its infancy, the boom of the mid-nineties in the cigar world was ramping up, and, I couldn’t afford to play all the amazing golf courses in Scottsdale. So, I took the humidors from this startup and went to a half of a dozen great golf courses in the area and told them “If I give you cigars on consignment, bill you on what you use at the end of the month, I get to play golf along the way!” This was something that didn’t exist in the market. Who knew? By years end, I had about 20 accounts! I was not in the cigar business, I was in the hospitality business, so, I knew what the high-end guest would do, how to provide an on-premise service and exceed the expectations of the club and eventually resort.
In early 1997, I was invited to provide the cigars for the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, something I didn’t even know existed. WOW! I knew how to produce and work events from my resort work in the past, so, I dove in and made a killing with all the high-end players at this legendary event in Scottsdale. In February of 1997, I was diagnosed with a rare circulatory disorder and my right Femur died, I was in a wheelchair by March. The restaurant dream was dead and I was broke. But, oddly, and unexpectedly, the cigar service was growing dramatically. I had figured out that no one had invented a service for the luxury hospitality industry where people went to spend lots of money doing things they do not normally do. The industry was unable to craft their own concept since it was such a small piece of the puzzle. I knew that there was an opportunity to invent a service with my background and contacts in the hospitality field, I made a decision to go all in. I had met my future wife late in 1996 and across the next 18 months I was in and out of Duke University Medical Center has very experimental surgeries and was forced to spend 11 months total in a wheelchair and had 4 major surgeries. In August of 1998, I had the Mayo dissecting me and installing prosthetics and Judy was still there. I asked her to marry me from the ICU unit under heavy Morphine! All during this ordeal, we were growing fast.
Over the next several years, we expanded to Florida, California an Georgia. Currently, we have nearly 375 resorts (all luxury resorts) in 30 markets and 12 states with offices in Florida, Dallas, Southern California and we open Colorado in June of 2018! I had accidentally invented a service and event business that performs over 400 cigar rolling shows in the corporate destination business and weddings. Now in our 22nd year, we are growing and developed more amenities, custom labeling, custom humidor and hookah events providing a full range of options and services for resorts, high-end golf clubs and event planning companies.
In 2006, I needed a new home for the company, we had outgrown my closet in my house, an investment house in Glendale Az, and now needed a commercial warehouse. So I bought a building in the Deer Valley Airpark in North Phoenix to operate this national company that was exploding thanks to a raging economy and one of a kind service and events. In late 2007, it all came crashing down, thanks to the tanking of the business economy. Fumar Cigars was a leading edge indicator and when the corporate world starting sensing the looming crash later in 2008, they cut out their corporate travel budgets and our resort business took a major hit. Quickly, we came up with a way to reinvent the building and transition it into a destination club. With a wave of indoor smoking acts passing in Florida (2005), Nevada (2006) and Arizona (2007), I saw an opportunity to develop a cool new facility. So, we had professional set designers, artists and craftsmen come and turn the building into a prohibition era style.
“SmokeEasy”. I had a major collection of Prohibition Era Whiskey, Pre-Embargo Cubans and rare antiques I had collected for our business and used this mindset to create a one of a kind lounge, complete with hidden lounge behind a cabinet on the wall! We had always featured lots of very rare cigars for our resort clients, ranging from $500-$2500 per cigar knowing that there was a legacy to be built. Several stories in Robb Report, NY Times and dozens of other nontraditional magazines took us from the cigar world to the lifestyle world. Our lounge has morphed over the years and grown and evolved into a destination place. We do events for small groups up to 50 here as well as a thriving retail cigar business.
In 1999, one of the ways we tried to evolve (mind you, a failed idea) was to buy the logo rights to the military branches. Obtaining these rights and access to the military bases seemed like a good idea, loyal customers that love their service branch seemed like a layup. We partnered with Oliva Cigars to come up with a good product, modestly priced to be sold on bases. Unfortunately, this was a failure of the highest degree, we had a $5 cigar and the people buying on bases could only afford 5 cigars for a $1. Then 9-11 hit. A day that changed us all. People all over started asking me to send Army cigars and Marine Corp Cigars to their sons, husbands and family members serving and deployed, protecting our country. I never charged them. As a result, my wife and I decided we would never sell one again.
To date, we have donated over 1.1 million cigars to our troops, starting a Foundation to support and underwrite this and several other programs I developed to benefit the service members called FRIENDS OF FREEDOM, A NON PROFIT. This foundation now operates nationally supporting and benefitting our military families and veterans. We impact thousands of families and military each year with the support and hard work of many people. Our Board of Directors for the foundation are all volunteers, prior service members from as far back as the 1980’s through the current conflict, marines, special forces, Army and Navy with special support from our Air Force relationships. I served on the Board of Advisors for the USO for 7 years and traveled to Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Germany supporting our deployed military and hosting cigar socials in 23 Forward Bases and Camps. DOing this during the war was life-changing and humbling, back and forth I went putting smiles on faces of those who serve. It was a combined effort supported by hundreds of people, but, I was the fortunate one that was the face of the program. I laughed a lot, I cried, even more, I learned of their sacrifice for my freedom and my families safety. No greater privilege afforded to a civilian than a chance to serve his country.
Over the years, I have had the honor of working with many of our nation’s heroes and warriors, providing support and connection. My Cigar world intersected with my work for our troops in many ways. First, providing a taste of home. Next, in providing a network of loving citizens and patriots who own the hundreds of resorts we partner with to provide getaway trips to veterans, wounded and their spouses. Finally, a world of connections of people with means to help and a national company that penetrated so many fields empowered Fumar CIgars to be a company with a purpose.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There is no such thing as a smooth road in entrepreneurism. I work in an industry that has a bullseye on its forehead daily.
There is no respite from taxation, regulation and obfuscation brought to my company from politics from the right, left and center, Federal, State and local, people with a grudge against the cigarette industry conflating what we did with them. Working in many states, we had to navigate many different laws and regulations.
I had major health limitations that made me stronger mentally with over 2 years of wheelchair, walker and cane living. I was broke after losing so much with my failed restaurant venture but had the support of a loving family and faith from my Mother and Father that we could make a go of this new idea. I had the support of an amazing woman in my wife, Judy. Most of all, my stepsons, Jim, and Adam and my daughter Molly made me strong. Desperation was my motivation. The best of all motivations comes from family.
Fumar CIgars Inc – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
What sets us apart from everyone else is simple. We are not in the cigar business. We are in the hospitality Industry and happen to sell cigars. Over the last 38 years in hospitality, I have a unique perspective on the places we inhabit. I only hired people from the luxury hospitality industry to provide our service, shows and events and retail operations. I always stayed away from cigar people. You cannot teach nice. You can teach anyone cigars.
The hospitality industry creates people with a proven track record of service, sense of urgency and pride in exceeding expectations. They know what is possible in a larger environment with people of means. By going to where the money was, we could penetrate, create and think differently than anyone else. We knew what would work because we all did the jobs of our clients in the resort operations. We knew what their guests would do. What they might do if given the opportunity. PLUS, I developed a consignment company. I became an investor versus a vendor. It changed everything. It put the obligation for success on us. We wouldn’t make money if our clients were not successful. It made it easy for the resorts to say yes. Plus, we took a piece of the industry that did not exist as a profit center and turned it into a significant profit center. We did studies for Four Seasons Resorts that proved that for every dollar in Cigar revenue, the hotel did $10 in liquor revenue EXTRA. We became a force multiplier for them.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is a moving target. At first, it was survival. Next, it was “can we scale this thing”. Then it was “can we be creative”. Then it was “where can we make a difference”. Then it was “Can we survive” again (thanks to the crash of 2008-2010). Then it was “Can we reinvent ourselves”. Now it is “Can we monetize this thing” so we can retire in style?
Each time, as the definition and question varied, we found a way. That is what is the definition of ENTREPRENEUR!
REMEMBER, THE MOTIVATOR IS DESPERATION! We have never had a plan B!
- Address: 2010 W. PARKSIDE LN #110
PHOENIX, AZ 85027
- Website: WWW.FUMARCIGARSUSA.COM AND FRIENDS OF FREEDOM IS WWW.FRIENDSOFFREEDOM.US
- Phone: 6235944020
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: #OFFICEOFTHEDAY #FUMARCIGARS
- Facebook: WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/FUMARCIGARS AND WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/FRIENDSOFFREEDOM