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In an industry built on name recognition and reputation, Rocky Patel’s passion has brought his brand to heights unseen by most boutique cigar manufacturers. His hard work and long hours have been paying off in big ways. A survivor of the cigar boom, Patel has outlasted his competition with unrivaled persistence on his quest for perfection. With a grueling travel schedule, office responsibilities and production, Rocky still maintains the enthusiasm that he has had since day one. As he travels the world, putting his cigars in the mouths of his consumers, his passion extends beyond the retailer, allowing his customers the experience of meeting the man behind their favorite smokes. Rocky Patel has created a company that has out shined even those created by multimillion dollar corporations, and he’s doing it one customer at a time.
It was the mid-1990s when the premium cigar market was drastically changing. Rocky Patel lived and worked in Los Angeles as an entertainment and product liability lawyer. Through a friend, Rocky was introduced to cigars and was instantly fascinated by them. He then became one of the original founding members of the Grand Havana Club in Los Angeles. While dabbling in various investment ventures, Rocky was approached with a business plan to manufacture cigars. It was still the early days of the cigar boom and Patel was apprehensive. However, after sending a good portion of money to Honduras, the finished product flourished on the market.
While his friends and colleagues were saying, “Don’t be foolish, you’ll never make it in the cigar industry”, Rocky had already completed the first step of his journey. In 1996 at the RTDA in Cincinnati, Ohio, Indian Tabac Cigar Co. had arrived. People flocked to the booth in droves to purchase hundreds of these new, brightly packaged sticks. Rocky felt that it was up to the young companies to come into the marketplace with fresh ideas, bold packaging and fuller cigars. With his eye-popping packaging, Patel has gone against the grain. This is a strategy that he has strived for and has certainly paid off.
While on the search for perfection, not a single moment goes by that Rocky is not thinking about cigars. From packaging, marketing, improving blends and every other facet of creating the finished product, Rocky is always formulating fresh ideas and new techniques. It is important for Patel to have a product that can sell itself. However, waiting around the office for phone orders is suicide. This is why Rocky takes to the road as often as he does. Traveling also gives him the time to really contemplate his new ideas and concepts before implementing them.
Often heralded as the hardest working man in the business, Rocky Patel is married to his arduous schedule. He rarely sees his home and headquarters in Naples, Florida. Yearly, he logs more than 300 days on the road and over 150,000 miles. He has once been in 600 cities within 750 days! However, the time on the road is worth it, considering, that in every town, Rocky wins over new customers and introduces more and more people to the Rocky Patel brand. This practice is an extension of Patel’s plan to get his cigars in the hands of as many people possible. In the ‘mom and pop’ world of tobacconists, it is important for Rocky to share his enthusiasm for his stellar product. That enthusiasm is, often times, contagious and it shows in the faces and attitudes of consumers worldwide.
While meeting new and unique people everywhere he goes, Rocky also hosts trips to Honduras for his Customers. He wants to give his consumers a ‘One of a kind experience’ by witnessing his operation and passion first hand. The labor and hard work that Patel’s guests see is translated into a real understanding of the dedication and time it takes to make his cigars. Rocky also makes sure that every one of his guests gets to smoke the finished product. This is just one of the many ways in which he gains dedicated consumers for life.
Apart from maintaining a consistent presence in the public eye and inviting his customers on a trip of a lifetime, Rocky Patel spends much of his time focusing on production. He gears his product towards the more complex palate. Thus staying away from linear cigars like the puros, which are comprised of binders, fillers and wrappers from the same region? Rocky believes that blending tobaccos from various regions, takes greater skill and knowledge and the end product can develop into an amazing cigar. This process is time consuming and, while experimenting with hundreds of blends, can literally take a year or more to produce the ‘perfect’ blend.
While coming up with complex blends is a painstaking feat, Rocky also shoots for 100% consistency. So far he has been successful. He puts a lot of emphasis on quality control. Every cigar is thoroughly inspected and draw tested. This has helped Patel keep his cigars in the mouths of all the consumers he has introduced his product to on the road.
Rocky has found inspiration in different aspects of some of his competitors. He loves the quality of Padron, the construction of Davidoff and the consistency of Fuentes. While trying to incorporate all these factors into his product, he has also kept his cigars at a reasonable price for the consumer, who is always looking for the best value. This practice has caused some of the industry giants to reexamine their philosophy on production. Rocky has stayed ahead of the game simply by listening to the market.
In 2003, Rocky put aside the Indian Tabac brand name he spent years building, to focus on the Rocky Patel Vintage Series. A superior smoke to anything Patel had created previous, the Vintage Series was made up of premium quality aged tobaccos. In Honduras, Rocky discovered unused bales of old Honduran-grown broadleaf and Ecuadorian Sumatra. He used these two different tobaccos to create both lines of the Vintage Series. The hard work Patel put into Vintage was worth it. He soon found out that the older tobacco performed significantly better than anything he had used before. He also cut back on production to focus on quality control. Instead of 400 to 500 Cigars being rolled a day, Rocky cut it back to 250. This left room for unprecedented craftsmanship. This attention to quality has produced a fine line of cigars that have consistently cracked the 90 rating barrier in Cigar Aficionado.
Due to Rocky’s charisma, enthusiasm and personal approach, the cigar industry has definitely taken notice. No one can question his methods as the proof is in the pudding. However, while his company is thriving, Rocky is still on his quest for perfection. His greatest wish is to create the optimal tobacco mixture that makes his cigars ‘immortal’. Rocky believes that his cigars should evolve into the prime example for quality for generations. Building name recognition is always an uphill battle, but Rocky has already created a brand with a great reputation that people truly respect. Rocky Patel’s hard work is paying off, as he is building a brand that is being recognized everywhere. He assures his consumers that, “You can expect more and you will get more”.
Smoke and Smoke often!
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