INTERVIEW with Jeffrey Amendola of Amendola Family Cigar Company

#cigarinterviews #AmendolaCigars #cigars #cigarculture #BOTL #SOTL #DurhamNC

Can you tell us a bit about your company? When did it start, how it came to be etc.?

-I moved to Durham N.C. in 2009 and started a career in Law Enforcement. While I was in the Police academy I would enjoy a nice cigar in my down time and was surprised that the area I was in only had one or two shops and not many places to smoke. I also noticed that no one was really hosting cigar social events and there were no factories or locally hand made cigars. I decided to host a cigar social event at a local bar because I needed an outlet and was always looking for a good excuse to light one up with co-workers and friends. I had fresh cigars from a factory in the Bronx at the time and had a nice little turn out where guests could purchase from me. That one event became a monthly event, then a bi-weekly event and other venues were asking me to come host and sell cigars on different nights. I saw momentum in this business model and began setting up cigar bars at weddings and house parties as well. When I graduated the police academy I became an official cigar retailer, wholesaler, and manufacturer as “Bull City Cigar Co.” Selling cigars and hosting events became my side hustle, as I like to call it and had a great time doing it. I didn’t mind having my product made in the Bronx but I wanted to make my product more personal so I devoted my free time to learning about different types of tobacco and how to blend. I soon had connects in Miami to get raw leaf tobacco and found hand me down rolling equipment from old factories. A lot of our tables and tools at the time were made by some locals that just wanted to help me get going. I started rolling my own blends in a room at RJ cigars in Raleigh, then moved the factory to a small office underneath a coffee shop in Durham near Duke University. I had 2 other cigar rollers working with me at the time that really helped me define my blends, some of which we are still producing today. That led to opening wholesale accounts, doing more events, and eventually opening my own retail shop and cigar lounge. I rebranded in 2017 to Amendola Family Cigar Co. I felt the need to personalize the brand with my last name and to build a legacy for my children and family.

When did you get into cigars? Do you remember your first cigar experience?

-I got curious about cigars when I would visit Arthur Ave. in the Bronx NY. It was a place near where I grew up that has the best Italian food, fresh markets, and a cigar factory in the main retail market on the block. I was fascinated by watching the cigars being made and what went into prepping the tobacco and I started collecting cigar boxes. I loved the artwork and nostalgia. I was 16 or so at the time but didn’t have my first cigar until I was 21 or so. I was hooked on the experience ever since.

When did you decide to learn to roll cigars?

-2011 when I decided I was in this for the long haul and I wanted to blend and produce my own product.

Who taught you?

-I found a factory in Ybor City, Florida, by the name of La Faraona Cigars. Odelma, the owner took me in and taught me everything I needed to know about rolling cigars as well as one of my full time rollers, “Kiko”. Kiko was a supervisor at Davidoff for 7 years, and worked in the Fuente factory for many years.

Is this your full time job? What did you do prior to the cigar world?

-This is my full time job. Cigars are my life at this point. Prior to working in the cigar business I was employed with the City of Durham Police department and resigned in 2015 as a Special Victims Unit Detective. When I resigned I jumped into my cigar biz full time.

Production was recently moved to Tabacalera G. Kafie Y Cia factory. Can you tell us a bot about that?

-Moving our production to Honduras has been the greatest decision I have made so far. I have complete freedom to blend my product the way I see fit and approve the tobacco that we use and choose to ferment. It is also a one stop shop. All of our boxes, labels, and cigars are produced under the same management. Dr. Kafie is a great guy to work with and he allows me to do what is best for my business and my blends.

Your company produced more than 30,000 cigars last year and you are projected to increase that by 30%. What do you attribute your growth to?

-I contribute that to putting out a solid product. No hype, no shenanigans, no gimmicks, just a good quality consistent cigar. I am old school and believe in a classic, timeless look, something that doesn’t go out of style. I pride myself in the relationships I have with my customers and retailers and rely on their returning business. With those relationships, comes word of mouth. People are starting to talk about Amendola and want to experience it for them self. On a separate note we have just started to open accounts in Texas, NYC, and other states across the USA. I will also be attending the international trade show in Germany on Sept. 19th 2018 and am expecting to finalize distribution deals with Germany, Italy, and other European countries.

I recently attended one of your rolling events. How often do you host those?

-I host rolling events at least 3 times a month at different venues and cigar shops.

Where can people find your cigars in their local B&M’s? Any areas you are looking to expand into specifically?

-We are currently selling in NYC, NC, PA, and Texas. Florida and GA are next as well as South Africa, and in the European Market. You can still buy from our headquarters at 1214 University Dr. Durham, NC or online We are working on getting a list together of all of our wholesale accounts to put online for our customers to find our product easier.

What other cigars on the market do you really enjoy or smoke on a regular basis?

-I really enjoy Kafie 1901 cigars, La Gloria Cubana, and Most of what AJ Fernandez puts out.

Are there any people in the industry that you would like to work with at some point?

-I honestly haven’t thought about that yet, but definitely think that would be an option later on down the road.

Let’s talk a bit more about the cigars coming out. You have a range of variety hitting the market from Connecticut, Habano, Maduro, Sumatra and more. Can you expand on that a bit?

-So I wanted to hit the basics and focus on what consumers usually look for in a cigar. I produce anything from a mild, medium, to full body profile. Our Connecticut blend is something to talk about though. Not what you would traditionally expect from a lighter smoke. Lots of good flavors in there. You can thank Honduras for that. Our Sumatra blend was something to do for fun and it has become one of my favorites out of all my blends. We sold out of those in the first 3 weeks so I think that is a winner. Our Habano 2000 has nice citrus notes for a medium body smoke. The Amendola Special is my signature blend and my daily smoke. It is a Nicaraguan puro with a Oscuro maduro wrapper, and maduro binder.

You are based in Durham NC. Do you have a lounge or storefront people can visit?

-Yes retail shop and lounge at 1214 University Dr. I always encourage people to come by for a nice espresso and a Amendola Cigar! Never know what might happen in there.

How much has social media helped to get your product out in front of people?

-Honestly social media and word of mouth has been the only way I am currently getting in front of people.

Anything you would like to add or discuss?

I would like to encourage the cigar community to go out and continue to support all of the boutique brands out there. We are fighting hard to overcome threats and ridiculous stipulations from the FDA and still have to compete with the mainstream cigar lines out there. Any support at all is appreciated! On a more serious note, Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, stay ashy, and I like ‘em with a fat ash…

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and we look forward to a long relationship with you and your team.

I was honored to have this experience! Thank you for the love and support.

Interview with Michael Poe of Traficante Cigar Co.

I have seen Traficante Cigar Company on social media for some time now. As their popularity continues to grow, especially among members in our Cigar Hawk group, I reached out to Owner/Founder Michael Poe. For those that do not know about him or his brand, hopefully this sheds some light on a few things. We asked the members of our group to submit questions for this interview and those have been included as well.

So for the people that may not have heard of your brand/company, can you tell us a little about your company and the people behind it?

I started Traficante in 2015 with two friends/partners that are still on the job. The brand was originally only intended to be a backstory (cover) for working dope. The partners lost interest quickly and I continued to gain interest in the industry and enjoyed the challenge of building a brand. So in May 2017, I retired to focus on the company full time.

What got you into cigars and when did you know that you wanted to start your own brand?

I initially got into Cigars when I was 21 but lost interest. As for starting my own brand… that’s something I never expected to happen. I would say the initial success was a complete accident…but that’s not exactly accurate. Early on, I was fortunate enough to encounter customers that quickly became friends…and these same people are still with me today pushing things forward. I’m still amazed and humbled by the success we’ve had. I say “we” because this brand is driven by the customer base.

Can you tell us about your first cigar experience?

I would like to, but I can’t remember what I smoked. I know it was something cheap.

So obviously the brand was built around the Narco culture. Did you know right away that it was the path you wanted to take or did you have other ideas prior to going with Traficante?

Well, being that it was initially created with a singular purpose in mind…it seemed logical to use the Narco Culture. After all, who would suspect the owner of such a brand to actually be a Narc?

What factory handles the production of your cigars?

Our own. We operate two small factories (very small compared to others). One in Tamboril and one in Estelí.

What is your personal favorite of all of your cigars?

Have to say it’s the El Paso. It’s definitely been a blend that’s attributed to our success and the artwork has pissed a few people off along the way.

Do you do cigar events with retailers that carry your brand?

Haven’t yet… but we’ve got plans in the works to do a couple (at least) this fall.

Have you considered doing a collaboration cigar with any other brands?

Not opposed to the idea. However, we haven’t been approached by anyone either.

What is your favorite cigar brand to smoke outside of your own?

Well, I smoke different brands on a regular basis..mainly to check their quality control/flavor profiles in comparison to ours. Esteban Carreras would be one of my favorites I guess.

When was the moment that your passion for your brand took over your full time job in LE? What was that like? Hard to say exactly when it took over, as I had been ready for a change for quite some time. But I can say this… I wish I had made the change a lot earlier than I did.

Where did the idea of the dog tags come from?

Necessity… and the fact that no one else had done it. With some of the artwork we produce, not many printing companies are willing to handle our work.

Who does the artwork and how did you come up with the names?

I do it myself. My wife refers to it as my “coloring therapy” lol. The names, the designs etc…are all representative of things I’ve encountered at some stage in my life..not just my career.

How did the Hell Mary project come to be? Who came up with the blend?

The Hell Mary was my first attempt at an infused cigar. I created the blend and the process (the infusion process is a month long)…. but only intended to manufacture/sell 100. Again, an accidental success…

I have seen you guys on social media for a while now. Shout out to @jayvilla72_killa who I would see on my Instagram feed all the time posting about you guys. Now it seems like an explosion in popularity across all platforms of Social Media. Did you expect things would catch on the way that they did and are you prepared as a company to handle the growth?

I’m still amazed at the success we’ve had, as I had considered shutting the business down a year ago. While I don’t see anyone as competition (because we do our own thing), it’s not easy funding this business on a shoestring budget with only four employees in the US. As for handling the growth… we will NEVER bypass our processes or quality control in favor of mass production…so we’ll do the best we can.

Because you are a true “boutique” brand, your cigars sell out very quickly. Do you think that is going to turn a lot of retailers and possibly consumers away from you?

As we are adding the Tinderbox stores and two retailers in Atlanta this month…I want to say no. However, only time will tell how successful the brand will be. As long as I’m in control… it will remain quality over quantity.

Since you sell out so quickly after a release, has that changed the way you approach rolling, aging and distribution at all?

The only process we have changed is the order process for retailers. Now retail orders will have no effect on the stock made available to our internet customer base.

On the website it states that you produce roughly 3,000 cigars a week. Do you anticipate having to boost that as you grow to keep up with the demand?

We have already boosted that number somewhat. However, we operate on a rotating production schedule and so far we haven’t encountered any major issues.

I noticed the changes to your website recently and the disclaimer about people finding you brand “offensive”. They obviously have no idea about what you are about but I love the line “The solution is simple, don’t buy our products”. I would imagine you get a lot of that. That is part of the reason I wanted to do this interview with you. Care to comment on that at all?

Scott, we’ve faced adversity since day one. Not only for being a “startup” but for our artwork as well. I’ll use the El Paso for example. I won’t name the well known forum where we were criticized for our artwork on the El Paso about two years ago. But after the judgmental moderator made a complete idiot out of himself (sending nasty emails as well) I increased the production on the El Paso to 5,000 immediately. Not to gain publicity/notoriety….but to prove we were here to stay.

So there you have it folks. If you care to check out any of the Traficante cigars, merchandise etc. Visit them at

I would like to say “Thank You” to Michael for taking the time to do this interview with us. We certainly appreciate the time. We look forward to doing more with you in the future.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media and join our Face Book group. Until next time, #longashesfullglasses