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What goal have you accomplished with Four9 Cigar Lounge that you set out to achieve?
I'm excited for the fact that we're getting new customers every day; I'm thankful for that.

How do you keep your patrons engaged so they become regulars?

By cultivating cigar smokers. It’s purely for cigar smokers. We're getting a lot of ladies coming out, new smokers. We have a series of classes where we show them how to roll a cigar, how to smoke a cigar—kind of teach them cigar etiquette. People come here to telework a lot.

How many years have you been in the cigar business? Just two years. We launched Four9 in 2021.

Tell me about the name. Initially, EB and I were stationed in Hawaii together. He was in the Marine Corps. I was in the Army. We were smoking cigars and discussing how many countries we had visited, and it came to 49. And then a couple of weeks later, we were trying to find a name for the cigar lounge, and a gentleman asked me how many years I had served, and it was 28 years. Then he asked EB, and it was 21. And that's forty-nine. Forty-nine wouldn’t stick, so we went with Four9 since so many things kept going back to Four9.

That's pretty cool. Now tell me about the American Gangster theme. I really like the artwork. Thank you. My cousin is an interior decorator. I called her and told her what my vision was, and she said, “Cuz, I'll bring it to life.” And she did. I was surprised how she put it together, and I love it.

What led you to open a cigar lounge?

It was a dream. I laugh every time I start to tell this story because it's cliché-ish. I was retiring, had multiple job offers and opportunities to do other things. Just being retired was an option.  One weekend I had a dream that I had a cigar lounge, and it was so clear to me. Everything was clear. Even what you see now was the theme of that dream. I tried to talk myself out of it several times. I was like, “I don't want to do that.” I’d never owned a cigar. I'd never been in the cigar business. Then one day, I did research about cigars all day, and it turned into all weekend. I’d step away from it, then something would draw me back to it. Then I had a conversation with EB about it, and we went from there. At the time, he was moving to Tampa, so that wasn’t going to work. Then he said if we were going into business together, he would move to San Antonio; so that’s how it started.

What was a challenge you faced when getting started?
Everything was a challenge. Moving to a new city—I knew people here; I have friends here. But on the business side, I had to figure out everything on my own. I was here almost a year before EB got here. Looking for a location was difficult. I spent countless hours researching laws and permits and things like that. So everything was a challenge, but I wouldn't change it.

What kept you going?

The dream. Every time I wanted to step away from it, something would come up, and I would start researching again. So, I think it was just destiny. As much as I wanted to not do it at times, it would be odd things that pulled me back to it.


Did you smoke cigars at the time?

I did but not much. I hated smoke growing up. I remember when I was a kid, there was a guy who used to smoke cigars all the time, and it didn't smell as bad as cigarettes. But then being in the military, you know, deployments, and things like that, we would smoke cigars; but I wasn't a serious cigar smoker. A gentleman in Hawaii told me I couldn’t be in the cigar business if I didn’t smoke cigars, and I believed him; I agreed with that. So by that time I was already smoking more cigars, but then I started to learn about the cigars and really dive into it. I went from being a casual smoker to a very deliberate smoker.


Tell me about your military career.

I did logistics in the military for twenty-eight years. Since I had about 13 or 14 duty stations, I moved around quite a bit. I had a blast; I got to see the world. That's what I wanted to do when I joined.

What traits do you possess that have attributed to your success in business?

I can attribute my success to my military career. Discipline is a key thing. If you’re not disciplined at anything you do, you can’t expect to be great at it. Looking at people as a premium.  Invest in people, then you get a return from them. Whether it's your employees or your patrons— whomever. I don't believe in transactional relationships. That’s why I wanted to have a small cigarette lounge, an intimate setting so we can get to know the patrons and they can get to know us. We want to talk to people; we want to get to know them and build relationships.

What do you teach your team about relationships?
I talk to the team about three things quite often—people, property, and professionalism. That’s what I utilized in the military. People, as I mentioned, are a premium asset. You can’t do anything without people. Property is your product, your facilities—everything involving your business. Professionalism extends beyond the consumer relationship. It's also how you treat your teammates. If you're late to work, then your teammate has to cover for you. So, people, property, and professionalism are the core things I look at. At Four9 we’re consistent about what we provide on a daily basis. We’re disciplined. You can have any kind of formula you want, but if you don't have discipline along with it, you're not doing it right.

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