EN FUEGO CIGARS AND LOUNGE
By Eddie Rivkin
It’s been almost 20 years since the Great Cigar Boom. It was a time when everyone wanted to be seen smoking, and places to enjoy a cigar were popping up like 7-Elevens on every corner. Revenues multiplied exponentially and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a few bucks in their pocket and a thick misogyny streak had their name on a cigar band and box. Ahhh… the good old days, when, if you had cigars in your store, you could name your price. The masses did as they were told, smoked what they were given, and paid whatever the price was. But like all things (except Al Gore’s Internet) everything that goes BOOM, eventually goes BUST. And when it went bust, the tens of millions of cigars in inventory all over the country were sold for as little as 5 cents on the dollar. Revenues flatlined, and to this day, only show very small annual increases. Cigar bars and shops closed as fast as they opened, and all of this happened before the thousand-pound gorilla entered the room. That gorilla is called The Smoking Ban movement and it is still tearing through this country! Led by self-righteous crusading curmudgeons like former NYC Mayor Bloomberg, an individual’s right to smoke has been virtually eliminated in every big city in the U.S.A. They even tried it here in Las Vegas with the adoption of one of the weakest, poorly crafted, lame-brained, attempts at law. Thankfully, the law was never enforced, but the damage was done. Most of the great cigar lounges in Vegas faded off into the desert sunset. Thankfully, there is still one great place for people to get together and enjoy a cigar, a couple of belts of Scotch, and a game on the big screens – without the scrutiny or pressure of non-smoking fanatics and the P.C. Police.
Ladies and Gentlemen of STRIPLV Magazine, allow me to introduce you to En Fuego Cigars & Lounge and owner, Michael Abdullah.
Nestled in the strip mall with iconic Golden Steer Steakhouse and literally two minutes west of Las Vegas Boulevard on Sahara, En Fuego is the perfect location for cigar aficionados and amateurs to enjoy a smoke during their travels around Las Vegas. I dropped in for a smoke, (or four), and to visit with Michael to learn all about En Fuego.
ER: Tell me about En Fuego.
MA: En Fuego, to me really, is the realization of a dream. I have been smoking about 19 years, and for a solid 15 of them I have wanted to own my own store. I thought a lot about what I wanted my store to be – put a lot of thought into every part of it – and I think I have achieved pretty much everything I want with En Fuego. I want En Fuego to be an extension of your home, where people come to be comfortable, to relax and enjoy a great cigar, or 10. There are no little cliques here, like in other stores – the customers don’t allow it. Everyone here gets along and we make sure everyone, new customer or regular, feels welcome.
ER: You are the only cigar store in Vegas that actually has their own brands that are rolled in store. Tell me about why you choose to do something so difficult, especially in the desert?
MA: There is actually one other guy in town who rolls, but we don’t need to talk about him (laughing). We import all our tobacco from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. We buy the best tobacco we can all the time and make 10 standard cigars, as well as 5 somewhat limited edition sizes. We will also custom blend cigars for customers. We’ll make pretty much any size, box press them, flavor them with Cognac or Rum, pretty much anything a customer wants, we can do.
ER: Is the quality of cigar you roll here any different than cigars rolled in places like the Dominican Republic?
MA: It’s the same tobacco as in Ecuador or the Dominican, and my roller is one of the best from the Dominican, so I am very comfortable putting my cigars up against anyone’s as far as quality. It’s just like any other product: good in – good out, garbage in – garbage out. Again, I buy the best tobacco I can get my hands on every time, so I have absolutely no concerns about the quality of my cigars. True cigar smokers will always know if we skimped on the quality of the tobacco, so we don’t do it. We must be doing something right – our house brands currently account for 65% of sales.
ER: Does En Fuego ever host special cigar events?
MA: Special events are also a big part of our business. We try to do a party or event at least every other month. We try to have the event have a theme, or feature a specific cigar maker’s line, and we always like to do charity events when we have the chance. We also do off-premise events, where we will bring our roller and a bunch of tobacco to say, a casino corporate event. People love seeing how cigars are made and we get to sell a lot of our house brand cigars at those events, as well.
ER: What about sporting events, boxing, UFC?
MA: Sadly, DirectTV makes it too expensive to show pay-per-view events. They do not make any distinction between my small cigar lounge and a theater venue that can seat 1000+. We do have the NFL Sunday Ticket and business is very good, especially on Sundays during the season. Monday and Thursday nights are good, as well.
ER: What makes En Fuego better and different than the other stores around Vegas?
MA: I think what makes us different is our true appreciation of our customers. Like I said, I have been smoking a long time and spent a lot of money in a lot of cigar lounges all over, and En Fuego truly goes above and beyond how well we treat our customers. I realize that people have a choice where they want to relax and spend their hard-earned money, and my employees and I do everything in our power to make sure a customer has a great experience and wants to come back to En Fuego. And En Fuego, itself, is a very comfortable place to relax and have a cigar. People come in to the store and it feels like they are walking into their own place and that’s exactly what I want them to think.
ER: So En Fuego is like a room in your house you would smoke in, if your wife would let you smoke in the house?
MA: Exactly! Some guys are comfortable enough that they bring their wives or girlfriends with them to En Fuego. That’s a great sign we are doing the right thing. Happy wife, happy life, right?
ER: You asking me? (laughing) I wouldn’t have any idea, thankfully! In the old days, gentlemen would bring their drink of choice with them to the cigar store. What’s the policy?
MA: We have no problem with that here. We have 20 private lockers and a communal fridge for our customers. Lots of times after events there is a bunch of leftover booze – we just give that to our regulars or anyone else who asks.
ER: Is there a corking fee for that, or a cutting fee for bringing in your own smokes?
MA: No, not at all. I’ve heard that, but the whole idea about cigars to me is about relaxing and having a good time. Charging someone to light their own cigar might be okay to some other people, but it’s not to me. I think if everybody leaves here happy and has something good to say about En Fuego, it’s much more important than getting a few dollars from them to light a cigar.
ER: Besides the house blends, what cigars do you feature in the humidor?
MA: En Fuego is known as sort of a boutique shop. Over the last 5 years, a lot of smaller companies are making great cigars. I’ve fallen in love with a lot of different unique boutique cigars and I like to feature those kinds of things in the humidor. A few of the names are Casa Fernandez, La Flor Dominican, 1502. There is really a big selection of small cigars here. I hope customers will come in and try something new once in a while. I smoke 5 or 6 cigars a day and rarely smoke the same thing twice in a day or even a week sometimes.
ER: I did notice there is a distinct lack of the really big named brands in the humidor. No real sign of Macanudo, Ashton, Partagas, etc. Are you against the big boys of the industry?
MA: You can’t have anything against all the big manufacturers, like Ashton and General. They are very successful for a lot of good reasons. The thing is, you can get a Macanudo anywhere; I want my shop to be a place where you go to get cigars you can’t get anywhere.
ER: I see you’re open 7-days a week…
MA: Yes, and we are flexible with our hours. There are lots of nights where we will be busy and stay open until the party is over. We will also stay open later during big events in town, like The Big Smoke or conventions where the business warrants it.
ER: Do you provide shipping?
MA: Absolutely! Over 20% of our business is mail order. We have lots of customers who order monthly like clockwork. If you come to the store and find a cigar you like, lots of times we can have a box to your door before you get home from your vacation! We ask all our customers to join our mailing and email list and we are always sending out specials to show our appreciation.
ER: Will you make a totally unique cigar, band, and box for customers?
MA: Yes, but I don’t want to lie to a customer, so we don’t really do custom blends, per se. A customer can tell us what kind of cigar he likes (mild, medium, full) and can usually pick his wrapper type, as well. He also can pick what size cigar he wants. We will also make custom bands for the cigars, which is very powerful as a gift. Everything from corporate clients to babies, to guys who just want to see their picture on a cigar band! The custom band really personalizes the cigars and makes them keepsakes, in addition to being really good cigars.
ER: What does that program cost?
MA: You’ll be surprised – it’s actually very inexpensive. We charge $15 for artwork, then $1 per label. So it’s $40 total for a box to customize, not counting the cigars themselves. They range in price from $5 to about $13 or $14 each. There is a one-box (25 stick) minimum order.
ER: Would you like to do something special for our readers? You know, a little incentive to get them to visit En Fuego?
MA: (laughing) Of course! How about if they mention your fat ass, I’ll give them 10% off; or 10% off if they mention STRIPLV Magazine? Also, I’ll do a one-time-only: Buy-3 Get-1 FREE on any house blend cigar. The free one must be of equal or lesser value, of course. How’s that? (laughing heartier)
ER: On behalf of the readers, I thank you for your bountiful gifts! (snickering) Any plans to expand En Fuego?
MA: When the time is right of course, I would like to open a second and maybe even a third En Fuego. But now isn’t that time. I am really happy with the store I have now and am going to keep working every day to make it the best place in Vegas to have a smoke.
ER: Any last words for the readership before we light up?
MA: Just “Thanks for coming in, doing the article, and I hope all your readers come by, enjoy a cigar, and leave here happy with a box, or 10!”
ER: The word is certainly going to be spread and En Fuego is the only cigar lounge in Vegas my cigar’s ash will ever fall upon! Grab the Dirt Devil, Eddie’s here!
En Fuego Cigars & Lounge
328 W. Sahara Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89102
702-385-9262 • 800-353-9396