Cigar Interview: Jon Huber – Part Three

Cigar Interview: Jon Huber – Part Three

To view Part One and Two of this interview, click here and here.

Part Three: A New Day – Marriage and Crowned Heads

Anyone that follows you on Twitter knows that you’re recently engaged and will be married this summer. First off, congrats, and second, what are your plans for honeymooning!?
Thank you very much. Wow, I am so excited about marrying my girl. Her name is Laura and she is my best friend, my heart, my love, my happiness, and my soulmate. It was worth waiting 45 years to find her. The moment I put my arm around her, I knew my life had changed forever. We’re planning on honeymooning in Italy and it will be the first time there for both of us. We’re very excited, and thank you to the Twitter community for all your well wishes. It means a lot to Laura and myself.

Since your official departure from CAO, walk us through a typical day for you.
I left CAO on December 17. I took 1 week off during the Christmas Holiday to spend with family and just get away from it all. But since then, I’ve been “back in the studio,” so to speak, and we’ve been going at the creative process full steam ahead. A typical day (if there is such a thing) begins at 6:00am when the alarm goes off. I grab a cup of coffee and go for a 30-minute walk through the neighborhood with Laura. Afterwards, she gets ready for her workday and I usually do some sort of workout–either jumping rope or pushups/crunches for another 20-30 minutes. Then I get a shower and get in the office by 9:00.

No two days are ever the same at the office, but we usually wrap by 5:30 or 6:00 these days. Then I go home to Laura, pour a glass of wine, and we usually make dinner together. We try to eat at the dining table with no distractions and really try to focus in on one another and reconnect at the end of the day.

Since leaving CAO, who have you confided in within the industry, as you’ve made decisions about your future?
That really is a short list of people; they know who they are and I prefer to keep it that way.

What advice have you been given during this interim?
To be honest, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of advice coming my way. I’ve just always maintained that God has a plan for me (for all of us) and that the right opportunity would present itself when it’s supposed to, where it’s supposed to, and how it’s supposed to.

Your time at CAO marked a time of innovation and forward thinking. How will you carry this into your next venture?
I don’t think you can sit down one day and say, “I’m going to be innovative.” I believe innovation comes from within and it’s a result of what’s inside of you and how much it needs to get outside of you; you’re just there to enable the process. It’s kind of like if you have to say that you’re “cool” (a word I abhor, by the way), then you’re probably not.

You’ve known and been friends with Pete Johnson for close to 15 years. Many speculated that you’d partner with Tatuaje. Did you consider it?
Yeah, I met Pete at my first RTDA show in Cincinnati back in 1996, and we’ve been friends since. It’s no secret to Pete or anyone else in the industry that I’m a big fan of what he’s done since he came onto the scene with Tatuaje in 2003. I respect not only what he’s done with Tatuaje, but also that he’s maintained his integrity while doing so.  Did I consider working with Tatuaje?  Not really. I don’t think there’s anything I could bring to the table there that Pete’s not already capable of doing himself. Would I consider working with Pete, though? That’s an entirely different question.

The New Company – Crowned Heads

So, can you tell us about this office you’ve been going to, and this team you’ve been working with?

We’ve formed a brand new company called “Crowned Heads.” Currently, the company is comprised of Mike Conder (former CAO Sr. VP of Marketing), Michael Trebing (former CAO Creative Media Manager), Nancy Heathman (former CAO Graphic Designer), and myself. Just to clarify, Crowned Heads is only the company name and not a cigar brand name. We have the privilege of being able to take our time with each detail and aspect of the company and are not rushing any new releases just for the sake of ‘getting it out there’ on the retail shelf. Crowned Heads will remain meticulously focused upon attention to detail, excellent quality, and unmatched customer service. Let’s just say that we learned a lot while working at CAO; we now know what we did right and what we would do differently if given a second chance. Well, Crowned Heads is that second chance.

What is your title and what will your primary responsibilities be with Crowned Heads?

There aren’t any titles at Crowned Heads. I just spent the last few years of my career under corporate stranglehold and want to be as free and away from that sort of structure as possible; it was entirely too confining and restrictive. The bones of Crowned Heads is more like a band; everyone has a function and plays an instrument and we don’t need a title or a card to tell us who we are or what needs to be done. I suppose you could say that my role or function would be most akin to being the lead singer. That said, every singer needs a solid bass line, a consistent drummer to hold a backbeat, a lead guitarist, keys, etc. It’s the one sound that all those instruments make together that is important.

How did this all come about?
I learned a great deal from the experience that was the “merger” between ST Group and Swedish Match (General Cigar). I learned that people’s true character really becomes evident in times of crisis and challenge. I saw a lot of people part ways with their integrity just so they could keep a paycheck. I witnessed a lot of ugly, dark behavior. On the other hand, I saw some people rise above it all and take the higher road. I’m fortunate enough to be working today with some of those people that took that higher road.

What will be your first step for Crowned Heads?

The first step is to actually let people know that “the band is back in the studio.” I can’t tell you right now what the album will be titled, but I can tell you it will NOT be called “CAO 2.0.” What will be unique about Crowned Heads is that we are going to invite people to watch each step of the process along the way. Through our website and social media, we are going to pull the curtain back and invite people backstage for a firsthand look at what is involved in putting together a premium cigar company from the ground floor up.

We want people to jump in this with us; watch us scope out potential manufacturers in Nicaragua, read about the inside creative battles and challenges, hear about our plans before they happen. We will even invite some people to “test drive” some prototype blends and help us decide if they should be the first or a future Crowned Head brand. I want people to feel an ownership on some level of Crowned Heads. As time goes on, we will further and further define and shape the Crowned Heads culture, and we want to invite people to live in our world for a minute or two, enjoy our products, and most importantly, enjoy themselves.

And Crowned Heads will be based in Nashville?
Absolutely. We wouldn’t go anywhere else; this is where our heart and soul live.

How did you decide on the name?
I’ve been intrigued with the “Wizard of Oz” and was watching the movie at home on an iPad one afternoon. There’s a scene when the movie is still in sepia tone (before it goes to full color) where Dorothy meets Professor Marvel. On the side of his caravan are the words, “The Crowned Heads of Europe….Past – Present – Future.” For some reason that image just stayed with me. I paused the movie and took a picture of that image on my iPad with my phone. The name ‘Crowned Heads’ just had a certain imagery that struck a chord with everyone that I ran it by.

Many considered you to be “lead singer” of CAO, so this will be an easy fit I’m sure.
Well, thank you for that, I suppose. But the same can be said of CAO in that at one time it was more about the collective team and how everyone came together to create one sound. It’s just sad that the new ‘band management’  seems to be more about putting out elevator muzak as opposed to anything that has a soul.

You mentioned there is no real rush to push a cigar onto the market – do you expect to release something in 2011?
That’s the goal; however, we’re not going to just haphazardly ‘throw a blend together’ so that we can go stand in front of a 20′ pop-up screen in Vegas this summer. We’re going to let the right tobaccos and the right blend lead the carriage, not the other way around.


Any plans to display at IPCPR?
At this time, I can’t really say one way or another.

When can we expect a website and an invitation to witness this new journey?
That should happen towards the beginning of March, if not sooner.

The marketing approach seems to be very consumer focused, allowing us smokers to be a part of the process – this almost sounds like a reality show! Jon, are you secretly a fan of American Idol and The Bachelor!?
The approach is consumer-focused–as it should be. I want to be accessible to the people that will be supporting our brand and, hopefully, enjoying our cigars. For the record, I’ve never watched either of those shows and I think that, for the most part, network television is a waste of time.

Ok, I have to ask this, in jest – when should we expect to see your new Crowned Heads tattoo!?
Congratulations on being the first of probably 2 dozen different people that are going to ask me that same question in the next few weeks.

And lastly, are you hiring!!!??? I’m a terrible shipping manager, if that helps!
Ha! Love it…THAT was clever. Bravo.

Thanks for joining us Jon!