Ike Karipides is the Director of Premium Cigar Sales at Nat Sherman, discerning aficionado, and one of the all-around nice guys in the tobacco industry. In our Person of the Month spotlight, Ike talks about his family’s long history with cigars, working with Nat Sherman, and a crazy trip to the Dominican Republic. 

What's it like working with Nat Sherman?

The company has a strong sense of family and is actively involved in the day to day operation of our business.  It has been extremely fun and rewarding working to grow our premium cigar business, and I couldn’t ask for better people to work for and with.

What was the first cigar you smoked (that you can remember)?

As a kid I used to sneak a puff here and there from my father’s cigars, but I think that the first complete cigar I ever smoked was one of his Hoyo de Monterrey Rothschild EMS. It had to be around 1992 or 1993.

What was your first experience with a cigar like? Did you realize then that you saw a future with cigars, or did that realization come before or after your first smoke?

Although I didn’t grow up in the cigar business, I definitely grew up around cigars. My grandfather smoked cigars, as did all of my uncles, cousins, and most importantly, my father. I used to go with my father on Saturday mornings to the local cigar store for him to pick up his favorites. It was here that I quickly realized the camaraderie and sense of community that cigar stores and enjoying cigars embodies. I don’t think at that young age I saw a career future in cigars, but I definitely knew that I enjoyed being around cigars and the cigar culture.   

How did you get your start in the cigar industry?

My first job in the cigar industry was at the Cleveland, Ohio landmark cigar store, Cousin’s Cigars. This was where my father shopped and the shop I used to visit with him as a kid. For some reason, in high school I thought it would be a great place to work, and luckily they were kind enough to hire me.

What were some notable positions you've held before settling in at Nat Sherman?

I’ve always been drawn to multigenerational family businesses. I started with the Kolods in Cleveland at Cousin’s Cigars, then moved on to manage a store for the Nastri family, the owners of Barclay-Rex in New York City. Because I wanted to try other facets of the industry other than retail, I worked for Mark & Alex Goldman at House of Oxford Distributors, and most recently was the New York/New England territory sales representative for Miami Cigar & Co., working for the Miranda family. I feel that having various viewpoints and experiences within the industry allows me to have a very strong grasp of how the premium cigar industry operates, and having worked for family businesses I understand how to navigate the family dynamic on a day to day basis.    

What do you enjoy most about working in the cigar industry?

We aren’t selling a commodity or a necessity. We are purveyors of a pleasurable experience that is 100 percent completely hand crafted by artisans of a classic tradition. It is a very unique industry in that sense, and it is extremely rewarding to talk to people who enjoy our products. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What is your favorite cigar blend?

That’s a really tough question. Throughout my life I have had various staples in my rotation of cigars I enjoy, and I always like to try everything that is on the market. That said, I am currently enjoying the Nat Sherman 1930 Corona Grande cigar on a very regular basis. For me, it has the right balance of strength and body while remaining extremely balanced. I love the feel of its wrapper leaf in my hand, and the size suits me well (6”x46). I typically enjoy cigars in more traditional sizes like coronas and lonsdales.

Do you have any offbeat, crazy or weird stories during your time in the cigar industry?

I think anyone who has been around this industry for any length of time probably has an almanac of crazy and funny stories.  I was reminded of one the other day about a trip I was on years ago to the Dominican Republic. We were flying on an old rickety propeller plane - it was like a bus with wings. After the flight got bumpier and bumpier and the plane dropped what seemed like thousands of feet, the pilot made the decision that the weather was too precarious and that we needed to land as soon as possible. It was a crazy ride and a crazy landing on some little airstrip in the countryside. After we all kissed the ground, we quickly decided that a bus was the best course of action to get us to where we were headed. Nobody wanted to go back up in that plane. Ever since then, I really try to avoid prop planes.

 What are some of your other hobbies, and how do you spend your free time?

I travel a lot for work and really haven’t carved out enough time to develop many hobbies. I enjoy cooking when I have the chance and do a fair amount of reading when I have free time, and I squeeze in a cigar here and there. 

POSTED ON Oct 14, 2017


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