In the San Antonio cigar retailer world, Keith Rumbo is the one everyone wants to be. His father started a business, the Humidor, and he bought out his father to get to where he is today. Club Humidor has four locations in San Antonio.
Tell me about your father who started the Humidor, Ralph C. Rumbo
“Everyone called him the Colonel. I called him the Colonel, and mama was the General (Sylvia). In 1975 they came to Randolph AFB and to San Antonio, where he retired soon after. Dad was always into pipes. He had been a pipe smoker since he was in college and he wanted a pipe store.
The business came up for sale from Larry Dyer back in the early 80’s. Dyer was kind of a pioneer in the old 70’s pipe shops. In the 70’s and early 80’s, pipes were king; we rarely sold cigars. My dad was always a pipe smoker, and when I came in, I was the cigar guy. That’s the way we shared it.
He wanted to buy a building which was smart; I thought it was dumb-because I’m stupid. He wanted to own a place because people were telling us we can’t smoke in buildings anymore; so he bought a shop in 1981.
When did you start working there?
I believe I came on to the scene in the summer of ’83 with no intention of staying working with my dad. I was working on the weekends; I was just there to help out. I was working at Datapoint on the assembly line during the week. They were going to pay for part of my college to become a programmer. I thought, “This is what I’m going to do. Sure, I’ll help mom and dad with the cigar business.
I got into it and I thought the cigar business was much better; the days went by quicker, I enjoyed it, and the people were great. At Datapoint I felt like I was in jail. When I told my dad that, he says, “Why don’t you work for us full-time and see what you think?” I told him that if I lose my position at Datapoint I probably won’t get it back and he said, “I’ll make sure that we’ll continue, and you’ll get a piece of this once it’s all over with.”
How did you get your first store?
My wife Tiffany and I took out a loan and we paid my parents. We moved to the two stores and took the loans for those from my dad. Little did I know that he was putting all that money away for when he passed away. I inherited this building plain and simple. With that money, I bought the building on Huebner.
You moved from the Quarry because there was no smoking, so what did you do?
We were pretty desperate when we closed the Quarry shop. Where were we going to go? I had all this stuff and no place to put it. I said, “Tiffany, let’s go look at that store that Mike Maring had on Thousand Oaks.” I was peering in the window and Tiffany was sitting in the car and I looked back and said, “It’s all still there.” There was very little to do. We did paint touchups and built some cabinets-put our special touches in it and went from there. Thank goodness, because I didn’t have a place to put all my stuff; everything went right in.
What makes your company stand out?
“Me,” Tiffany pipes in as she walks past. “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never really felt myself as standing out. I’ve always thought of it as friendly competition. People do what they want to do. I’ve always thought, “What is the kind of place I would like to go and feel comfortable?” I built my business as if I was the consumer. I think all the cigar stores in town are great stores. I think what happens is we’re a little different, they’re a little different. I think that’s what makes San Antonio unique; there’s no real hard-core competition. You visit the store where you feel comfortable. Even our four stores that we have now are four very different stores.
Tell me a memory of your dad and cigars?
I do have a memory of my dad with him smoking a cigar and grabbing it like a pipe and burning himself; hands flying everywhere because he was definitely uncomfortable with the cigar. He was the pipe guy. Boy, he loved his pipes.
Which manufacturers impress you?
I’m still impressed with Davidoff. They were the first factory I visited, and I was very impressed with their quality control and the number of steps and stages that they go through. They were probably the most impressive as far as seeing a cigar from start to finish. A very close second is the Perdomo Factory. Nick Perdomo is in touch with every aspect of that factory. I take my employees and/or customers on several factory tours once a year. We didn’t go this last year because of Nicaragua’s freak out. I send my employees because he’s so thorough from start to finish.
We won a window dressing display contest at North Star Mall; I don’t remember the year, but we went to the plant factory of Fuente. Carlos Fuente gave us a private tour. That’s where I smoked my first Opus Cigar. They hadn’t even been put out yet. I thought it was too strong but what do I know? I told him, “It’s a little strong there, Carlito.”
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just a little tidbit of information about our stores: I tried being the buyer for cigars, that doesn’t work. Hundreds of thousands of people smoke different things. I just buy what I like; I’m just stupid. I let the managers decide what they want to buy, what they think they can sell, and I have very little input anymore as to what cigars go in my stores because I don’t think that’s my part.
There are cigars for everybody and there are a lot of different cigar’s out there. This, to me, is a great time to be a cigar smoker because you can find everything, and anything that you want to smoke. With all the changes, differences and blendings, you can visit any shop and find your cigar.
What was your first cigar?
Since my dad’s not around anymore I can tell this story. My dad caught me smoking cigarettes in the shed behind our house when I was 15 years old. He told me, “Come on, let’s smoke like real men and let’s have a cigar.” I went back with him and we puffed on a cigar in a hot shed. He was telling