It’s unknown when, or if, the cigar industry will be regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, but FDA has already claimed its first victim.
Tomorrow, Patrick Vivalo of Vivalo Cigars will begin his tenure as the Southeastern sales representative for La Palina, meaning the end of Vivalo Cigars.
“With the FDA circulating and everything going on in the industry I was afforded a great opportunity at the right time,” said Vivalo to halfwheel. “The thing with a new brand, it takes a long time to build. Not knowing the future, I felt safe in joining the La Palina team.”
The Vivalo line launched in April 2013 when he was still working for Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. In his position at Rocky Patel, Vivalo would oftentimes accompany groups of retailers down to visit the company’s operations in Honduras. Two Maryland-based retailers requested that Vivalo allow them to sell a cigar that he smoked regularly while down in Honduras.
The five-vitola line, known as Vivalo Serie Exclusivo, was a Nicaragua puro using tobaccos from Estelí and Jalapa. Vivalo promoted the line as being blended differently per size.
At La Palina, he’ll join two other Rocky Patel veterans: Clay Roberts and Sam Phillips, who recently became partners in the company. The three worked briefly together at Rocky Patel around 2009.
“The La Palina family, and I speak for Bill and Mike Massey and our other partners, couldn’t be happier to bring in Patrick,” said Phillips. “For us it’s all about building the company the right way. It’s certainly not our first rodeo. As time goes by in the industry, especially from where Clay and I have sat, we’ve been afforded the opportunity to do it the right way.”
Vivalo will cover the Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi markets for La Palina.
Clay Roberts indicated the company plans to bring on two more full-time sales representatives—one in the northeast and one in the Carolina/mid-Atlantic region—within the next two months, bringing the total number of in-house representatives to four, while the remainder of the company’s sales will be handed by Brokers.
“(We are) going to have a mix of brokers and in house,” said Roberts. “Another two in house in two months, the balance will be a brokers. We want to wait for the right people.”
As for the remaining Vivalo Serie Exclusivo product, Vivalo said there is still inventory remaining at the Maryland warehouse that belongs to his ex-business partner. He indicated that existing accounts could reorder until the inventory runs out, but there are no plans to make anymore cigars.
It is widely-expected that a finalized version of the potential regulation of premium cigars by FDA will be published within the next month or so. Such regulation is likely to be uniquely punishing to brands that are both newer and smaller due to a lack of grandfather dates for new products and regulation costs that burden smaller companies more significantly than larger ones.
For more information about the potential regulation of premium cigars by FDA, visit halfwheel.com/fda.
Update: The original version of this story did not accurately describe the situation regarding remaining Vivalo products.