NJSPBA rolling out its own cigar brand to generate support for the Survivor and Welfare Fund
By Mitchell Krugel
Smooth smoke, rich taste and the monikers of “Honor” or “Valor” might not fully distinguish the new PBA cigar brand members that will begin savoring starting in the next few months. But as they draw in the flavor, along with the camaraderie and atmosphere to consider ways to accomplish union business during the 45 or 60 minutes of the smoke, they will observe a very formidable staying power.
Notice the way the ash holds together in the picture you see at the top of this page. This is a distinguishing characteristic of the PBA cigar.
The PBA has created its own cigar brand, from which 100 percent of sales will go to the Survivor and Welfare Fund. To have an ash as long as what is pictured shows that the construction of the cigar is high-end reveling. Like a 12-ounce filet, single malt or a blessed event. And structured to complement all of those, or especially a PBA fundraiser.
After being one of the first five to sample both blends of the forthcoming brand, NJSPBA President Pat Colligan, a bit of a cigar aficionado, realized the sticks truly kick some ash.
“I think it’ll be a home run,” he declared.
The reflective gold crest of the PBA shield on a black box and an inspirational message inside will be the only extra features to denote the PBA cigar. Everything else is about the honor, the valor, the welfare and the taste.
The PBA cigar is the latest brainstorm driven by Dunellen Local 146 State Delegate Joe Dudley and Somerville Local 147 State Delegate Vito Spadea. Raising money for Survivor and Welfare, especially through the spectacular PBA Cigar Gala, of which the third annual is scheduled for June 7 once again at Crystal Springs Resort, has become a 24/7 craving for Joe and Vito.
So this is a passion play to help members partake of two of their greatest passions.
“The burn on it and the ash on it, the picture itself just spells out. When they’re smoking it and they’ve got the stick between their fingers and the ring is sticking out, we want people to know that that’s our cigar,” Dudley describes. “You’re going to buy it because you have an affection for law enforcement in your heart and you know that this is going to a good cause. Or you appreciate a good quality smoke. Or both.”
A sneak preview of the two blends – the Maduro is the Honor, and the Habana is the Valor – will take place during the 2023 NJSPBA Mini Convention in Atlantic City. On March 8, a reception co-sponsored by loyal PBA supporters Lending to Heroes and Capital Benefits at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s DAER nightclub will provide the first taste of PBA cigars to every guest.
The two-hour event beginning at 5 p.m. also starts the PBA cigar on an ongoing journey of raising money for Survivor and Welfare, with proceeds from ticket sales going to the fund. The opportunity to have a constant revenue stream for the fund makes the endeavor that much more illustrious.
So there’s really no way the PBA cigar can leave a bad taste in anybody’s mouth. And it’s already tried and true. Dudley, Spadea, Colligan, Executive Vice President Pete Andreyev and State Campus Police Local 278 State Delegate Bill Comerro were the first five to experience it, and the consensus is a consistent, smooth smoke that is really good from the minute you light it till the minute you put it out.
“What do I think the members are going to get out of it? I just think the taste,” Spadea confirmed. “It’s that ash, just the structure in itself with that cigar speaks volumes. I’m itching to smoke it again.”
Coming up with two cigars seems like the result of a dramatic backstory. But really, the PBA cigar brand came about from just sitting one day.
After the NJSPA State meeting in October, former Edison Local 75 State Delegate Keith Hobbs hosted members for a cigar luncheon at his Woodbridge Brewing Company to benefit Survivor and Welfare. During that event, Spadea and Dudley were chatting with retired Newark PD Captain Alex Martinez, who owns Main Street Cigars, also in Woodbridge and just down the block from the State PBA office.
“As we sat there that day, Pat came over and the four of us talked about how cigars are such a regular part of the PBA culture,” Dudley recalled. “Alex brought us some samples. And out of the samples, we picked two different ones that we liked. That’s how it got rolling, and they’re currently in production now.”
The PBA cigars are being made in the Dominican Republic. Because they are a high-end brand, they need time to sit and age properly. Although manufacturing began toward the end of 2022, a full complement most likely won’t be available until the Annual Cigar Gala in June. Martinez will be selling them at Main Street Cigars, and he will be donating all the sales to Survivor and Welfare.
Even with the aging and the high-caliber smoke, the cigars will be available at a mid-level price. A single stick will sell for $13, and a box of 10 will run $120. Gala attendees will each get an Honor and a Valor, and Colligan estimates that all boxes the PBA brings to the event will sell out.
Currently, the focus is on bringing samples to the March 8 preview. And then if the smoke signals are as formidable as the PBA plans in June, the possibilities for brand expansion and fundraising expansion seem endless.
Making boxes available for county conferences and Locals to have at their cigar outings that are becoming more and more popular could be a great opportunity for generating support to Survivor and Welfare. Dudley submitted that he’d love to see different styles, different rings, different gauges and different flavors added.
And beyond the smooth smoke and rich taste, Spadea offers some thoughts to savor as members enjoy the uniqueness of the PBA cigar.
“We want them to smoke it with their buddies and just have a good conversation. And, while they’re doing it, know that they could be smoking that cigar for a fallen brother or sister, in honor of them,” he explained. “And just enjoy the honor of being a PBA member. Our job is an honorable job that we do. And the valor in it is what we take back from everything.”