La Cultura Cigar and Social’s origin story isn’t one that started with two businessmen in suits smoking cigars and drinking single malt scotch. La Cultura’s origin story is simpler than one would think. It is a story of two individuals taking a dream of building a community based on passion of tobacco and everything that culture stands for. The La Cultura story started at an outdoor patio in Kansas City drinking a cold beer and where the first words spoken to each other that day were… Actually, let’s let Swinny and Ben tell their versions of the story.
La Cultura Origins
I understood what the cigar culture was all about after experiencing my first cigar lounge. It is not necessarily the comfort of the furniture, the size of the humidor, or the entertainment on the big screens. The culture It is about the people. The culture is sharing the passion for premium tobacco with people from all walks of life. I ignore the distractions of the world when I sit down and smoke. I genuinely enjoy unique flavors, and even more so, the friends I meet in the process.
I wanted to bring this culture to the downtown Kansas City, but knew I could not bring this experience to fruition by myself. I needed to find the right person from the cigar community who shared this vision, and had an unmatched passion and expertise for premium tobaccos. I found that partner in the “Red Bearded Wonder,” Benjamin Gardner. All it took to get this idea moving was for someone to say “Go.” And that’s exactly what we did.
Before I became a tobacconist, I was enveloped by the coffee industry. I have always been a charismatic individual with a refined palate. I thought the coffee industry was a good mesh between the social aspect of getting to know the regular patrons and relying on my palate to make the most of their experience. After entering the cigar industry as a beardless, part-time tobacconist for another local shop, my eyes were opened to a whole new sub-culture I never knew existed. I witnessed a community brought together by a pile of dried up leaves that transcended barriers of class, gender, race, and age; barriers that are far too often wedges in today’s world. It didn’t take long before I was welcomed into this handmade community, and I knew there was no turning back.
Over the years, I watched this cigar family continue their rituals of trying to find a lounge to cram in to or a backyard or park to get together at and enjoy the company of fellow brothers and sisters of the leaf. The community was strong but there wasn’t a place that could welcome everyone at any time. My wife and I dreamed of how we could tap into the pulse of the cigar industry and provide a place to allow this community to thrive in.
This dream wasn’t made possible until I met David Swinburne, or Swinny, as most people call him. I remember he drifted from store to store, but his frequency at the store I was then managing steadily increased. He gave me weird requests for special orders, and I fulfilled them. Little did I know, he was only testing me, because he too had a similar dream.
One afternoon, Swinny asked me to meet him later in the week for brunch and I obliged. When I was approaching his table there was no formal greeting, only a question, “I want to open a cigar lounge. Are you in?”
We hit the ground running with our first and foremost objective being ‘everyone is equal’. We wanted to provide a place where this cigar culture could flourish organically – and it did. A lot of people give me the credit for the eclectic crowd we host day in and day out, but I take zero credit for that. This community has been around since the birth of cigars. There’s something powerful when people come together to ‘Put Some Smoke In The Air’… all we did was provide a place for that to happen.