When Michael explains a cigar, it is as if the whole world slows down and you are a witness to a great solo performance at the Lincoln Center. As the VP of Retail & Brand Development at the historic cigar brand Nat Sherman, Michael knows his craft and is passionate about creating a life he loves.
How did you get started with Nat Sherman?
I joined Nat Sherman in June of 2011, having worked with Davidoff of Geneva for almost ten years prior. It was a big decision, but certainly the right decision. I truly enjoyed my time at Davidoff, but my role was strictly running the retail businesses in New York.
The Nat Sherman opportunity has given me more opportunity to be creative, develop strategy, and build the overall brand and business.
Why do you do it and how do you think you've gained the success that you have?
I’m not sure there is a secret to success. And personally, I feel as though I’m on an endless quest to learn more and get better. I believe deeply in a strong work ethic, balanced with a commitment to personal time as well.
My growth in business is paralleled by my growth personally - my wife, our children, my relationship with my parents and sister. I believe it’s all connected, and it’s important to work hard at all of it.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you end up in NYC?
I grew up in the Northeast corner of Connecticut, in a town called Killingly. There are more people living in a single building in New York City than there are in my hometown.
I was very involved in music throughout my childhood, so I was accepted to and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston to pursue a degree in performance. I’m a drummer.
But while in school, I enjoyed my first cigar, and was able to get a part time job selling cigars in Boston while going to school.
Fast forward, I moved to New York after graduating in 2002, and was friendly with the General Manager of the Davidoff store on Madison Avenue, as he was a former Boston cigar-industry guy.
So, I started working at Davidoff of Madison Avenue as a Sales Associate. But my point in moving to New York was to continue performing as a musician. I worked with a few bands and songwriters. Played on a few tours. Recorded some albums.
And, in fact, I still play a few shows per year. But ultimately, my strategy was to never say no to an opportunity. And there were a lot of exciting opportunities within my cigar life, that eventually led us here.
What's the highlight of your career?
I’m very fortunate to have so many milestones and moments that stand out to me. Ultimately, my highlight would have to be bringing a product to market and then seeing people enjoy it. It is a feeling akin to hearing a song you recorded on the radio. It’s the full circle moment.
The first project I participated in for Nat Sherman was our Timeless Collection. The year it was released, it took the Number 10 cigar of the year by Cigar Aficionado magazine.
That same year, I happened to walk into a cigar bar in Florida, and I saw a guy take a box of Timeless out of his locker, remove a few cigars, and hand them out to his friends. It was the coolest.
What do you do for fun?
I have fun in everything I do. I’m blessed. I wanted to be a musician, because it was my favorite thing to do.
Cigars have become an incredible passion and hobby, so I'm thrilled to be able to make a living in this industry. I also have the privilege of working with dear friends.
But really, for “fun” meaning, when I’m not working, I just love being with my wife and kids doing anything. It’s the greatest.
What are your favorite places to hang in NYC?
Pre-kids, I’d have a lot more suggestions than post-kids. I’m a big food and wine guy, so I love great restaurants and bars, particularly where culinary and wine programs are taken seriously. The Lambs Club and Aureole are two of my favorite restaurants in the city. For more casual, there’s a little Italian place in Midtown called Nino’s 46 that is just slamming!
I enjoy places where I can enjoy cigars, so Club Macanudo and Grand Havana Room are incredible experiences. But, more and more, I really just prefer to be on my terrace, at home, and with my family.
Last but not least, I have an office in our flagship store, The Nat Sherman Townhouse. As far as I’m concerned, that's the greatest place to hang and smoke a cigar on the planet.
What’s something people who only know you through your work would be surprised to know?
I have a twin sister. Her name is Sarah. She’s the greatest.
Most people are surprised that I’m from such a small town.
A lot of people are also surprised to learn of my music background.
I need to leave some surprises out. That way, when I do get to meet you, there’s more for you to learn!