A career in a family wholesale business typically doesn’t lead to a patent attorney’s office, or on a journey to China to meet an important supplier.
Then again, Remon Mansour’s career stopped being typical a long time ago.
Mansour, his brothers and his father are what Mansour calls “grocery guys.” For decades they have sold beverages, snacks and candy. Remon Mansour got into the premium cigar category in 2004 and made it his own.
Today he is president, founder and owner of CigarBros, an El Cajon business selling premium cigars to retailers in California and 12 other states.
On the way to expanding his business, Mansour came up with a new way to display the product at the point of sale. He provides wholesale customers with a unique humidor—a climate controlled cabinet specially built to hold cigars—and he keeps it stocked.
Store owners need to keep their cigars at a particular temperature and humidity. Otherwise they run the risk of spoiling the product, and losing the flavor and character that the cigar maker intended.
Rank and File
Mansour spent several years perfecting his humidor. It departs from the typical humidor design so much that he was able to get it patented. Design and utility patents for the humidor were awarded in January and February of 2022.
Conventional humidors offer slanted shelves which display open cigar boxes. CigarBros’ humidors store their cigars on-end, each in a clear tube.
Cigars stand in ranks and files, like members of a marching band on a football gridiron.
Behind its glass front, there are spots for up to 72 varieties of cigars. Rows go nine deep, for a total of 648 spaces.
To determine whether Mansour had something unique, patent examiners looked back at patents filed as early as 1896 and 1905. After a wait of several years, his idea passed muster. (The patent documents also cover a tabletop humidor cabinet, though Mansour has not yet provided those to retailers.)
The humidors are made in China by a business Mansour encountered at a trade show focused on premium cigars. At the time, the vendor was making humidors for homes. In the process of developing his commercial humidors, Mansour traveled to China to see the factory. It was a memorable visit, he said.
Like other humidors, the CigarBros product is lined in Spanish cedar to keep the cigars fresh. Though built in China, the wood is sourced in the United States or Canada.
Last month, Mansour showed off his patented humidor cabinet in a 3,000-square-foot warehouse space that is itself a humidor. Cigar boxes are stacked on shelves in the room, which has 24-foot ceilings. The room has several machines that emit mist.
Here CigarBros employees repack cigars in sets of three and send varied assortments to retail clients, based on their needs.
A Christmas tree in one corner was decorated with cigar tubes and had cigar boxes beneath it.
Serving Retailers and Their Customers
Mansour said his humidor design helps both the retailer and the customer.
Retailers, including those who run convenience stores, are likely to be short on space. While Mansour was asking clients about their needs, many told him they could only give up two feet of their floor space for cigars. Hence the cabinet that takes up a minimum of real estate.
The person watching the store can also quickly take a visual inventory of cigars if they suspect a patron is making away with the product without paying.
For the customer, Mansour said, the humidor offers a wide selection as well as plenty of information.
Shelf labels help the buyer navigate the differences in the products, ranking a cigar’s strength (from mild to full-bodied) and relaying more detailed rating information from Cigar Aficionado magazine. It is similar to a rating on wines. Like wines, cigars have distinct flavors, with flavor notes reminiscent of espresso, chocolate, nuts or berries.
Cigar lounges offer fresh, quality cigars but the atmosphere can be intimidating. The humidor, by contrast, makes cigars approachable, Mansour said.
In addition to storefront businesses, CigarBros serves hotels, golf courses and casinos. There are humidors in more than 500 locations.
Why run the business from El Cajon and not some other place? Because El Cajon is home base to Mansour and his family.
Mansour is a graduate of Grossmont High School (2001) and San Diego State University (2006). Earlier in life, his family immigrated from the north of Iraq to San Jose, and eventually found its way to El Cajon, a city that boasts one of the largest communities of Chaldeans, or Iraqi Catholics, in the country. (Michigan also has a large concentration of Chaldeans, and Arizona is gaining popularity.)
Mansour is the youngest of his brothers, and at one time, he assumed he would become a CPA. He recalled a time when his siblings were poised to go their separate ways. “All of us were doing this,” he said, motioning outward. At that point, he recalled, his father told them they were going to stay in the region and start a business together.
The family also owns San Diego Cash & Carry, a wholesale grocer in downtown El Cajon.
Today, Mansour is pursuing several ways to expand CigarBros.
At the warehouse, he showed off one humidor cabinet faced in ebony wood and trimmed in gold. If all goes as planned, the unit will go to CigarBros’ first Las Vegas casino customer.
The company has also embraced augmented reality. Using a specialized software app loaded on a camera phone, a prospective vendor can see how a CigarBros humidor will look in his store.
CigarBros is also positioning its humidor as an amenity for the luxury home.
CigarBros USA Inc.
PRESIDENT: Remon Mansour
HEADQUARTERS: El Cajon
BUSINESS: A purveyor of unique cigar humidors, which the company restocks
REVENUE: $3 million
NOTABLE: CigarBros humidors are covered by U.S. patent Nos. 11,234,461 and D941,065