Robert Gooden, who is affectionately known as “Doc” by close friends and business associates, is not your run-of-the-mill entrepreneur. In fact—he’s far from it. Before launching his first entrepreneurial endeavor, he served eight years in the United States Navy as a Cryptologic Technician (CT), where he performed multifaceted duties worldwide at numerous overseas and stateside shore commands, aboard surface ships, aircraft and submarines, and even during Naval Special Warfare.
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Once he transitioned to civilian life, his unique cadre of skills and experience made him extremely marketable in the security management industry, where he immediately began working as a consultant to several fortune 500 companies. But even after experiencing extraordinary success, including grossing revenues in excess of $10M annually and employing over 200 local professionals, Doc became inspired to pursue a brand new idea—one that would allow him to enjoy one of his own hobbies and create a way to serve an unmet need in the local community. Enter Cigars 210.
If you’re familiar with names like Le Bijou, Gurkha, Davidoff, Padrón, Ramon Allones, and Rocky Patel, listen up. These are top brands featured by Cigar Aficionado, the world’s number one source for reviews and ratings on the best cigars sold worldwide. And it’s brands like these that initially caught the eye of Gooden, who wanted not only to be a choice retailer of premium brands, but also to provide an indulgent environment where patrons could enjoy his wares in style.
BlackEnteprise.com caught up with this remarkable businessman to discuss his latest venture and get some tips on how to successfully confront key challenges in business.
BlackEnterprise.com: How did you get the idea for creating an upscale cigar lounge?
Gooden: I got the idea for Cigars 210 more than 6 years ago. At this time, there were only a handful of cigar stores in the DMV that actually provided separate lounge areas where patrons could enjoy their cigars. After researching businesses in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, I realized that Prince George’s County (Maryland), would be the ideal location. I wanted to provide a unique experience and cater to the large population of cigar aficionados in the area. By creating an upscale lounge environment and providing premium retail options, I saw an exclusive opportunity to establish my niche.
But it’s not just cigars that you sell. What can patrons expect to experience once inside?
At Cigars 210, we offer a true ‘cigar lounge experience.’ We feature the largest individual leather chair seating in the area, five 60’ HD flat screen television sets, low lighting, music and one of the best ventilation systems in production, (the cigar smoke is barely perceptible!). We also offer a full range of cigar-related accessories to include lighters, cutters, humidors, pipes and pipe tobacco.
Do you cater to a diverse clientele? If not, what does your ideal client look like?
We offer a premium experience to anyone who wants to enjoy a good cigar. Our demographically diverse clientele includes both men and women; law enforcement and members of the military; state and federal government employees, as well as white and blue-collar professionals. What’s interesting is that our customer base grows weekly. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool for us. And, as a matter of fact, we have had several patrons who were here on international travel.
Were you afraid of failure with this venture? How have you maintained your success?
I was definitely afraid of failure; but I believe that this fear has pushed me to excel. Realizing that there aren’t many black-owned retail cigar shops, we have worked hard to ensure that we exceed our customers’ expectations. We have maintained our success by establishing and nurturing good business relationships, as well as taking excellent care of our customers; that’s very important.
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