Aric Bey, the former Chicago firefighter and owner of Black Star Line, began his cigar journey as many do through camaraderie and conversation. Approaching its fifth year, Black Star Line is gaining steam as a brand. Bey talks about the importance of history, connecting with customers, and appreciating the conversations that come with living the cigar life.
The First Premium Smoke
Cigar Life Guy: Tell me about your first premium cigar experience. (When was it? Who were you with? Where was it? What was the occasion? )
Aric Bey: I started smoking infused cigars and quickly graduated to Drew Estates cigars. My palate changed when I began smoking DE, and I never returned to smoking infused cigars. I have been smoking for roughly seven years. I mostly smoked DE, then branched out to smoking all different brands, which is how I developed my palate fast.
The Cigar Business
Cigar Life Guy: You have an MBA in finance, a Master’s degree in Public Health, and have been a Chicago Firefighter. Your path to the cigar industry is often “unconventional.” Tell us what drew you into the industry and how you got started.
Aric Bey: I grew the love of the leaf smoking in the firehouse. That’s when I decided I would enjoy being in the industry. I enjoyed the conversations and good times while having a cigar with friends. My most memorable bonding experiences recently involved hanging out and smoking a cigar.
Cigar Life Guy: What is your favorite aspect of the cigar business?
Aric Bey: My favorite aspect of the business is meeting new customers. I love meeting new customers because I can learn about their backgrounds and where they are from. It’s like gaining a new friend I can smoke with whenever I am in their town or country. It also lets me get live feedback from new and existing customers about my cigars.
Cigar Life Guy: What is the cigar industry’s biggest challenge today?
Aric Bey: My biggest challenge is getting our name out there so it is easily recognized. There are thousands of cigars to smoke, so you have to find a way to make your brand stand out amongst all the others. That is why we work so hard and travel often to get the brand recognition I seek.
Political Activism and Black Star Line
Cigar Life Guy: You named your company, Black Star Line, after Marcus Garvey’s steamship company. Tell us a little more about your reason for honoring a political activist and founder of the UNIA.
Aric Bey: Many have yet to learn who Marcus Garvey is, so I wanted to pay homage to him and his company. His idea was to ship goods internationally. I want to do the same with my cigars. I am big on history and those that came before us. If we don’t keep talking about history, we will lose the stories and potentially relive some of the issues that have happened in the past.
Black Star Line: History and Diversity
Cigar Life Guy: How has the cigar industry embraced various lines from owners with diverse backgrounds?
Aric Bey: The cigar industry has embraced people of different backgrounds because it’s all about the love of the leaf. When smoking a cigar, your gender, bank account, or background don’t matter. It’s all about great convos and the love of the leaf. I always say if everyone drank whiskey and smoked cigars, there wouldn’t be any hatred or racism. Everyone would be relaxed and enjoying a cigar and each other’s company.
Cigar Life Guy: Tell us the stories behind your recently released Mr. Fahrenheit and the Rosewood 1923.
Aric Bey: Rosewood 1923 pays homage to the victims of the Rosewood Florida race riot, and it pays homage to my late frat brother John Singleton. I am a member of the “Greater” Beta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Inc., and John made a movie about Rosewood in the early 90s. We rolled the cigar at James Brown’s factory, Oveja Negra. It was great working with James because he works differently than the folks over at Aganorsa and Tabacalera La Isla.
I look forward to doing another project with Oveja Negra.
The Future of Black Star Line Cigars
Cigar Life Guy: You have introduced a line of coffee — War Witch — What’s next for Black Star Line?
Aric Bey: I’m unsure if we will introduce any more coffee now. That project was for the original War Witch. We are approaching our 5th anniversary, so I am compiling a good blend for the next PCA.
Photo credit: Black Star Line