The past year has arguably been the most challenging and life-changing year in generations. Many premium tobacconists have been hit especially hard, including New York City’s iconic 90-year-old Nat Sherman Tobacco Store in midtown Manhattan. But as the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens … and that’s exactly what happened when two of Nat Sherman’s longtime leaders pivoted to launch a new premium cigar company, Ferio Tego LLC.
While Ferio Tego was officially founded by Michael Herklots and Brendon Scott at the end of 2020, Herklots had registered the trademark several years prior. And this past fall, following the announcement of Nat Sherman’s closure, the opportunity presented itself to put that trademark to use. The decision, however, was not an easy one.
For 10 months, Herklots and Scott worked tirelessly to try and find a new home for Nat Sherman International, but the pandemic and other factors failed to produce a buyer. As it became more clear Nat Sherman would have to close for good, Scott and Herklots inquired whether it might be possible to purchase the brands they helped grow and restore the cigars under a new company. Fortunately, the idea was met with enthusiasm and Ferio Tego LLC was formed.
The decision, in the end, was an easy one for Herklots. After 20 years as an employee in the premium cigar industry, he simply couldn’t imagine spending the next 20 in a different industry. “While I am eternally grateful for two decades of employment, it was time to strike out on my own, and join the premium cigar industry as a principal of a small family business,” he says.
Choosing to become a business owner can be both thrilling and terrifying at the same time, but when you’re doing something you love and are passionate about, it truly is worthwhile. Not to say they haven’t already faced their fair share of challenges.
“At a high level, we’ve spent our careers as employees, not owners,” says Scott. “So there has been a lot to learn about the fundamentals of establishing a business. Additionally, we’re in a unique position because on one hand, we are a small start-up, launching Ferio Tego as a new premium cigar brand, and company. On the other hand, we already have a long-established portfolio of premium cigar brands. So we’re paralleling a lot of different work streams to make sure we restore Metropolitan and Timeless back to the humidors of retailers and consumers quickly but thoughtfully, while also ensuring that Ferio Tego hits the mark with a successful launch.”
Herklots agrees, adding that rebranding their existing cigars has been all-encompassing. “A legacy portfolio is pretty unique. Boxes, bands, each individual cigar, each individual blend has to be recreated from scratch,” he says. “We manufacture in all three of the primary premium-cigar manufacturing countries available to the U.S. market—Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras—and we offer everything from smooth and sweet to full and rich. So there’s lots of multitasking, but thanks to the overwhelming support of our great manufacturing partners, we’re all committed to doing it right.”
Through the launch, Scott and Herklots seem to have successfully demonstrated the art of pivoting, tempered with a healthy dose of real versus hopeful expectations in their first year.
“At a high level, we want to establish the strongest foundation possible upon which to grow Ferio Tego, as well as prop up Timeless and Metropolitan,” says Scott. “Our oldest brands are from the mid-1990s. If you were going to physically move a house that was built in the ’90s to a new location, it would be done very slowly, very carefully … making sure the foundation is built sound before the house is carefully set upon that new foundation, once and permanently. So, by the end of 2021, if we’re able to have our relocated house open for guests and we’re throwing a few parties … that’s a hell of a successful year!”
Herklots adds: “Broadly: the vision is for long-term commitment to excellence—in our products, in our partnerships and in our growth.”
Another challenge: learning the give and take of a partnership. But with Scott’s background in accounting and finance and Herklots’ background in brand management (and drums), they seem to have the balance that will allow a business to thrive.
“We’re three months into this partnership, but we’ve been working partners since 2011 when I joined Nat Sherman,” says Herklots. “We’ve always had a great amount of admiration for the other’s work and talents and respect each other’s expertise.”
“We have different strengths—and weaknesses—and I think we’re both humble enough to know which is which to provide a collective balance,” adds Scott.
So when will the cigars be ready? For Timeless and Metropolitan, the blends and manufacturers will remain the same. They are tweaking the formats and box quantities just to ensure the portfolio makes the most sense in its totality for the long term, but otherwise they are shooting to be up and running this summer.
“Fortunately, this whole process, for better or worse, has been pretty public, and so there has been a great deal of regular communication back and forth on a one-to-one basis regarding the status of things. The plan remains to get product back in market by summer, and rest assured, when the product is in and sellable, they’ll know. EVERYONE will know!” Herklots says, with a laugh.
It is clear why Ferio Tego is the most anticipated cigar brand of 2021. Its founders are well-known leaders in the industry, they have a solid business plan in place and they’re doing something they’re passionate about. It’s no surprise the launch of Ferio Tego has been met with such incredible enthusiasm and support. Just don’t call it a comeback; call it a pivotal emergence.
Quick Tips from Michael Herklots and Brendon Scott
What tools, practices, etc., have proven successful for each of you in the past that you have implemented or will implement at Ferio Tego?
Michael and Brendon: “Be thoughtful and deliberate in decision-making. Long-term vision is ALWAYS better than short-term steps (usually). Be honorable in all dealings.”
What have been the biggest lessons each of you has learned from your past that give you guidance and hope for your future success?
Michael: “Always ask an expert for help. Always give credit where credit is due. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables.”
Brendon: “Trust your instincts. It’s OK to make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up too much. But it’s not OK to make the same mistakes.”
Learn more about Ferio Tego at feriotego.com.