“Epic is a lifestyle,” Parsons said. “Whether you’re celebrating the birth of a child or at the Eagles Super Bowl parade smoking a cigar, those things are epic moments. Even just hanging out with friends can be considered the same thing: sharing epic moments.”
These days, the 47-year-old Newfoundland native enjoys many epic moments as the founder and owner of Epic Cigars, a premium cigar company based in the Dominican Republic that’s taking the cigar world by storm.
“The brand has become international in a very short time, and I’m pretty proud of that,” Parsons said. “My cigars are sold in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—we’re in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.”
How, exactly, does a Canadian police officer turned real estate agent end up owning a Dominican cigar company? In 2001, one of Parsons’ old hockey teammates was working in the real estate industry in the Turks and Caicos islands, and after a few vacations to visit his buddy, Parsons was offered a job there himself in 2004.
“I took an early retirement, packed my bags, and moved to Turks and Caicos,” Parsons explained.
Parsons enjoyed many aspects of the lifestyle in the Turks and Caicos Islands, as did his clients, but they soon realized that it was hard to find a good cigar there.
“We had a lot of clients coming in to look at properties and buy real estate, but you couldn’t buy premium cigars there, so I started traveling to the Dominican Republic,” Parsons explained.
“I would go a couple times a year, and I just started meeting a lot of small factories, boutique manufacturers, and just people in the industry who were really open to helping me learn about the business,” he said. “I learned about tobacco, about the process of blending cigars, making cigars, and that’s kind of how I got started.”
Soon after, Parsons launched Turks Select: a premium cigar branded specifically for the Turks and Caicos Islands. The cigar brand did quite well locally, but Parsons had his sights set on something bigger. He wanted to launch a cigar brand that could make waves on an international level.
“As great as it was, it was only really designed to be a cigar for the Turks and Caicos, and not something I could really market internationally,” Parsons said. “But that kind of gave me the start in the industry and some good knowledge to get started in cigars.”
By 2009, the real estate market crash had hit the Turks and Caicos Islands hard, so Parsons took a new job with a development company in the Dominican Republic. Finding gainful employment after the crash was good news in-and-of-itself, but as an added bonus, the move to the Dominican Republic also meant that Parsons had easier access to the country’s best boutique factories, where he spent even more time learning about cigars from some of the industry’s most renowned experts.
“It’s a lot like wine,” he said. “Once you understand the types of grapes, and the years, and the seasons, and what’s available, and what you like and what you don’t like, it’s very similar to blending wine.”
Parsons continued to study the craft until he felt he was ready for his next foray into the cigar business. In 2010, Parsons officially launched Epic Cigars. At the time, the company came out with two premium offerings: the Epic Maduro and the Epic Corojo. Both cigars were received well, and both remain in the Epic Cigars line of products today.
“I created the blends in a boutique factory,” Parsons explained. “I don’t own the factory, but I choose all of the tobaccos, I create the cigar blends. I mean, in layman’s terms, you could call it the cigar recipe, but in terms of making cigars, you’re creating a blend. You’re taking tobaccos from different regions, and you have your wrapper, filler, binder, and you can have anywhere from three, four, five, six tobaccos in a single cigar blend.”
“We target cigar aficionados,” Parsons said. “It’s a premium cigar, the same as your Fuentes or your Dominican Montecristos, or any of your big Nicaraguan brands like Drew Estate.”
The premium blends of tobaccos that Parsons utilizes have worked well at attracting customers of all demographics.
“Even though our factory is based in the Dominican, we use tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican, from Brazil, and Honduras, and Ecuador,” Parsons said. “We’re blending tobaccos from different regions in the world in our cigars. They’re medium but full-bodied and full-flavored. We have cigars for the seasoned smoker, but also something that I could introduce to the first-time smoker.”
“It’s not easy,” he admitted. “It’s a tough business. You’ve gotta show people that you have a brand worthy of building up.”
Fortunately, all of the time and effort Parsons has devoted to his company is paying off.
“We’ve more than doubled our business in the last few years,” Parsons said proudly. “It takes time, but the potential for growth is endless.”
Epic Cigars are now carried at over 600 retailers worldwide. New Jersey and the Philadelphia area have been hot spots for Parsons, but sales are also skyrocketing in Europe as well—particularly in Germany, where Epic Cigars are offered at over 300 retailers.
Parsons is pleased with the success of his business so far, but he knows the company has the potential to really take off, so he continues to work on building the Epic brand. What better person to do it than someone who has lived such an epic life?
“The brand is still evolving and it will continue to evolve over time,” Parsons said. “It’s been kind of a crazy ride, but I’m thankful.”