Cigar Sponsor Spotlight – Mike Bellody (MLB Cigar Ventures)

Mike Bellody is the owner of MLB Cigar Ventures and the first sponsor of Stogie Press.

Mike and I met at the 2015 IPCPR in New Orleans, LA. That was Mike’s first IPCPR with his new company but you would not know it from his success oriented demeanor. I would later learn that it was his third show, the other two were in 2012 and 2013 with the Tiant Cigar Group.

Luis Tiant and Mike Bellody

I recall shaking hands with Mike and introducing myself as Boston Jimmie. Once he learned I was a fervent Red Sox fan we hit it off like brothers. The two of us had known each other forless than 30 minutes and Mike offered to sponsor Stogie Press.

As the years turned over, I got to know Mike better. He even visited the Stogie Press lounge here in Melbourne, Fl.

We have shared stories, discussed our backgrounds, and even broke bread together a few times. Today I would like to introduce you to Mike Bellody the man behind MLB Cigar Ventures.

Early Years

Mike was born and raised in Hartford CT in what Mike describes as “The Hood”. But even back in his early days he was driven to make things happen and that drive started with High School sports where he was a letter-man basketball and baseball player. Though he excelled at both, Mike will tell you, he preferred basketball over baseball. 

Like many boutique cigar brand owners, Mike was not born into the business. In fact he did not truly start enjoying cigars until after graduating college during the cigar boom of the mid 1990’s. When asked about how he got into the premium cigar lifestyle, he explains:

After graduating with an economics degree from Bentley College, I accepted a position with Prudential FinancialServices in 1994. By 1996, I had made a move over to Prudential Securities as a Financial Adviser, later earning the title of Quantum Portfolio Manager. Part of my initial training at Prudential Securities had me working for a SeniorVice President who loved smoking premium cigars.  He would hand me some cash every day and asked me to go down to the historic David P. Ehrlich Co. Tobacco Shop in Boston to pick up some cigars.  He always invited me to add a cigar for myself each time.

Not knowing much about cigars, Mike started out by trying the same cigars that his boss smoked.  Mike’s first premium hand-rolled cigar was an Ashton Classic Churchill.  Mike developed an incredible love of cigars and began trying many other popular cigars of the time.  His first “go-to” cigar was an Arturo Fuente Corona Imperial, though he quickly migrated to the Fuente 858 and 858 Maduro.  He also enjoyed Avo, Padron, LFD and many others.  His palate continued to develop with every new cigar he tried.

Mike eventually left Prudential Securities, spending time at Merrill Lynch and Mellon Financial before joining Fisher Investments in 2001, where he spent 15 years in the capacity of Vice President of their Private Client Group.  While at Fisher, Mike’s career flourished as did his love of the leaf.  Money was good and of course so were the cigars.

Over the years, Mike became friends with the Tiant family, especially Red Sox hall of fame pitcher Luis Tiant and his son Daniel.  Luis, a Cuban immigrant always enjoyed cigars, in fact, he started smoking them when he was 17 years old. Later in life, Luis and his son Daniel launched the El Tiante cigar line in 2009. The line was not a big seller and needed additional investment to pushit further. Daniel Tiant approached Mike Bellody for investment in the company. Mike agreed to get involved, but only under specific conditions:

  • Mike would be a 50% owner so that he had equal control over the business
  • The new company known as the Tiant Cigar Group, LLC would move production to My Father Cigars in Nicaragua
  • Packaging and banding would be revamped as the original had what Mike described as a “baseball novelty” look to it.

Mike became a 50% Partner and was named Co-Owner & President of the newly formed Tiant Cigar Group and they started working on new blends with legendary cigar maker, Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia.  Two great new blends came from this venture, El Tiante Habano Rosado & El Tiante Habano Oscuro. Accolades began coming fast and furious with articles in several cigar magazines, including Cigar Aficionado and a full cover story about Tiant CigarGroup in Smoke Magazine.  European Cigar Journal even named El Tiante one of the World’s Best Buy’s in premium cigars. Unfortunately, Daniel Tiant and Mike had a falling out and Mike eventually dissolved the company.

Growing MLB Cigar Ventures

The falling out with Danny Tiant and the closing of the Tiant Cigar Group, did not deter Bellody from pursuing his dream, as he formed his own company, MLB Cigar Ventures in 2013. For those that think MLB Cigar Ventures is a reference to Major League Baseball, you would bewrong, as it stands for Michael L. Bellody. 

To grow the new company, he connected with another legendary cigar maker, Manuel Quesada in the Dominican Republic and parlayed the retail connections he made throughout New England to help him move his first blend, which he called Imperia, by Mike Bellody.  He worked the Northeast hard, getting his cigars into shops in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Road Island, and Connecticut. The first shops to place an order were C.B. Perkins Tobacconists in Cape Cod, Twin Smoke Shop in Londonderry, NH and the Old Fire House Smoke Shop in Falls River, MA.

It was at the 2015 IPCPR in NewOrleans, where Bellody began to hit pay dirt, as he met with retailers from across the country. The Imperia blend was a success and ranked #3 in the StogiePress top 25 that year, along with rave reviews from numerous cigar media outlets. With a background in investment management Mike only understood hyperbolic growth and that is what he set his sights on for his new company. 

Through his dedication, passion, and hard work, the business continued to grow. Mike visited the Dominican Republic on a regular basis prying his craft and blending new cigars year over year. He expanded the Imperia line with the “ISLERO” and “Aventador”.

Mike eventually connected with Barry Macdonald, whose family owned the David P. Ehrlich shop where Mike smoked his first cigar. They decided to collaborate on a new line, aptly named the David P. Ehrlich Tremont in recognition of the shop. In 2018, they extended the line to include the David P. Ehrlich PLM series, which pays homage to Paul Leo Macdonald, a beloved man within the cigar industry who owned the David P. Ehrlich Tobacconist for 40 years. The Ehrlich line is made at Ernesto Perez Carrillo’s factory. 

Though he does not have a favorite leaf to work with, Mike strives to create great cigars that are each distinct, in an effort to make a cigar for every palate. He feels each cigar he makes should fill a slot in the portfolio and not be common to any other in the line. Currently he is very pleased with the San Andres Maduro leaf on David P. Ehrlich PLM Series. 

David P. Ehrlich PLM Series

If you asked Mike if the small boutique cigar company he started would be where it is today, he would say, yes and no. He wanted national exposure and expected hyper growth. He feels very fortunate that consumers and retail outlets have embraced his brand, but also notes that it is hard to keep momentum with distribution and to get quality cigar reps that help build brand awareness.

Now after 4 years in the market, MLB Cigar Ventures produces about 250,000 hand-rolled, premium cigars a year. You can find their products in over 300 shops that reach from as far west as Washington State to Texas, Florida, Atlanta, and New Orleans, to the Mid Atlantic, Maryland, New York, and New England.  MLB Cigar Ventures has its sights set on expansion to a Canada, Europe, and eventually Asia.  Hyperbolic indeed!

Boston Jimmie, Alexandria Kling, Mike Bellody

Facts about Mike Bellody

Mike has been married for 22 years and has 2 daughters and a son.  His daughters are 19 and 17 years old and his son is 15. For the past 18 years Mike and his family have lived in West Bridgewater, MA – a small community of about 7,000, about a 40 min drive, south of Boston.

Mike is New England sports fan that loves the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics. He is also a huge UConn Huskies basketball fan. During his limited free time, he enjoys golf, traveling, the beach, and boating.

Those that know Mike, understand he likes his bourbon whiskey and when asked what his favorite is, he will be quick to tell you – William Larue Weller served neat. If that is not available, he will choose from several easier to find bourbons like Angels Envy, Buffalo Trace, and Elijah Craig, among others.

Mike is a well-dressed cigar man, but he is not one to buy designer suits and jackets. Instead, he gets all his fine jackets and suits, custom tailored by James Regan, owner of Regan Clothiers in New Hampshire.  Mr. Regan is the same tailor that makes the NE Patriots Red Hall of Fame blazers

In closing, it should be noted, running a small boutique cigar business, like MLB Cigar Ventures, takes a toll on your personal life. Mike is no exception to this, as for many years he has coached youth sports and that gave him great fulfillment. Being on the road as much as he is, has forced him to retire from coaching after 15 years and that, he says, has been rough for him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *