From Cuba to Cowtown and Everywhere Else

Reata founder Al Micallef is getting ready to launch his cigar business nationwide.

Most people come to Reata for chicken fried steaks and rib eyes, but anyone who’s waited for a table at the popular downtown Fort Worth restaurant may have noticed something curious in the lobby – a glass case of Cuban cigars marked with the name “Micallef.”

Yes, Micallef. As in the Micallef family that runs Reata. Alongside keeping the restaurant in order, Reata founder Al Micallef is also building up a cigar business called Micallef Cigars, selling the product at Reata, Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge and online. The company launched about two years ago and has sold about 2,000 units in Fort Worth so far, Micallef said.

This year, Micallef is looking to expand the company nationwide, sending out a Mercedes van to tour the country and introduce his cigars to other states.

He says he wants the business to get big – but not too big.

“The goal is, I want this to be a large boutique company,” he said. “But I don’t want to sacrifice quality for size.”

Micallef owns the company along with the family that makes the cigars, the Gomez Sanchez family, who came to the U.S. from Cuba. He said he ran into them at Silver Leaf, where they were rolling cigars for free. Liking the quality of the cigars, Micallef brought up the idea of turning the family’s work into a business, and they agreed.

“The growth and everything that is happening so quick, it’s amazing,” family representative Mario Palacios said. “It would’ve taken us years to acquire what we have done in the past year with Al.”

Micallef sells seven types of cigars. One of them is named the Micallef Reata, after the restaurant. Another is the Micallef Reserva, which was given a 92 rating by Cigar Snob magazine.

Micallef said he understands the health risks associated with smoking. Mayo Clinic, for example, discourages any form of tobacco use, but Micallef stands by cigars over cigarettes, saying cigars are less harmful because they don’t have additives.

“Cigars are not cigarettes,” he said. “It should be clearly noted that when you’re smoking a cigar, you’re smoking 100 percent tobacco. Most of the issues with cigarettes are all the additives.”

Even with the cigar venture, Micallef said his cigars aren’t taking the place of anything at Reata. “I don’t need another job,” he says – chicken fried steaks and rib eyes keep him busy enough as is. He does, however, see Micallef Cigars as his way of helping the Gomez Sanchez family.

“I like this Cuban family,” he said. “I want to make them successful along with the business.”