Humboldt Fire: It’s How We Roll – March 10, 2011
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt Fire rolling papers hit the shelves in October of 2010, seducing Humboldtians with Pin-Up Girl charm in the form of a suggestive vixen riding a large, lit match across the easily assumed Humboldt sky.
Founder and Owner Brandi Winch said everyone from locavores to locals with a sense of pride bought them up as Christmas gifts, mailing cartons to friends out of the area.
“Our first shipment arrived October 1, 2010,” Winch said. “Between then and December 31, purely by word-of-mouth and one small black and white advert in Savage Henry Magazine, we sold more than $7,000 in papers alone just in Arcata and Eureka.”
Her marketing approach is vintage, enlisting two Humboldt Honeys in custom-made “Cigarette Girl” outfits complete with the giant match depicted on the packaging. The Humboldt Fire Girls’ slogan “Let me light your fire.”
Winch said 75 percent of local retailers bought the product upon first introduction. But it’s not just sexy packaging and Humboldt hotties keeping the smoking world loyal. Winch said Humboldt Fire papers are high quality and slow-burning, and just may bring Humboldt to the forefront of manufacturing and outsourcing in the U.S.
“I witnessed the repercussions of economic rugs being pulled out from [under] communities back in Michigan when the auto industry collapsed. If there’s a possibility of bringing back manufacturing to this country via Humboldt, I’d like to try.”
No papers are manufactured in the U.S. and Winch said her main sources are Spain, China, and the Netherlands.
“Our Spanish paper is the one I’m most excited about, as the quality will match that of the best selling brands on the market,” she said.
The popular “Raw” papers come from Spain, as do “Bamboo,” and a host of others. With a growth margin of three percent worldwide due to inflation and tobacco taxation, the profits are there to be made, and Winch said a Humboldt-based rolling paper manufacturing company could be cutting edge.
“I have a long term goal to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., preferably to Humboldt. It’s going to take a lot of community backing to make this happen,” she said, “but it is possible.”
Winch’s business is an outgrowth of the tobacco industry, with the first documented rolling papers being manufactured in China by Pay Pay company in 1703, as per RollingPaperDepot.com.
It’s also an industry covertly thriving in the company of cannabis, and Winch quickly changes topic to defend that elusive market.
“The power that big tobacco business has should not be overlooked,” she advised. “There is a lot of buzz and fear about this happening, and the potential damage to this economy from having that invisible rug pulled from underneath us is very real, in my opinion.”
After much research on the topic, Winch said she feels having a foothold in the tobacco industry, however small, is key.
“It’s going to take a lot of foresight, intelligence, hard work and ambition to protect Humboldt County, but I believe it’s worth the effort,” she added.
By way of giving back, Winch said Humboldt Fire donates one percent of its profits to the North Coast Resource Center.
Born and raised in Michigan by working parents, Winch followed her mother’s footsteps and began cleaning houses in high school, continuing the vocation while attending Humboldt State University.
Just four credits shy from a four-year degree, Winch said she was tired of housecleaning, realized there was a niche in rolling papers, then researched and planned for two years and made her move. School, she said, taught her to learn.
“I learn things as I need to,” she explained. “I read like crazy and pick people’s brains for information constantly. Other folks’ experiences are really helpful. That’s pretty much how I got to this point. I love my business, and love running it. I love Humboldt and intend to make it my home”
Humboldt Fire rolling papers can be found in markets throughout Humboldt County, San Francisco and Denver, Colorado. For more information, visit humboldt-fire.com, or call (707) 601-5800. They can also be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter.