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Recollections

These friends of Cigar Aficionado were there at the beginning in 1992, and they are still working with cigars today.
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012

(continued from page 5)

Sherwin Seltzer

Sherwin Seltzer entered the cigar industry in 1957, when virtually every cigar smoked in America was green. “When I got in the business, everything was candela,” says the longtime marketing man for Villazon & Co., the makers of Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars in Honduras, a company that’s now part of Swedish Match AB. “In New York, there used to be a store on every corner, these luncheon stores that sold sandwiches, sodas and egg creams, and had big humidors in the back.” Seltzer, who retired late last year, worked through the days of the Cuban embargo, when manufacturers had to change their blends, but nothing in his experience compared with the way cigar sales soared in the early 1990s. “In the boom, we went crazy. There wasn’t enough tobacco, so we ran out of cigars,” he says. “We couldn’t keep up, we just couldn’t keep up.” —D.S.

Joel Sherman

“The market [two decades ago] was dominated by the major players. There was little in terms of brand differentiation and only a few smaller players existed,” says Joel Sherman, president of New York City’s landmark Nat Sherman Tobacconist, who started working at his father’s shop in 1956 and joined full time in 1962. “But I remember when Marvin [Shanken] came to me with the idea of Cigar Aficionado. Over the years, we have not always seen eye-to-eye but in terms of this one, the timing and idea was brilliant. People wanted to learn more about premium cigars, they wanted to be educated about the history, and wanted to learn about the people who cultivated this passion. Cigar Aficionado quickly became the credible resource for consumers as well as those employed in the industry to keep their fingers on the pulse of its development.” —G.M.

Diana Silvius Gits

Twenty years ago, there were few female cigar retailers. Even now the tobacconist industry is predominantly male, but shop owner Diana Silvius Gits had been in cigars for decades by 1992. She recalls the sorry state of the market before then and the dire prospects for her own Up Down Cigars in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. “It was difficult at that time,” she says. “We didn’t know if we’d be around for much longer. The cigar market wasn’t very built up and things weren’t stable or secure.” Over the years, her store developed a following, but there were no major sources of cigar information for Silvius Gits’s customers. “We finally got a magazine source full of accurate cigar information and actual facts. You could use it as a reference, and personally, Cigar Aficionado justified everything I was doing. The industry wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without it.” —G.M.

Alberto Turrent

The patriarch of Mexico’s largest tobacco grower, Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos S.A. de C.V. recalls the simplicity of the market in 1992. By that time Alberto Turrent was growing quality dark Mexican tobacco for the premium industry, but the company also had its own Te-Amo brand—a wallet-friendly cigar with most of its following in the New York City area. “It was a very stable time and smokers were loyal to their brands,” explains Turrent. “Taxes weren’t high and there wasn’t much consolidation. There were big companies and small companies.” The 113-year-old concern is vertically integrated, controlling both the fields and the factory. Before 1992, sales were steady without any dramatic increases or decreases in demand. After the spark of the boom, Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos soon doubled its growing operation, going from 2,000 acres of binder, wrapper and filler tobacco to 4,000 acres in the San Andrés Valley of Mexico. —G.M.

Avo Uvezian

Pianist and brand owner Avo Uvezian points to an emphasis on cigar education as one of the great changes in the past two decades. He remains, even at age 86, a tireless promoter of his namesake brand, touring the world in a signature cream-colored suit and hat, all the while playing jazz standards. His brand, made at the Tabadom factory by Hendrik Kelner in the Dominican Republic, debuted in 1987 and was sold to Davidoff in 1995. “As maker and owner of my brand, I was traveling quite a bit, promoting cigar smoking and being an ambassador for the industry,” says Uvezian. “In 1992 my business was solid and growing. But Cigar Aficionado pioneered the mainstream education process. The more knowledge consumers possessed about the products, the more likely they would become cigar advocates. It was the beginning of the boom years for the cigar business and I knew I was in the right industry.” —G.M.


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