Fathers and Sons, Part 2
The second part of our look at the important generational partnerships that define a large part of the cigar industry
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006
(continued from page 6)
|Bobby (left), Stanford and Eric Newman|
J.C. Newman Cigar Co. survived the post-1950s industry fallout that caused most of America's small cigar companies to close, consolidate or move offshore. While U.S. cigar factories are rare today, the firm, now headquartered in Tampa, still makes cigars by machine in the upper floors of its headquarters, as well as serving as the U.S. distribution arm for the cigars made by hand by Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., which include the Cuesta-Rey and Diamond Crown brands owned by the Newmans. Stanford works alongside his sons: Eric, 58, is the company president and Bobby, 55, is executive vice president.
Back in 1914, J.C. Newman was making successful brands such as the five-cent Judge Wright, and the company owned the largest cigar factory in Cleveland. In 1934, Stanford began working for his father as the downtown Cleveland salesman, and three years later he joined the company full-time. He had reservations.
"If I could have found a job working for any other place, I wouldn't have worked for him. It was much too difficult," says Stanford, sitting in his conference room in Tampa. "My father was short, and he had a Napoleonic complex. He wanted it his way."
When Stanford was a child, his father had a habit of bringing a cane to dinner and pounding it to keep order and when he wanted attention. As an adult, Stanford discovered that J.C. could be just as demanding at the office.
"He used to go at six in the morning to the post office and read the mail. And then he would write on the bottom of the letters how I should write back," said Stanford. "He thought I never grew up."
The examples of J.C. meddling with Stanford's authority at the company are legion. In 1948, Stanford came out with a five-cent cigar called Cameo Bouquet. He and his father made a sales call, resulting in a deal to move 500,000 of the cigars a week to one account. Stanford left the room, and J.C. told the buyer that he was raising the price of Cameo cigars by one cent. When Stanford returned, the buyer cancelled the order. Other prospective buyers followed suit when J.C. tried the same tactic. The surprise price hike ended up costing the company half the Cameo business.
Soon after, at a time when cigar-making machines were in short supply, Stanford purchased 10 or them, only to have his father trade them for some Puerto Rican tobacco while he was out of town. When packed, the tobacco curled, which made lumps in the cigars. To deal with the new tobacco, Stanford bought a conveyor belt and had workers straighten the tobacco and put it in large cases, rather than into piles. When he returned from another trip, the cases were gone; his father had ordered the tobacco unpacked and put back into piles, undoing Stanford's work.
In 1958, Julius died, leaving the company to Stanford, his younger son, Millard, and the Newman family. As the decades went on, the cigar market shrunk and the family business suffered, which resulted in tension within the family.
"We had 14 other relatives [in the business]. It was very difficult. The cigar industry was going down, and our sales were going down," says Bobby. "In 1985, Eric and I went to Dad and said either we've got to buy our relatives out or they have to buy us out."
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Robert Martin — Flushing, New York, Queens, — September 30, 2011 6:46pm ET
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