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 8)
Nestor Jr. is the only one of three adult siblings to work with his father. His older brother, Gustavo, is an interior designer and his older sister, Alina, is a dentist. (His younger brother, Josè Luis, is only 13. "Maybe my younger brother will join us. We need some help," Nestor Jr. says, showing the trademark Plasencia sense of humor.)
The elder Plasencia is a legend in the business. "Moving, moving, moving," is one of his favorite sayings, often uttered after clapping his hands for emphasis as he chugs from one spot to the next, showing off his remarkably broad business. He's admittedly antsy when standing still. "Frustrated," he says in one of his compact, brusque answers, when asked how he feels when he's not in motion. A workaholic, he does other business while his son answers questions during a joint interview. "It's part of my personality," Nestor Sr. says with a smile. "I don't stay in one place for too much time."
He churned out more than 30 million cigars a year during his busiest days of the cigar boom (most of them brands made under contract for other companies) and has always been a big grower of tobacco. In recent years, he switched from growing primarily filler tobacco to growing wrapper, which is much more profitable. He plants tobacco on the volcanic island of Ometepe, Nicaragua, in San Agustín, Honduras, as well as in the traditional areas of Central America.
The Plasencias are among the most successful tobacco men, but only 20 years ago business was quite poor. Nestor Sr.'s crops were regularly ravaged by blue mold, and without tobacco to sell he had a hard time making money. Plasencia likes to joke about a banker who financed his three businesses in the mid-1980s, a stressful job to say the least. "I went to look for the banker at the bank, and he wasn't there. He was in Houston, at the hospital, getting a triple bypass," says Plasencia. A month later, the tobacco grower paid a visit. "He said, 'Every bypass had a name,' and each name was one of my companies."
Business began to improve in 1990. "At that time, we started growing [tobacco] varieties that were more resistant to blue mold, and Swisher decided to [have us] make Bering and La Primadora in Honduras," says Nestor Sr. The cigar boom soon followed, and the Plasencias went from struggling to surging.
Nestor Jr. is a born-and-bred tobacco man, like his father. "I started working every holiday when I was a little kid, in the farms and factories," he says. Since he was seven years old, time off from school meant it was time to work with dad. In 1998, out of school, he joined his father full-time.
Nestor Jr. always knew this was the route he would take, even though his father never pushed him into the tobacco business. "One of the things my father always told us—you need to do what you like to be good. You have to put passion in it."
"It's a big example to follow," says the son of his father. "My dad is the guy I respect the most in the tobacco industry. Every day is a learning experience."
Fernando León + Guillermo León
More than a century ago, Eduardo León Jimenes began making cigars in the Dominican Republic. The firm he created in 1903 is the oldest cigarmaker in the Dominican Republic, and today its parent company, Empresas León Jimenes, has annual sales of more than $600 million. Empresas León Jimenes brews Presidente beer, owns a bank, makes cigarettes and rolls remarkable cigars. Eduardo's descendants carry on the cigar tradition.
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Robert Martin — Flushing, New York, Queens, — September 30, 2011 6:46pm ET
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