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The First Family of Tobacco

For decades, the Oliva family of Tampa, Florida, has been supplying tobacco to many of the world's top makers of premium cigars.
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 4)

Oliva: Growing tobacco is instinct and common sense. The only secret is not to change what you know is good.

CA: So you believe your company's success is attributed to instinct, and not a specific seed or fertilizer or maybe product marketing?

Oliva: If you grow tobacco, you grow the best tobacco. When you process the leaf, you do it only one way--the way it should be done. This is common sense. There is a way a thing should be done, and that is how we do it.

CA: So when there's an increase in consumption, as we've witnessed over the past few years, you can't do anything to speed up the process without affecting the taste of the cigar?

Oliva: Like what?

CA: I don't know. Like picking the leaves a little early?

Oliva: [He makes a face.] Oliva Tobacco is over 60 years old. I believe this is because of honesty, loyalty and integrity. This is the way people want to be treated, and this is how we believe it should be. I am proud to say I have been successful in passing this to my children. How I built my past is how I build the future.

CA: In 1944, your brothers Martin and Marcellino joined the company. What happened from there?

Oliva: In 1945, I created a subsidiary company in Cuba with two close, talented and loyal friends, Miguel Foyo and Jose Manuel "Pepin" Gonzalez. This is when things took off for us.

CA: What was the name of the company, and why in Cuba?

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