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An Interview with Jose Padrón

Chairman, Piloto Cigars Inc.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

(continued from page 6)

CA: Did you have a shop where somebody could just walk in and buy cigars?

Padrón: I sold my first cigar six months after I rented the space because of the problems with my license. I began with what was called El Cazador. It had a rounded head with short-fill tobacco. At that time, one of my first clients wanted a big black cigar with the curly head like the ones you would be able to get in Cuba. So we called it a fuma. Normally, it's what a roller would take home with them at night. The cigars we made during the day, I would go out to sell at night.

CA: What was the retail price of the cigar?

Padrón: Thirty cents. [laughter]

CA: If you were a grower, how did you know how to roll cigars?

Padrón: The important thing about cigars isn't in the rolling of it, but in the processing of it and in the curing of the tobacco. Throughout the history of the cigar industry, rollers have never been able to establish and maintain factories. Even the best rollers, the stars if you will, have failed when they tried to start factories. The important thing is to know how to make a good blend and cure the tobacco well.

CA: When and why did you shift from Connecticut broadleaf to the other tobacco that you started using?

Padrón: I could no longer find what I needed to supply the Cuban market in Miami. It's not that there wasn't enough broadleaf, seeing how no one really consumed broadleaf in the United States. But I really did put it through a lengthy process of curing it, and inventory was pretty tight. In 1967 a gentleman came looking for me, sent to Miami from Nicaragua by his boss to show me some samples, so that I could see the tobacco that they were growing. They wanted my opinion. They told me that someone had told them that their tobacco was no good. They were on their way to Europe to try to sell it. I told them that in Europe they weren't going to be able to sell this. I told them that when they returned they should come and see me, and I would go to Nicaragua to inspect the tobacco and the fields. I noticed immediately that the quality of the tobacco was very good. That's why I agreed to go there to see the farms. They took me to a place called Jalapa, in Nicaragua. That was before any foreigners were there in the tobacco industry. They had harvested some tobacco but not much, and they didn't have buyers for that. They didn't know what they were doing.

CA: You obviously liked what you saw.

Padrón: Oh, absolutely.

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