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An Interview with Manuel Quesada

Owner, MATASA, makers of Fonseca, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta, Jose Benito, Cubita, Royal Dominicana, Credo and Casa Blanca cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 10)

Quesada: I would have wanted to have taken it three years ago to a level of sales that would have been triple or quadruple the number that I have today. And that is still my goal. I feel that the quality of the product is there. I think that it has a market. Unfortunately, I could not produce the cigars that I needed without hurting other brands that we manufacture or lowering the quality of the brand. Therefore, we have been keeping at the level that we spoke about earlier.

CA: Which relationship began first? Mike's, J.R. or Hollco-Rohr?

Quesada: Hollco-Rohr was the very first.

CA: How did it come to pass that you ended up manufacturing Romeo y Julieta?

Quesada: Mr. Wally Frank, who had purchased the Romeo y Julieta brand from the family here in New York, was looking for manufacturing facilities in three countries: Honduras, Mexico and Dominican Republic. I was approached by the Hollco-Rohr Co. and I interviewed with Mr. Frank. I told Mr. Frank that I thought it was a mistake to have a brand in three different countries. And if that was the case I didn't want to get involved in that project. To have two countries already would have been a difficult situation. Three countries, I was out of the project. It was finally kept down to two countries, Honduras and Dominican Republic, and eventually Honduras was discontinued and Dominican Republic stayed.

CA: And when was that?

Quesada: 1978. That's where the box factory also opened. The first boxes ever made in Dominican Republic by MATASA were Romeo y Julieta.

CA: And then which was next?

Quesada: J.R. [J.R. owner Rothman] was introduced to me by the Mendez family, the leaf dealers in Dominican Republic, and we have been making cigars for J.R. since 1982. And Oscar [Boruchin of Mike's Cigars] came on board in 1984 or 1985 and we started making cigars for Oscar.

CA: Let's talk for a minute about your new joint ventures. Could you explain what they are and how they work?

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