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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 17)

CA: How were the Fuentes able to do something that nobody before them was able to do to the point that nobody believed it possible?

Quesada: I would say, to their credit, that they were intent on doing it. I would say that they dedicated resources, both human and economic, to it and they were successful.

CA: But there had to be something else, too--the microclimate, the farmer planting the crops, something. What was it?

Quesada: The area where the wrapper is being grown by the Fuentes has been successfully grown by General for years for their candela wrapper. León Jimenes also grew some wrapper there, probably in the late '60s. In general, the leaves were spotted because of the humidity in the area. The Olivas were running that farm for years, but from the United States. The Fuentes, being in Dominican Republic, were closer to managing the farm. That helped make it successful.

CA: So, it was the hands-on approach?

Quesada: Yes, yes.

CA: Is it now pretty much acknowledged that the Dominican Republic is capable of producing a competitive quality wrapper?

Quesada: I would say so. Yes, sir.

CA: Everybody has a different point of view and I'm sure that you have spent many, many, many hours thinking about when the embargo ends. How do you think that will affect your business, a), and b), how do you think it will affect the cigar aficionado?

Quesada: We have to look at it hypothetically. If the embargo is lifted tomorrow morning, for the sake of argument, and Cuban cigars immediately begin to come from Havana, from Cuba, wherever, in the next 24 hours, it will affect everybody's business outside of Cuba because consumers will want to try the Cuban product. Initially, there will be a surge towards buying Cuban product instead of our product. That will settle down and I think we will be able to live with the Cubans and they will be able to become another cigar taste, another cigar in the market. They will live with the Dominicans, the Hondurans, the Mexicans, the Nicaraguans, and they will be just another cigar on the market down the road.

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