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An Interview With Pedro Martín

Pedro Martín, the founder and owner of Tropical Tobacco.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 7)

CA: Did the owners of Ashton pull their brand from Tabadom when Davidoff came in? Or had they left before that?
Martín: Before. They had had problems with Kelner. We [Tabadom] had a big fight with the Ashton people. But I was a minority stockholder and I couldn't do anything for [Ashton owner] Robbie Levin, and he knows that.

CA: How many cigars were you making in the Dominican Republic at Tabadom, and how many were you importing in total to the United States?
Martín: I used to buy about a million and a half cigars out of their production of 2 million, and I was importing about 2 million or so because I used to buy from Honduras and the Canary Islands, too.

CA: In 1989 you were aware the cigars that you were getting from Tabadom had begun to deteriorate in quality. What did you do and where did you go?
Martín: In the beginning I didn't do anything much. I just started making brands in Honduras because I had confidence in the people there. I could work with the people there better than at Tabadom. I started making V Centennial in Honduras and Don Juan in Nicaragua.

CA: Both of those brands were released prior to 1992, right?
Martín: Don Juan in 1988 and V Centennial came out in 1992.

CA: Was Don Juan a direct response to what happened at Tabadom? Did you decide to go to Nicaragua and start making the cigar there?
Martín: Yes. And, the same thing was true about V Centennial. I had gotten the idea for V Centennial in 1988.

CA: Who made Don Juan in Nicaragua at that point?
Martín: It was made by Nestor Plasencia in Ocotal. And V Centennial was made in Honduras by Plasencia also. I was there and had control of the tobacco. He didn't have the tobacco. I bought the tobacco and put it into the factory, and they used my blend in my cigar. I had a lot of control in the beginning.

CA: Many manufacturers started out with one or two brands. But you created five. What was your thinking, what strategy did you have? Why did you create five brands instead of just one or two?
Martín: The United States was a different cigar market than today. At that time, I figured out that if I had more brands, I had more chance to enter the market, to get on the shelves at retailers. The cigars came in different price levels, but mostly middle or lower price.

CA: But V Centennial was a premium-priced cigar.
Martín: From the beginning. When I created V Centennial in 1992, I was thinking of selling maybe 100,000 cigars. And the first year I sold 250,000. And in the second year I sold over a half a million, so that was a brand that exceeded my expectations.

CA: If you sold half a million in 1993, how many did you sell in 1994?
Martín: In 1994 and 1995 I could not sell that many more because I did not make that many more. I could have sold millions in 1995 and 1996.

CA: How many are you making and selling today?
Martín: In 1997, we sold over a million Don Juan and more than 600,000 V Centennial. In 1998 I have not made the figure yet, but I know it's going to go down about 40 percent. Not because of the quality but because of the market.


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