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Fathers and Sons, Part 1

The cigar industry owes much of its creativity and longevity to the unique partnerships between father-and-son cigarmakers
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Camilo Villegas, July/August 2006

(continued from page 3)

"Back then we had a cigar that wasn't lighting the world on fire," says Tim of the Honduran smokes. "One box would be green, the other brown." As with many companies having cigars made under contract during the cigar boom, C.A.O. had consistency problems.

The Ozgeners built on that early cigar experience. "We don't come from a cigar background. We had to learn the hard way [and] we learned from the best," says Cano.

Key to their success was making themselves the face of their brands and turning their name into one that smokers recognized. "We stumbled into the family aspect for C.A.O.," says Cano. Chicago retailer Diana Silvius-Gits told them they should push the family angle, and the Ozgeners three now adorn the ads for C.A.O.

The ads are not typical. Devoid of factory or field shots, the only cigars shown are being smoked by the family members, and no one stands around tobacco bales. The Ozgeners are the focus, and they look hip. In one ad, Tim, who has a shaved dome and a grizzly goatee, is scowling over a C.A.O. that he is setting alight, his father smirking by his side, his 34-year-old sister decked out in Goth-style makeup. In another, the three are wearing leather jackets.

"I give a lot of credit to my son and daughter, who sometimes kick me in the shin to wake me up and take me in directions I wouldn't always go," says Cano.

One route Tim got his father to follow was making the C.A.O. Brazilia, which Tim says "was probably the breakthrough in our relationship." The cigar broke a few cigar industry rules: first, it employed green as a part of the label, which has long been frowned upon, and it trumpeted the Brazilian wrapper on the cigar, which was hardly a selling point. "My dad [prefers] to be safe," says Tim.

"I have to have an open mind, and follow the artist rather than the engineer," says Cano, speaking in the slow, deliberate tones of a man who practices yoga on a daily basis. "Our demographic is younger. I liked [Brazilia] very much. I wouldn't have thought of it myself."

"He comes from a young perspective," Cano says of his son. "I respect that. Fifty percent of the time we don't agree, but when we come to a consensus we are 100 percent together."

CESAR AND DAVID BLANCO

Cesar and David Blanco began selling their Los Blancos cigars brand at the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show in 1999. It was the start of the post-cigar-boom world, not the easiest time to enter the cigar business, but the Blancos had some connections: family members had married into the Plasencia and Oliva tobacco-growing families. The Blancos entered a difficult business with what they thought was a winning product. Then, the world changed.


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