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Mariana and Nestor Miranda, Miami Cigar & Co.

In seven years, Mariana and Nestor Miranda have turned Miami Cigar & Co. into a force in cigar distribution.
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 1)

It was a rough beginning. The Mirandas would put in countless hours in the business, sometimes working seven days a week. Mariana served as an account executive, but she also handled the billing and accounts receivable, and worked in the mail room, packaging and shipping cigars to the retailers. Nestor, still employed at Southern Wines & Spirits, usually helped at nights and on weekends. Danny worked part-time. Most of the work was conducted at their small office in the Calle Ocho section of Miami.

I would leave the house at about eight o'clock. I would go to all the liquor stores with Campa, only selling La Aurora, and I didn't come back until all the liquor stores got the product, Mariana says. I had a little answering service that I would get. When I would get to the office at about one o'clock, I would take all the messages, go to the warehouse, make the packages and send them.

Mariana worked with Campa until the end of 1989, when she decided to launch Miami Cigar. That same year, the Mirandas were approached by a representative for Don Lino cigars. The Honduran cigar maker was searching for a U.S. distributor, and the Mirandas, looking to establish their business, saw an opportunity. They acquired the rights and began selling Don Lino in the United States.

I really worked with Don Lino on the streets, trying to distribute them at all the different restaurants and tobacco shops, Mariana says. At that time, cigars were not that popular. But I always did pretty good, always had good sales. Nestor was in the company whenever he could help me.

On Saturdays, Nestor and Mariana would leave their home early in the morning, load their car with boxes of Don Lino cigars and travel from Miami to Naples, Florida, and all points in between, selling cigars to restaurants and tobacco shops. Their goal was to sell $1,000 worth of Don Lino cigars every Saturday; often they wouldn't return home until they reached that goal.

The cigar sales weren't very high, but we worked very hard, Mariana says. In the beginning it was very hard; some weeks I couldn't draw a single penny out of the business. I had to build it little by little.

The hard work eventually paid off. In its first year, Miami Cigar sold 100,000 Don Lino cigars. Several years later, at the 1993 convention of the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, Miami Cigar introduced the Don Lino Habana Reserve, a Honduran cigar with a Connecticut shade wrapper and Honduran filler and binder. It was an instant success. The firm followed with a new Don Lino in 1994, the Colorado, another Honduran cigar, with a colorado wrapper. It also has been well received. In 1995, the orders for all Don Lino cigars exceeded 2 million.

The Don Lino lines continue to grow through name recognition and placement in tobacco shops throughout the United States, such as De La Concha Tobacconists in New York City, which was Miami Cigar's first tobacco shop client, and its initial step beyond Florida.

We were approached by Lionel [Melendi] of De La Concha, Nestor recalls. He came to Miami and talked to my wife and said he really liked our cigars and would really like to sell them in New York. So that was our first bridge from Miami to the big market. Every month he was ordering 10 or 15 boxes.

We have a very good relationship with them, says Melendi, De La Concha's owner and president. They are a very hardworking couple, with a lot of unique ideas for promotion and distribution. They follow through on all of their promises.

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