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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 2)

The success of Don Lino didn't go unnoticed. In 1993, Nestor was approached by members of the Brugal family, a well-known rum producing family from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The Brugals helped introduce the Mirandas to the León Jimenes family. Nestor and Mariana flew to Santo Domingo and made a successful pitch for the U.S. distribution rights, outside of Florida, to León Jimenes and La Aurora cigars.

The Mirandas returned to Miami and soon established León Jimenes and La Aurora in the premium cigar market. They sold 135,000 cigars in their first year; they project sales of 1 million this year and 1.5 million in 1997.

From nothing we built León Jimenes as a premium cigar, Nestor says. They changed the wrapper from a Cameroon wrapper to a Connecticut wrapper. That is a big change for the consumer because they were accustomed to the Cameroon wrapper, so it was shocking. But by the same token, at that time Connecticut was coming along very well. Ever since then they have been improving the wrapper.

The problem was that La Aurora used to be discounted, says Daniel Miranda, the 26-year-old director of marketing. It didn't have any type of brand recognition. We have tried to bring it out into view a lot, to put it in the right places.

Since 1992 Miami Cigar also has distributed the Spanish-made Ducados, a machine-made dry cigar with a natural wrapper, with projected U.S. sales of 1.2 million cigars in 1996.

The Mirandas usually work 12- to 14-hour days, five days a week, and sometimes on the weekend as well. The burden has been eased somewhat since they expanded their staff to include several customer service representatives, an accountant, a sales representative and a few packaging personnel.

They have also enlarged their office space, recently moving into a 6,000-square-foot office, complete with a 28,000-cubic-foot humidor. The larger space will come in handy with their latest addition, U.S. Tobacco International brands Don Tomás and Astral. The Mirandas acquired the U.S. distribution rights (outside of California) in January 1996; they consider it their biggest coup yet.

In 1995, we were approached by the UST company; that was the beginning of Miami Cigar & Co. going to the big leagues, Nestor says. When we were approached by UST, we felt like we had reached cloud nine.

Don Tomás, which is made of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, is a well-established brand. Astral, which is also constructed of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco, has been well received since its launch in June 1995.

Just three years ago they had only one broker who conducted business in New York, the company's top region. Miami Cigar now employs about 20 brokers, who make sales calls to cigar shops around the country. But the Mirandas themselves are busier than ever.

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