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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 6)

CA: And they were all Solo Aromas?
Martín: Mainly.

CA: What was the second brand that you started?
Martín: Maya.

CA: That was made in Honduras also?
Martín: Yes. Then we started Lempira and Casanova. Casanova was a great brand; we used to make it in the Canary Islands.

CA: Do you still own that brand?
Martín: Yes, but I took it out of the market. That was the result of what happened with Tabadom [the Dominican cigarmaker, formally known as Tabacos Dominicanos]. Tabadom was making the brand for me in the mid-1980s. When the Davidoff people came along [to Tabadom], they started getting the tobacco that we had been using in Casanova. They took it out of my cigar. I had to liquidate because there was not enough [quality tobacco for] my cigars.

At the time, I was selling about 40,000 Casanovas a month. We had started making the brand in the Canary Islands. Then one day, in the early 1980s, the suppliers raised the price 25 percent from one day to the next. And you know at that time if you tried to raise prices, it was a disaster. So, I took it out of the Canary Islands and we started making it with the same blend in the Dominican Republic at Tabadom. And in the beginning it was good. But in 1989 Tabadom changed the blend. They changed everything.

CA: Let's go back a second. So Tropical Tobacco starts in 1978. You developed Solo Aromas, Lempira, Maya, Cacique and Casanova. At that point, how many cigars did you import when all five brands were in production?
Martín: About 2 million.

CA: And they were made at Flor de Copan?
Martín: No. By that point, we were making them mainly at a factory in Danlí, Honduras, and a lot of them in the Dominican Republic, at Cotasa [Compania Tabacalera S.A.], which was owned by Tabacalera [the Dominican government tobacco concern]. We were making Cacique there. They also made a brand there called Villa Real. I had it on an exclusive basis in the United States. Then, in 1984, a group of people, including Hendrik Kelner, started Tabadom. And I was a partner in that factory. At that time I owned 10 percent. Everybody owned 10 percent. It was beautiful to me. But then they started issuing more stock. Davidoff ended up with the company. I still have my original stock.

CA: Did you produce all your brands at Tabadom?
Martín: I made some brands in Nicaragua. But I was with Tabadom from 1984 to 1989; six years, and I bought 70 percent of the factory's output.

CA: Wasn't Avo started at Tabadom in 1987? What other brands were made there?
Martín: Griffin, Avo, and we produced Cerdan also. And we produced Ashton in the beginning. When we first set up this factory in 1984, Kelner, who became president of the company, was not in the Dominican Republic. He stayed in Colombia for two years, working in a cigarette factory. We were doing the job ourselves, and we were doing fine.

CA: You started making the Ashton brand in 1986, is that right?
Martín: We started Ashton then. For two years, we made Ashton.

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