An Interview with Litto Gomez and Ines Lorenzo-Gomez
Owners, La Flor Dominicana
From the Print Edition:
Laurence Fishburne, Jan/Feb 00
La Flor Dominicana burst on the scene in the middle of the 1990s cigar boom. Known first as Los Libertadores, the brand was met with the same skepticism that most of the other new brands encountered, both in the marketplace and among industry old-timers. But something changed very quickly.
The attitudes of the owners, the husband-and-wife team of Litto Gomez and Ines Lorenzo-Gomez, were clear from the start: they wanted to learn about the business and about cigars. Instead of copying the behavior of some of the newcomers, which might charitably be called arrogant, Gomez and Lorenzo-Gomez buckled down, spending time with some of the wisest people in the cigar business. They moved carefully, growing slowly and methodically as they acquired more expertise, better tobacco inventories and, finally, their own factory.
Today, La Flor Dominicana is considered the strongest of the new brands to hit the market in the past seven years. Gomez and Lorenzo-Gomez have remained focused on their original strategy--slow growth with improving quality--and they have garnered a loyal following among consumers and retailers.
Last October, they spoke with Cigar Aficionado's executive editor, Gordon Mott, at the magazine's New York City offices.
Cigar Aficionado: La Flor Dominicana is always mentioned as one of the success stories among the brands created during the boom. Why have you been successful?
Gomez: That is a good question. We didn't set out to do something differently than anybody else. It was just that we had a set of rules that we wanted to use in order to protect the brand and develop it over a period of 15 to 20 years. We didn't have economic goals. Today, we're still not even close to where we want to take the brand.
But name recognition is not something that happens over four or five years. It takes a lot more time than that. So, we made decisions that were designed just to protect that brand and make it respectable in the market. All of our efforts have been toward making a better product next year than we have made the year before.
How can we learn? That was our first question, since we are not people who have a long background in the industry. How do we learn something new every day, every week, in order to make ourselves better? Me, at my end, at the factory. Ines, at her end, dealing with customer service and the distribution part of the business. Everything was designed to improve our brand. All of our worries, every week and in our meetings over a cup of coffee or whatever, we talk about how can we do this better than we have done it the month before or the day before or the week before. There are no financial discussions, only about how to work better.
We asked ourselves questions like, do we sell the product to everybody that wants to buy cigars or do we keep it to a certain section of the market? Those are decisions where the consequence is that we sell a little bit less product than if we had given the product to everyone in the industry. Doing it the way we do it, we keep the brand only in respectable cigar dealers or cigar retailers as opposed to giving it to everybody that wants to sell cigars. Over a long period of time that kept us in a very safe and prestigious position in the market. Very small, but every year we have a very steady, small growth over the year before. Even given all the changes in the industry right now, we are still selling more cigars this year than we sold the year before.
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