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An Interview with Stanford Newman

Chairman, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., Tampa, Florida, the owners of Cuesta-Rey and Diamond Crown cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Claudia Schiffer, Jul/Aug 97

(continued from page 3)

CA: OK, so up until around 1960, was there such a thing as a premium market segment like there is today? Were there expensive cigars? Were there cigars made from a much higher quality tobacco that would differentiate them in terms of quality and/or price?
Newman: The cigars that were made in large volume were 26 cent cigars, which had been 25 cents up until about 1954 or 1955. The 26 cents stayed through the embargo. You couldn't get 27 cents because people wouldn't pay 27 cents for a cigar.

CA: Was there a premium industry?
Newman: Some of the factoriesæCuesta-Rey, Gold Labelæmade some higher-priced premium cigars for 35 cents. There were very few cigars that were made in Tampa that were over 35 cents because there was no market.

CA: Is Tampa the one area of the country that made the cigars?
Newman: That was the only area that made Clear Havana cigars, except for one factory in New Jersey that was run by the American Tobacco Company in Newark that did Clear Havana, too.

CA: So, in the 1950s and in the early '60s, what brands would you say were the premium cigars of that period?
Newman: As I said, Gold Label had some sizes and Bering did, too. They were a little bit more than the 26 cents, but I would say 90 percent of the cigars sold were sold for 26 cents or below. There were a lot of cigars that sold for 10 cents. They were made of the by-products from the factories. They were made of the short filler and they were made by machine. But in Tampa, they didn't make any machine cigars until about 1950 or 1952. It was all handmade.

CA: The embargo arrives, and 100 percent of the cigars in Tampa are made with Cuban tobacco. What happened to the cigar industry there?
Newman: In the beginning, we thought that the embargo would only last for about six months. We didn't believe that the U.S. government would keep an embargo. But when we started to run out of Cuban tobacco after two or three years, many of the factories wanted to sell their businesses because they couldn't get any more Cuban tobacco. Gold Label was sold to General, Bering was eventually sold to Swisher, and Perfecto Garcia was sold to United States Tobacco.

CA: Does that mean those factories stopped making cigars for a while, or did they get tobacco from other places?
Newman: They tried to get tobacco from other places. We got tobacco, mostly wrappers, from Cameroon in 1962. But the price went up from $7 to $14 [a pound]. Nobody in Tampa or in the United States wanted to pay that much, because in Cuba they only paid $6 or $7 [a pound] for tobacco.

CA: Was this the first time the Cameroon wrappers were brought in?
Newman: That's right. There was no reason to use Cameroon tobacco when you could get Cuban tobacco. We used the top grades of Cameroon, because I thought that if we had something of quality, we could keep our market. It was not exactly a substitute. It had a different taste, but it was a very, very fine wrapper.

CA: Who went out to find the Cameroon wrapper?
Newman: Cameroon wrappers were being sold in Europe to the European manufacturers at that time. They started an inscription, actually an auction. Inscription is something where you put in sealed bids, but it's really an auction. They started that in about 1954 or '55.

CA: Where did the binder and filler tobacco come from?
Newman: The binders came from Connecticut, and we also got wrappers from Connecticut. The filler started coming in from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and some from Honduras. But what really changed the business in Tampa so rapidly was that Cuban cigar manufacturers after the embargo went to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. They also started selling cigars in New York and California and Detroit and Cleveland and other places, like Miami. They made cigars larger than we did in Tampa and charged less money than manufacturers in Tampa could. And, you couldn't change the size of the machines in Tampa. Cigars started to be made, too, in Santiago, the Dominican Republic.

CA: What about taste and quality?
Newman: The quality was good because a lot of these people coming from Cuba had a good taste for tobacco, and they started to grow Cuban-seed tobacco in the Dominican Republic. Now, the Dominican Republic had the soil that was very similar, especially around Santiago, to Cuban soil.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

Clifford Brown — independence, ky, usa,  —  May 14, 2013 3:47pm ET

That is a truly amazing article!

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