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Cigar Aficionado's Hall of Fame

Six men who dedicated their lives to building the cigar industry -- and improving the cigars we smoke
CA Staff
From the Print Edition:
10th Anniversary Issue, Nov/Dec 02

(continued from page 1)

In 1929 Davidoff returned to Geneva and opened his own shop, which was unique in Europe for its cigar cellar. His trademark charm won him a loyal and elite clientele. He established the Davidoff brand in 1969, and in 1970 he sold his shop and brand to Swiss importer Oettinger Imex A.G. Davidoff and Oettinger increased the brand's worldwide presence and expanded into other luxury products. Davidoff acted as a sort of eminence gris, helping develop the Dominican Davidoff when production was moved there in 1990.

When Davidoff died in January 1994, the cigar industry lost a passionate champion.

"The cigar has been my life," he wrote in his 1967 book, The Connoisseur's Book of the Cigar. "I owe it everything: my pleasures and my anguish, the joys of my work as well as the pleasant leisure hours it affords, and, if I have acquired over the course of the years some bit of philosophical perspective, it is to the cigar that I am in debt."

CARLOS FUENTE SR.

Chairman, Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., Santiago, D.R.

Carlos Fuente Sr. drawing portrait
He speaks softly, sparingly, a gravel-voiced man who doesn't need to shout to command respect. Carlos Fuente Sr., 67, sits atop a cigar empire. Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., which his father, Arturo, created in 1912 and he now runs, makes more than 40 million cigars each year, but the Fuente path to fortune was paved with razor blades. Fires destroyed factories in Ybor City, Nicaragua and Honduras, and in 1980, Fuente Sr. relocated to the Dominican Republic.

Fuente mortgaged his home and cashed in on his retirement savings to start up in Santiago, which had yet to blossom into the cigar capital it is today. "I got a loan," he says. "I didn't even know when I'd be able to pay it." He had all of seven workers when he opened his doors in the Santiago free trade zone. At night, he and his family lived in a small home without air conditioning, a telephone or running water, and his car was a Datsun 120 Wide, one of the cheapest automobiles on the market.

Today, Tabacalera A. Fuente is one of the world's largest cigar companies and enjoys widespread demand for its cigars, especially its Fuente Fuente OpusX brand. Today, Fuente Sr. can drive anything he wants, but he still owns that Datsun. "I will never sell it," he says.

FRANK LLANEZA

Former Co-Owner, Villazon & Co., Tampa, Florida


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