Marvin R. Shanken interviews the man behind Hoyo de Monterrey and Punch.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
(continued from page 1)
Blumenthal: In Tampa.
C.A.: I take it you had bought many bales of tobacco?
Blumenthal: Yes, we had a lot of Cuban tobacco. We made Flor de Palicio for Dunhill, but it didn't go over very well. Then Palicio came to see me about making Belinda. Somebody had made him an offer for the Belinda label. But he came to me because I had done him some favors. I told him that I would buy the Belinda label, but I couldn't pay him on the spot. I'd pay him a royalty of so much per thousand. He agreed to that, so we started to make Belinda. We sold it to quite a few stores. It started to sell well, but it wasn't great.
The next thing that happened was that Palicio discovered he was dying. He was a lovely man, and he was worried about his wife and his children. Up to that point, he hadn't wanted to sell Hoyo de Monterrey because every day he had thought they were going back to Cuba tomorrow. But he called me, and I went down to see him in Hialeah where we made a deal on Hoyo and Punch. He got out of his bed to sign the deal. We started to make Hoyo De Monterrey and Punch in 1965. Hoyo de Monterrey took off right away.
C.A.: Did you make the cigars initially in Tampa?
Blumenthal: We had a handmade factory in Tampa, and we had cigar makers making the cigars in Tampa. But the rollers were pretty old. Since we had been working with Angel Oliva to supply our tobacco, and since Frank [Llaneza] happens to be one of the greatest experts about tobacco in the business, we started talking about other places. We thought about opening a factory in Honduras. At the time, there were no big factories in Honduras.
C.A.: What made you decide to go to Honduras?
Blumenthal: Our cigar makers were dying out.
C.A.: Weren't there were other options, however, like the Canary Islands and Jamaica?
Blumenthal: The Canary Islands were impossible. The cost of making cigars there was very expensive at that time. They were made by machine and Tabacalera controlled everything there. On top of that, it was too far away.
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