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Fathers and Sons, Part 1

The cigar industry owes much of its creativity and longevity to the unique partnerships between father-and-son cigarmakers
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Camilo Villegas, July/August 2006

(continued from page 9)

Jorge worked on expanding Padrón and, in 1993, took his family's cigars to the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show for the first time. He found that his cigars' low cost and dark appearance were a detriment. Padrón cigars weren't an early hit, not until the 1994 release of the superpremium Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series. Since then, the only real problem has been making enough cigars to meet the demand.

For most of its 42-year-history, Padrón Cigars Inc. was run out of a cramped building on Miami's West Flagler Street, which served as its headquarters, the packing and shipping operations, and a small retail shop. The staff sat at desks crowded in the main room. Much of the staff is family, including Jorge's mother, Flory, his sisters, Lisette Padrón-Martinez and Elizabeth, his nephew Marcos Soto, and his cousin, Rodolfo Padrón, known as Crazy Rudy, for the time he picked up a bomb left at the headquarters.

Two years ago, the family relocated to a much larger headquarters around the corner. Space here is abundant: Josè Orlando has a large, corner office. Jorge and Orlando have spacious offices down the hall, but it's obvious from one look that they are rarely used. In Orlando's office, items sit in boxes, still unpacked.

Old habits and familial bonds are hard to break. The Padróns spend most of their time in the shipping area, near one another, or in Josè Orlando's office, talking, reminiscing and laughing. On this day, Jorge and his father are sitting in the chairman's office, smoking short Padrón Serie 1926 No. 35 cigars and arguing over Josè Orlando's complicated plan to restock owners of the Padrón Millennium humidor. Jorge thinks it's a bad idea. It takes more than an hour (plus the advice of two visitors and a call to a trusted cigar retailer) to convince him otherwise. Then it's time to discuss Josè Orlando's upcoming 80th birthday, and a cigar that will be made to commemorate the occasion. How about an eight-inch cigar? Josè Orlando scrunches his face. He doesn't like cigars that long.

The arguing is light hearted, sprinkled with good-natured ribbing. Jorge can't help but smile repeatedly, and gives as good as he gets.

"I did the same thing with my children as my father did with me in Cuba," says Josè Orlando. "I always hoped Jorge would get into the business. He was never disconnected from the business. In the back of my mind, I always knew he would end up here.

"I feel, in a way, lucky, and in a way very excited," he says. "Many of the people who were tobacco growers in Cuba, their sons went in different directions, away from the tobacco." He takes a puff, and pauses. "I've always been very persistent in maintaining the tradition, and passed it on."

Click here to read part 2 of "Father and Sons"

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