Carlos Fuente Jr. has become one of the most recognizable people in the cigar business. While at the helm of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., he has seen the company rise to one of the preeminent positions in the industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98
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Fuente:That's absolutely correct. And there were many, many factories. I remember you couldn't find a room at a hotel. That's why my father said it reminded him of the cowboy movies.
CA: How many rollers do you have today?
Fuente:Today we have over a thousand rollers. Close to 1,100.
CA: In the last two years, since this new group came aboard, how many rollers did you lose?
Fuente:We lost between two hundred and three hundred rollers.
CA: That you had trained?
Fuente:That we had trained. Some of them had been with us for many years. Most of them were our most experienced, older rollers, because a roller from our factory could go with someone and build a factory. My father had trained them and they were very, very good.
CA: Have you taken the rollers back from the now-defunct factories?
Fuente:We did, in the very beginning, take back the ones that never caused any serious problems. They were very good. They made a mistake. But we realized the most trusted of our rollers who returned were not as good as they were when they left, because they picked up a lot of bad habits. It took us a couple of months and a couple of dozen rollers before we realized that. They had been working with someone who wanted quantity, not quality. And we realized that we had to explore another direction.
What we did, and this is why Factory No. 4 came about, is that we brought in young men and women who had an education. That was possible because during that time when cigarmakers were fighting over and hiring away rollers, wages increased drastically. Just like what was happening to tobacco prices and everything else, we had three, four and five wage increases a year. During that time, the cigarmaker was making a lot of money. So it really brought the pay of cigarmakers to a very high level. We realized that with what a cigarmaker was earning, we could be very selective with the people that we would hire. So we went to the university, we went to the local churches and community centers, and we interviewed people there. We used a marketing group from the university to bring in people that would have a future in the cigar industry, people with an education. And they were young men and women who had never even seen a leaf of tobacco and never worked with it. After a year of this process, we realized that the best cigarmakers were not the ones that had been with us for 12 years. They were the new ones that we were teaching. This was the future. After that, we did not hire back any of the other cigarmakers, and that's what we've been doing ever since.
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