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
(continued from page 12)
CA: What percentage of your thousand rollers are men versus women?
Fuente:The majority of the rollers are men.
CA: Have the rollers gotten younger on average?
Fuente:The average age has definitely gotten younger. Most of the rollers which we've hired in the last three years, during these employee crises, were between the ages of 20 to 24. We hired very young people because it's important to train them when they're young.
CA: How long is the training period?
Fuente:The training period is a minimum of a year. But actually for a cigarmaker to really excel, it's like anything else: it takes time. There are people that are born with it and have skills; there are some people that in six to eight months you can see it in their hands, just like someone who's never taken a music lesson and can play a musical instrument. But on average, it takes between one and two years. But for a cigarmaker to master the art of making cigars, it takes a minimum of several years more.
CA: Apart from the situation with the rollers during the "Gold Rush," as your father called it, the boom also played havoc with tobacco prices, which doubled or tripled during that period. Have the prices stabilized or come down?
Fuente:Because of supply and demand, tobacco prices over the past couple of years increased drastically. Recently, tobacco prices have stabilized, especially filler tobacco. Wrapper tobacco is still in very short supply. Wrapper crops have been tight the past couple of years, and with the best tobacco, there's still a problem. You know, there's tobacco, and there's Tobacco.
CA: How much have your wrapper tobacco costs increased?
Fuente:One of the classic tobaccos that we use, the Connecticut shade, may have cost five to seven dollars a pound eight years ago; today, the best quality can run to 44, 45 dollars per pound.
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