Interview: Frank Llaneza of Villazon

A discussion with the president of Villazon & Co., makers of Hoyo de Monterrey and Punch.

(continued from page 6)

We're having a bit of a hard time since the cigar boom has subsided because it's getting now that you have to go out and sell your product. Before, the salesmen were sitting around with their fax machines and here come the orders, and they sent the orders out. That was their work. Now, they have to get up and see the customers and see that the cigars are displayed, and go back closer to what it was. But we've got much more of a chance because there are more smokers out there. I go to some of these stores. I was in Philadelphia, and I went to Robbie Levin's store, Holt's, and I was so happy to see people going in there and picking up cigars. Everybody was talking about the cigars. They have a lot of knowledge that they didn't have before. Cigar smoking before was: light the thing, and if it lit all right, OK; if it didn't, throw it away.

Today, customers come in and they want to know everything. They are knowledgeable. At Jim Bloom's Cigar Co. in Pittsburgh they had people from all walks of life, professionals and athletes, and all of them telling you what they found wrong with your cigar, or what they loved about it. It's a completely different atmosphere. Manufacturers have to respond to that and service it, and nurture the spirit that's out there. If we do, I'm hopeful that there will still be an industry 100 years from now as strong as it today.

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