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Litto's Twist of Fate

How Litto Gomez's La Flor Dominicana was spawned from disaster—and other things you probably didn't know about one of the industry's hottest brands.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 3)

For La Flor the process started in 2002 and came piecemeal, as it added one salesperson at a time, beginning in Texas, where sales were slim. Today the company has five salespeople and only one broker, as well as a national sales manager.

Last year's soaring increase in production came without adding many workers—Gomez pushed the number of hours they worked, a good short-term fix but not a practical long-term solution. Gomez has 66 cigarmakers working now, and intends to have 80 by around midyear. "That will be the full capacity of the rolling room," he says. Over the summer, he'll have the rollers begin working Saturdays as well. Between the longer hours and the additional workers, his production will rise to nearly 4 million cigars.

He doesn't want to get much bigger. "By the end of this year, we will be as big as we want to be," he says with a puff of his cigar. "This is where we feel comfortable, without having to delegate too much—that's the part I don't like. There comes a moment when you start delegating and it all becomes corporate. You lose touch."

Gomez has proven himself to his colleagues, and to critics and consumers as well. He flies each Monday or Tuesday to Santiago from his home in Miami, and flies home at the end of the week. Lorenzo-Gomez runs the distribution from the offices of Premium Imports Inc. in Coral Gables. "She runs the most difficult part of the company," Gomez says with admiration. "Her contribution to the company is what allows me to be here, thinking about cigars and creating. It's such peace of mind."

He takes another pull on his cigar and squints at the full curing barns across the dirt road. The air is momentarily still, and from far away the braying of El Jocko, who still roams nearby, can briefly be heard above the melodic song of the birds.

"I wouldn't change this for anything. Retirement is not in my plans. I never dreamed of having the amount of personal satisfaction that I've had," he says with his charismatic smile. "Our goal is to build brand loyalty and to be recognized as one of the great brands in the cigar world. And I think we still have a lot of work to do."

Photos by Betsy Hansen

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