Cigar Aficionado

50 Year Industry Veteran Sherwin Seltzer Retiring from General Cigar

Sherwin Seltzer, who has worked in the cigar business for more than 50 years, is retiring. Seltzer, the vice president of trade development for General Cigar Co., maker of Macanudo, Punch and various other brands, is stepping down on October 31.

"There comes a time when you have to stop and do something else. I've had a great run in this business but at this stage in my life, I want to devote my time to Iris, my wife of 51 years, and my children and grandchildren," said Seltzer, 76.

When Seltzer began selling cigars, premium smokes retailed for around a quarter. Throughout his long career Seltzer has sold a variety of fine cigars, beginning with Cubans. Hired by cigarette company Brown & Williamson Tobacco in 1957, a year after he graduated college, Seltzer soon took a job with Faber, Coe and Gregg, a major importer of Cuban cigars into the United States, where he soon got the nickname "the kid," because he was working with people 20 and 30 years his senior.

"That company was considered to be the Tiffany's of the cigar business in those days," Seltzer told Cigar Insider in 1998, in a story about the old days of the cigar business. "They had Hoyo de Monterrey, they had Punch, they had Belinda, they owned Rey del Mundo, they had [Por] Larrañaga, Partagas. And their real strength was that they were also the franchise distributors in New York for La Corona and Antonio y Cleopatra. If you were a retailer and you bought those brands, you had to come to them."

Seltzer moved to Nat Sherman in 1978, and in 1980 he joined Villazon & Co., the company behind the Honduran Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey brands. He never left. Seltzer worked with owners Daniel Blumenthal and Frank Llaneza and was soon promoted to vice president of sales and marketing. The company, which had a penchant for making fuller-flavored cigars, did especially well in the days following the Cuban embargo. "One of the reasons that Villazon grew," said Seltzer in the Cigar Insider interview, "was the fact they had Cuban tobacco, and stretched it out over the years in a brand called Bances."

General Cigar acquired Villazon in 1996, and Seltzer became part of General, concentrating on sales and trade development. He called the acquisition "a turning point in my career."

In a statement, Seltzer said he was retiring "knowing that [General] will continue to be the best in the business."

Said Dan Carr, president of General: "Sherwin is one of those people you meet in life and never forget. He has a great sense of humor and always makes people feel at ease. Because of this, he made great contributions to General Cigar, particularly in developing relationships with our trade partners and in acting as a mentor to people in all areas of the business. While we will all miss working with Sherwin, we consider him family and look forward to hearing about his adventures during retirement."

"he looks like larry tate out of bewitched !" —September 22, 2011 03:21 AM
"Sherwin Seltzer is one of the great leaders in the cigar industry. He has been a great friend and source of inspiration. I will truly miss him!" —September 22, 2011 00:34 AM