Disaster relief organizations are working overtime to provide assistance to those affected by Hurricane Irma, the largest hurricane to hit Florida in over a decade. Much of the U.S. cigar industry is based in cities like Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, and the effects of the storm on friends and neighbors has inspired two companies—boutique cigarmaker EPC Cigar Co. and the much larger Tabacalera USA—to make significant contributions to the ongoing relief effort.
The Miami-based EPC Cigar Co., owned and operated by the Perez-Carrillo family, announced Monday plans to donate 10 percent of its proceeds from cigar sales this week to the American Red Cross. The boutique manufacturer of the popular E.P. Carrillo brand hopes to raise money to help those in need, but also wants to spread awareness, showing other small businesses that they too can make a difference.
"We hope other small businesses, as many already have, join in this great effort," Lissette Perez-Carrillo of EPC Cigar Co. told Cigar Aficionado.
The company lay in the path of Hurricane Irma, which moved past the Dominican Republic on September 7 and made landfall in Florida three days later, causing widespread damage throughout the state. The company's Tabacalera La Alianza in Santiago, Dominican Republic, was closed for one day, while the Miami offices lost power for close to three days, causing shipping complications.
"It was challenging because we had to get the labels for shipping printed off site then go back to get them packed," said Perez-Carrillo. "But it was nothing compared to what others have had to go through."
The proceeds from EPC Cigar Co.'s sales will also go towards victims of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas in late August and devastated the Houston area.
Contributions to both hurricane relief efforts were also made by Tabacalera USA, the premium cigar division of global tobacco giant Imperial Brands PLC. Together with ITG Brands, the Imperial-owned companies donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey-related assistance. The company will also contribute an additional $50,000 to the Red Cross in support of Irma victims.
"We know that the American Red Cross is working around the clock helping those in need, and we are pleased to provide financial support," said Javier Estades, head of premium cigar operations, in a statement.
Tabacalera USA runs Fort Lauderdale-based Altadis U.S.A., the largest producer and distributor of premium cigars in the U.S., including high-profile cigar brands such as the Dominican-made Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta. Tabacalera USA also has several Casa de Montecristo retail locations throughout the south Florida area.