JOSÉ PADRÓN STRONG SENSE OF FAMILY HAS HELPED CONQUER ADVERSITY EVER SINCE HE FOUNDED WHAT IS NOW ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST CIGAR BRANDS
JOSÉ PADRÓN IS A giant of the cigar industry. The eponymous brand he founded in 1964 has grown to be one of the largest non-cuban manufacturers ever—producing top-quality cigars not only for the subbrands under Padrón’s control, but also for other brands looking to outsource production of high-quality blends.
But it hasn’t been an easy ride for Padrón, now in his nineties. The brand may be booming now, but it has had its fair share of ups and downs, thanks in no small part to the revolutions that have swept through many of the world’s best cigar-producing countries, creating political and economic unrest in their wake. You can read about the trials and tribulations that Padrón has overcome in our exclusive interview with the cigar industry stalwart on page 58, but what earns him status as this issue’s Virtuozo is the value that he places on family, and how that has guided him to the success that he enjoys today.
Cuban native Padrón entered the world of cigars at the age of six. His family were tobacco growers and he spent his early years growing up on the tobacco farm. And, having just started school, his job was to clean all of the seedbeds that were being planting for that year’s crop. Those early years taught Padrón the importance of working hard to provide for his family, and he soon found that, with a grandfather and father who had worked in the cigar industry, cigars were the best way that he could do that.
However, it wasn’t as simple as simply taking over the family business when the time come; the Cuban Revolution saw to that. Soon after the revolution, Padrón found himself in Miami, looking to start a new life for himself, and with a desire to carry on his family’s grand tradition of making top-quality cigars. This is where Padrón’s famous story of the little hammer comes in.
“In 1962, I arrived in Miami, an unknown city in a foreign land. I had to start from zero. At first, I received $60 monthly, as government aid given to Cuban refugees. I was 36 years old, strong, and in good health. Every time I cashed that cheque, I felt like a burden on the country that had taken me in,” he explains in the story.
“One day, Raul Fernandez, a friend who worked in the Cuban Refugee Office, asked if I had any carpentry skills. I said I did. He gave me a gift—a small hammer—which he asked me to put to good use. The hammer made me feel like I had the necessary tool to become self-sufficient and not depend
on a government hand-out. During the days, I worked as a gardener. At nights, I did carpentry with the hammer.
“My dream was to save enough money to open a factory to make great cigars, like the ones we used to smoke in Cuba. Through a lot of sacrifice and hard work, I managed to save $600—money I made working with the hammer. With that, I made my dream come true and opened Padrón Cigars in 1964. I still have the hammer as a reminder of how it all started. More than 50 years later. The hammer is still here and so is Padrón Cigars, the brand the hammer helped build.”
The rest, as they say, is history, but Padrón’s decisions along the way have always been guided by a strong sense of family and history. The brand’s much- acclaimed 1964 Anniversary line, for example, commemorated the company’s 30th anniversary. Then, eight years later, Padrón came out with the 1926 Serie, which com- memorated its founder’s 75th birthday. And more recently, Padrón released a new line of cigars named after Dámaso Padrón, the grandfather of company founder José. Dámaso began the family tradition of growing tobacco in Cuba, having left the Canary Islands in search of greener pastures, so it makes sense that his name is now featured on an entire line.
What’s more, Padrón’s children now hold senior positions in the company, meaning that Padrón Cigars really is a family business.
There’s no doubt that Padrón’s success has come thanks to the inspiration that his sense of family has given him. And while the world has shown Padrón plenty of adversity, he has faced it head-on by recognising and learning from his family’s history.