Fam­ily mat­ters

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

Virtuozity - - Virtuozo -

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.

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