100 plus years of cigars and success
WE LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF ARTURO FUENTE, FROM THEIR HUMBLE BEGINNINGS IN CUBA TO PRODUCING MORE THAN 40 MILLION CIGARS A YEAR
WHEN A. FUENTE & COMPANY was founded in 1912, Arturo Fuente would never have dreamed that his passion for cigars would become a global benchmark for the cigar industry. But now, more than a century later, the company remain one of the leading lights in the tobacco industry thanks to their passion and expertise.
Arturo started his company with humble beginnings, rolling and blending cigars in the back of his house with his wife Cristina and two sons, Carlos and Arturo Oscar. Four generations later, the company is still family owned and operated in the Dominican Republic. From the very beginning, the focus of making a Fuente cigar was quality; quality tobacco, quality craftsmanship, and taking the time necessary to make a truly remarkable cigar.
“We don’t hurry things; we just do things the way they are supposed to be done,” said Carlos Fuente Sr.
That burning passion for making sure every product is produced to the highest
detail has been passed down by generation to generation. It also ensures that the Fuente family will continue to make the world’s finest cigars for centuries to come.
That desire for perfection was first embodied by Arturo who was born in the province of La Habana, Cuba in 1887. In 1906, Arturo moved to Key West, Florida, a beautiful location where Cuban immigrants, including his own siblings, had already laid the seeds for a thriving cigar industry. This industry grew to the north when another immigrant from Cuba, the Spaniard Vicente Martinez-ybor,left Key West and founded the now world-famous cigar town, Ybor City. This became a highly cultural community that attracted many Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants in search of the American Dream.
It was here that Arturo would meet his wife Doña Hilda and then, at the age of just 24, begin his own cigar company. Located in West Tampa, all the cigars produced by A. Fuente & Company were handmade with Cuban tobacco. Before long the company was becoming hugely successful, and within ten years of opening was already employing 500 people. However, tragedy would strike in 1924 when the factory burned down while Arturo was in Cuba buying tobacco. Arturo spent the next 22 years working as a general manager to repay debts owed from the losses caused by the fire.
During this time Arturo would also divorce his first wife, but, there was a change in fortunes ahead. After marrying Cristina Trujillo, the duo soon welcomed their first child, Arturo Oscar Fuente, and then a second Carlos Arturo Fuente, and before long Arturo Sr was making cigars again.
The family would continue their love affair for cigars with Carlos going on to work at the prestigious Cuesta-rey factory learning how to roll cigars and making extra money to help support the family. Carlos,with no sales experience, took many risks by opening new accounts all over Florida. He also began to sell cigars on credit which was unheard of at the time. These risks paid off, and within the next ten years, Carlos had established distributors in both Miami and Manhattan. This was a critical step in creating brand awareness for the Arturo Fuente label and expanding the availability of Arturo Fuente cigars.
As Carlos’s responsibilities at the cigar factory began to increase, and with less assistance from his father, people began to view Carlos as the head of the company. Arturo Fuente was now eligible for Social Security at age 68, and decided it was time to retire. Since Arturo Oscar had a well paying job in the peanut business, Carlos Fuente was asked to run the factory by his father in 1956. The only way Carlos would accept the offer was if he purchased his brothers share of the company, since Arturo Oscar was not as active in the family business at the time.
Carlos Arturo Fuente bought the company from Arturo Oscar Fuente for one dollar, and became sole owner of A. Fuente & Company. By the 60’s the
“From the beginning, the focus of making a Fuente cigar was quality; quality tobacco, quality craftsmanship, and taking the time necessary to make a truly remarkable cigar.”
business was thriving once more with more than 100 staff and a two-storey building to their family name. After relations between America and Cuba soured, Carlos bought as many Cuban tobacco bails as he could and produced a three-year supply of Cuban tobacco. With other companies going out of business, the Fuente’s were thriving. By the time his stock ran out the Arturo Fuente name was well recognised in the industry and cigar smokers trusted the quality and craftsmanship of their products. So when a first non-cuban tobacco release arrived in 1966, the public responded positively.
Throughout the following decades Carlos would experiment with growing tobacco in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua, while a factory was also opened in the Dominican Republic. However, it was in Nicaragua that the business flourished, with 18,000 cigars produced on a daily basis during the 1970’s. It was also during this decade that Arturo Fuente passed away at the age of 85. His sad passing would go on to inspire the creation of the of the Flor Fina 8-5-8.
A rebellion in Nicaragua and a fire in Honduras would once again dent the business, but the factory in the Dominican Republic was flourishing. This is where the famous Hemingway series was created, a unique figurado shape that was the first in the industry at the time. This cigar line was soon nicknamed “fancy tails” in the industry. Fuente continued to grow and expand and by 1997 were producing over 40 million cigars a year. There were still setbacks such as when Hurricane George destroyed 17 out of 19 Tobacco Barns, but by 2012 the company were able to celebrate 100 years of hard work and family tradition.
They also recently celebrated their 20th anniversary of Arturo Fuente’s flagship Opus X brand. Having successfully fought a legal battle in 1996 over the use of the word ‘Opus’, the Fuente family have continued to release this perfectly constructed, full bodied Dominican cigar every year. The Fuente Fuente Opusx 20 Years Celebration featured new, blue packaging and a special ornate box.
Available in four sizes: Believe (5 3/4 x 52), Father & Son (6 1/4 x 49), God’s Whisper (6 1/2 x 56) and Power of a Dream (6 3/8 x 52), the cigar uses a lighter Dominican wrapper and has once again proven to be hugely successful among aficionados.
Having survived financial difficulties, lived through civil wars and seen their factories destroyed by natural disasters, Arturo Fuente have never had it easy. But after 105 years they are still producing cigars of exceptional quality and long may it continue.
“The Fuente’s burning passion for making sure every product is produced to the highest detail has been passed down by generation to generation.”