THE FIRST LO­VE STAYS FOREVER IN OUR MINDS

IN DE­CEM­BER 1990, THE FIRST CA­SA DEL HA­BANO FRAN­CHI­SE CA­ME IN­TO BEING IN CAN­CUN, ME­XI­CO. THAT DE­VE­LOP­MENT OPE­NED UP NEW ROU­TES AS FAR AS GOOD SMO­KING IS CON­CER­NED

Habanos - - History - BY / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS NEWSROOM

De­cem­ber 1, 1990 mar­ked a sin­gu­lar mo­ment in the his­tory of Ha­ba­nos, S.A. On that da­te the first fran­chi­se of La Ca­sa del Ha­bano (LCDH) was born in Can­cun, Me­xi­co. This ope­ned up new rou­tes in terms of good smo­king, and ga­ve ri­se to an in­no­va­ti­ve con­cept by ex­clu­si­vely mar­ke­ting the best to­bac­co in the world.

The­se ex­clu­si­ve hou­ses are ap­proa­ching their 30th an­ni­ver­sary, th­ree de­ca­des in which they ha­ve pi­led up over 150 sto­res in al­most 60 coun­tries. Ho­we­ver, Can­cun will al­ways trea­su­re the en­via­ble pri­vi­le­ge of ha­ving star­ted a his­tory that speaks of tra­di­tions, of the ge­nui­nely Cu­ban and that has ser­ved to pla­ce, in all its glory, the lar­gest of the An­ti­lles on the map of the world.

Max Gut­mann, its foun­der, says that for him it was an ho­nor to see how a pro­ject initia­ted by two Me­xi­can ci­gar lo­vers was trans­for­med from a dream in­to a reality on a glo­bal le­vel.

His story with the best to­bac­co in the world be­gan 40 years ago when he first tas­ted a Par­ta­gás Lu­si­ta­nia Do­ble Co­ro­na, then he tas­ted a Ho­yo de Mon­te­rrey Epi­cu­re 2, with which he lear­ned to tas­te to­bac­co. His tas­te was gro­wing: "Luc­kily I had a friend, Ro­dol­fo Ve­las­co, who was cons­tantly tra­ve­ling to Cu­ba and I as­ked him to bring me a box of Ha­ba­nos, then 2, un­til one day he ga­ve me the com­ple­te ca­ta­lo­gue of Cu­ba­ta­ba­co and I went crazy; I wan­ted a box of each pro­duct. "When I had about 20 bo­xes, I ma­de my­self a very rus­tic hu­mi­dor.

"In view of the lack of Ha­ba­nos in Me­xi­co and my pas­sion for them, I pro­po­sed to Ro­dol­fo to ma­ke a pro­ject to­get­her and we ca­lled it La Ca­sa del Ha­bano, a small pla­ce in di­men­sion, but big in con­tent. We had to work very hard to open a sto­re in a fo­reign country, whe­re only Cu­ban pro­ducts would be sold. The pro­ject was ap­pro­ved and on De­cem­ber 1st the first Ca­sa del Ha­bano was born."

Gut­mann -a pas­sio­na­te fan of the Par­ta­gás Do­ble Co­ro­na 1/20re­mem­bers that af­ter inau­gu­ra­ting that hou­se, he re­cei­ved a call from the then pre­si­dent of Cu­ba­ta­ba­co, Eng. Fran­cis­co Pa­drón, who as­ked him to en­dor­se the Ca­sa del Ha­bano brand to that Cu­ban com­pany, sin­ce they wan­ted to open sto­res all over the world. "Af­ter thin­king about it, I ac­cep­ted their re­quest, with the con­di­tion that I ne­ver for­got that I was the first, be­cau­se the first lo­ve is ne­ver for­got­ten", says the bu­si­ness­man.

For his part, Ro­dol­fo Ve­las­co re­co­unts that, on his first vi­sit to Ha­va­na in 1984, he had the op­por­tu­nity to meet Ar­tu­ro Men­do­za, the De­puty Di­rec­tor of Cu­ba­ta­ba­co at the ti­me, with whom he es­ta­blis­hed a good re­la­tions­hip. "In 1986, a com­pany be­gan to be set up in Can­cún - be­cau­se the Me­xi­can aut­ho­ri­ties could allow it - to sell Ha­ba­nos in the free zone of the Sta­te of Quin­ta­na Roo. At that ti­me, Fran­cis­co Pa­drón as­ked me to think of an initia­ti­ve with the ima­ge of ex­clu­si­vity and ele­gan­ce of Ha­ba­nos. I thought of doing so­met­hing si­mi­lar to a hu­ge per­fu­me sto­re whe­re you can tas­te and smell the dif­fe­rent essences. I hi­red my friend Ar­chi­tect Jo­se Luis Ma­cias to do a pro­ject for a to­bac­co sto­re and he built the mo­del and de­sig­ned the Ha­bano leaf that is cu­rrently used," he ex­plains.

Ve­las­co, who pre­fers the Par­ta­gás Lu­si­ta­nias, says that the then pre­si­dent of Cu­ba­ta­ba­co as­ked him to look for a part­ner to in­vest in the pro­ject: "My friend and part­ner Max Gut­mann was in­ter­es­ted in par­ti­ci­pa­ting and on De­cem­ber 1st 1990 the First Ha­bano Hou­se in the world was inau­gu­ra­ted. La­ter, in 1993, we in­te­gra­ted the com­pa­nies of Can­cun and Me­xi­co and for­med, with the help of Cu­ba­ta­ba­co, the first Ha­ba­nos Dis­tri­bu­tors­hip".

Ve­las­co adds that in 1991, du­ring a vi­sit by Pa­drón to Me­xi­co, the lat­ter as­ked him to pre­sent the de­signs to the ar­chi­tect be­cau­se he wan­ted him to do­na­te them to Cu­ba­ta­ba­co: "I wit­nes­sed in a res­tau­rant in Po­lan­co, Me­xi­co City, the mo­ment when Ma­cías ga­ve him the dra­wings, sket­ches, blue­prints and everyt­hing re­la­ted to the de­sign of the pro­ject".

Of the great­ness of the first Ca­sa del Ha­bano, the words of Da­vid Tour­ge­man, the cu­rrent ow­ner, a man who fully de­fends the good ima­ge of a fran­chi­se with so much his­tory.

A lo­ver of the Mon­te­cris­to brand, Vi­to­la Ro­bus­to as­su­res that "ci­gars are an art, they ha­ve a na­tu­ral pro­cess, ma­de en­ti­rely by hand, which ma­kes them ma­gi­cal pro­ducts".

For him it is "so­met­hing very po­si­ti­ve and trans­cen­den­tal to be able to see a little pie­ce of Cu­ba in our country. Be­si­des, it is a pri­de to find the best of the Ha­ba­nos in any of the­se Hou­ses in the world".

Suc­cess is a word that is al­ways re­pea­ted when tal­king about LCDH fran­chi­ses, and he, as an ex­pe­rien­ced bu­si­ness­man, un­ders­tands that the triumphs ha­ve co­me from the hand of con­ti­nuous work, initia­ted at the ti­me by men li­ke Max Gut­mann and Ro­dol­fo Ve­las­co, and that he has ta­ken it upon him­self to strengt­hen.

Des­cri­bing his per­so­nal ex­pe­rien­ce in ma­na­ging such ex­clu­si­ve spa­ces as the­se, he as­su­res us that the most im­por­tant thing is the know­led­ge of the pro­duct, and that work of al­most per­fec­tion is sup­por­ted by pre­fe­ren­tial treat­ment. "That per­so­na­li­zed per­for­man­ce allows each client to ta­ke with them a plea­sant ex­pe­rien­ce, and gua­ran­tees that they re­turn to our world."

Tour­ge­man, who­se cha­llen­ges fo­cus on con­ti­nuing to ex­pand his know­led­ge of the ci­gar world and at­tract mo­re friends, did not es­ca­pe the com­ple­xi­ties. Achie­ving re­cog­ni­tion and buil­ding a pres­ti­gious ima­ge un­doub­tedly in­vol­ved a lot of ef­fort and sa­cri­fi­ce, with high to­bac­co ta­xes being one of the big­gest cha­llen­ges he has co­ped with. But the con­se­cra­tion has bor­ne fruit. "Main­tai­ning the high stan­dards of ser­vi­ce and ex­clu­si­vity of our pro­ducts is my as­pi­ra­tion. If I had to ma­ke a ba­lan­ce, it would be sa­tis­fac­tory, be­cau­se I ha­ve re­la­ted to great per­so­na­li­ties of the Ha­va­na world, with whom I ha­ve lear­ned and that has allo­wed me to trans­mit my know­led­ge and ex­pe­rien­ces", he af­firms.

LCDH in Can­cún shows that dreams co­me true and that hard work is the key to great achie­ve­ments. The peo­ple who co­me to this hou­se re­cei­ve not only ca­re­ful at­ten­tion, but al­so find the best ex­clu­si­ve se­lec­tion of Ha­ba­nos, ac­com­pa­nied by a good cof­fee and the best Cu­ban rum. It is an in­va­lua­ble op­por­tu­nity to get to know an im­por­tant part of the his­tory of the Ha­ba­nos and to en­joy the­se ge­nui­ne je­wels of Cu­ba in Me­xi­co.

PHO­TOS / COURTESY OF THE INTERVIEWE­ES

Max Gut­mann and Ro­dol­fo Ve­las­co, foun­ders of the first La Ca­sa del Ha­bano.

Da­vid Tour­ge­man, the cu­rrent ow­ner.

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