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
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.
Max Gutmann and Rodolfo Velasco, founders of the first La Casa del Habano.
David Tourgeman, the current owner.