On Jan 26th, Carlito Fuente surprised those in attendance at Puro Sabor 2018 when he announced that “Carlito’s Back!” in Nicaragua. Having had a presence in the country in the 1970s, Arturo Fuente has returned to build a cigar factory in the heart of Esteli with the name “Gran Fabrica de Tabacos La Bella y La Bestia.” The concept of the colonial design, which is a tribute to Nicaragua, was created by Carlito and designed by Manny Iriarte. In addition, Carlito announced that Felix Mesa, an experienced tobacco man and owner of El Galan Cigars, will oversee operations at the new Fuente facility. Finally, Carlito shared his desire to bring to Nicaragua his United Nations-recognized Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, which has helped so many children in the Dominican Republic. Aside from Carlito, Felix and Manny, Liana Fuente was in attendance at the announcement representing the 4th generation of the Fuente family.
January 17, 2018 marked a historical moment for the oldest family in the Santiago Freezone, as the next generation was asked by Carlito Fuente to break ground at the exact location of the new Arturo Fuente Box Factory. This state of the art 69,000 square foot facility will be the home of many new and exciting projects.
NOVEMBER 16, 2016 | By Jack Bettridge Cigar Aficionado
“The Next Generation” seminar, from left: editor Gregory Mottola, Raquel Quesada of Quesada Cigars, Liana Fuente of Arturo Fuente, Tony Gomez of La Flor Dominicana and editor Andrew Nagy.
As in life, the one certainty of the cigar business is change. Tastes change, styles change, seed varietals change and, inevitably, so do the people who run the industry. If “The Next Generation” seminar held on Saturday at the Big Smoke Las Vegas is any indication, the cigar world is in good shape as it prepares for the changing of the guard.
Three scions, each heir to family cigar businesses, discussed what it was like to grow up under large presences in the industry with an eye towards replacing them in the future. Panelists included: Liana Fuente, creative marketing director at Arturo Fuente, the daughter to Carlos Fuente Jr.; Tony Gomez, vice president of La Flor Dominicana and son of Litto Gomez; and Raquel Quesada of Quesada Cigars, daughter of Manolo Quesada. Moderating were two members of Cigar Aficionado’s own next generation: senior editor Gregory Mottola and associate editor and website manager Andrew Nagy.
All the panelists related the hard work and weighty responsibility that goes with their positions. “I am very lucky to be here, to follow the tradition, to follow the passion,” said Quesada. “My family has been surrounded by history. Talk about big shoes to follow.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, certain perquisites go with being born into the cigar industry. Quesada spoke of growing up around the factory, playing hide-and-go-seek with her sister Patricia as a small child. As they grew older they held the estimable position of living in the only house in the neighborhood where smoking was allowed…cigars only, of course.
Fuente, whose great-grandfather Arturo founded the company and passed it to her grandfather Carlos Sr. and her father, Carlito, stressed the strong work ethic running through the family. “They wanted us to know what it was like to work,” she said. “There’s no nine-to-five in our business, but it’s sure as hell fun.”
For Gomez, the saturation in the cigar business didn’t start until he was a bit older than the two women. When he was in grade school, his father, who had run a jewelry business, abruptly left it to join an industry he had no background in. The younger Gomez pointed with pride to his father’s tenacity in sticking to his goals in the face of naysayers. “People said it was a crazy idea, but that’s what made him want to do it. He pulled off something that was impossible.”
Gomez, a talented musician, who once had ambitions of working in the film industry, added that he was never pressured to enter the family business. “My father wasn’t pushy about it. He wanted me to do whatever made me happy,” he said. “But when I thought about my future I realized this is a tremendous opportunity. I would be foolish to pass it up.”
When a family-owned business makes it for 100 years, it’s a big deal. For the Fuentes, it’s even bigger because the road has been neither smooth nor easy. In fact, the family has endured many a setback, only to come back stronger than before. Next spring, the Fuentes will celebrate their history, and now refer to 2013 as “year one” of their family’s second century in the cigar business.
The story begins in 1906 when 19-year-old Arturo Fuente left his home in Cuba for America. Like thousands of others, he arrived in Key West looking for opportunities in the wake of the Spanish-American War, which had left Cuba’s economy in shambles. He was soon rolling cigars in the area’s now-fading cigar operations… but he did not stay long.
The remote locale offered precious little real estate, and the constant threat of !re forced cigarmakers to look elsewhere after a devastating blaze swept Key West in 1886. Vicente Martinez Ybor finally settled in Tampa for its huge bay, proximity to the railroad, and favorable climate. There he created Ybor City, which would become one of America’s premier cigar-manufacturing areas.