Arturo Fuente was born on November 18th in Güines, at the time a municipality in the province of La Habana, Cuba. In 1906, Arturo moved to Key West, Florida, a beautiful location where Cuban immigrants, including his own siblings, already had 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. Located in Tampa, Florida, Ybor City became a highly cultural community that attracted many Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants in search of the American Dream. In 1910, at the age of 22 and married to Doña Hilda, Arturo was one of these immigrants who made the trek north from Key West and settled in Ybor City’s sister town, West Tampa.
In 1912, two years after Arturo Fuente came to the United States of America, Arturo founded A. Fuente & Company at 24 yrs of age. The company was located in West Tampa on 813 Francis Street. During this time, all the cigars produced by the Arturo Fuente Company were handmade with Cuban tobacco.
In 1922, the company was doing very well and reached it’s peak, employing 500 people. Then tragedy struck in 1924 when the factory burned down while Arturo was in Cuba buying tobacco. Not only was the factory declared a complete loss, Arturo also went through a divorce with Doña Hilda. Arturo spent the next 22 years working as a general manager to repay debts owed from the losses caused by the fire.
Image: 813 Francis Street, Tampa FL
Shortly after Arturo returned to Ybor City, he courted and married Cristina Trujillo. They made their first home together on the corner of 14th Street and 20th Avenue in Ybor City, Florida. Then in 1931, the Fuente family became a family of three with the birth of Arturo Oscar Fuente, Carlos and Cristina’s first child. Little did Arturo Sr. know, that in 1935 with the birth of their second son, Carlos Arturo Fuente, his dream of producing fine cigars would grow to become a global dynasty. By 1940, Arturo Sr. was making cigars with his family in the back of his home. Once Carlos and Arturo Oscar became school aged‚ their homework included rolling 50 cigars each, every day after school.
One day, while waiting at a red light, Carlos Arturo Fuente saw a young lady that would change his life forever. It was love at first sight and he could not get this young lady off his mind. Opportunity would strike again as he saw her at a local baseball game sitting on the bleachers. Amazed by her beauty, Carlos’s attention was so drawn to the young lady that he could not even recall who won the game that evening.
A third chance would arise while walking down the hall of Washington Junior High School, and he was not going to let it pass by. He asked for her name and with a coy response she said, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Carlos Arturo Fuente ultimately married Anna Lopez, and a year later their first son, Carlito, was born.
In the late 1950’s, Anna, Carlos’s wife, worked 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. Carlos 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.
In the early 1960’s, Carlos Fuente purchased a 2 story building in Ybor City on the corner of 18th Street and 17th Avenue in Ybor City. The main factory was on the first floor and Arturo Sr. and his wife Cristina lived on the second floor. In order to keep up with building repairs, high demand, and the lack of staff, Carlos worked past midnight, sleeping in the factory just to meet demand. After weeks of not seeing her husband, Anna packed-up her bags and the three kids and said, “If you cannot come home, we are coming to you.” She moved into the factory to work along side of him. The factory quickly grew and expansions were made. In one year, A. Fuente & Company saw employment double to nearly 100 people.
In the late fall of 1962, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, Carlos Arturo Fuente was in Cuba visiting family. He had heard several rumors about a possible trade embargo to be placed on the island by the United States and he decided immediately to buy as many Cuban tobacco bails he could find (at $250 per bail). Carlos purchased a three year supply of Cuban tobacco.
On October 14, 1962 President John F. Kennedy ordered the removal of Soviet missiles that had been delivered to Cuba. These were the early events which led to the United States Cuban embargo and caused major changes in the cigar industry.
While many companies were going out of business due to the Cuban embargo, the Fuente companies were thriving. Carlos had taken many risks and they had paid off. In 1965, he purchased The Charles the Great Building on 22nd Street in Ybor City to support the growth of the company.
People were offering thousands of dollars for the tobacco that Carlos had purchased in Cuba, but he declined their offers. He knew that he had bought the brand some time and planned to better position the company in the industry. When the Cuban tobacco ran out, Carlos had a game plan. In 1966, Flor de Orlando was released by A. Fuente & Company and was the first handmade cigar that did not include Cuban tobacco. By this time the Arturo Fuente name was well recognized in the industry and cigar smokers trusted the quality and craftsmanship of their products.
In the early 1970’s Carlos Fuente experimented with growing tobacco in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua. Carlos also worked to open a factory in the Dominican Republic, but the government made it very difficult. Referred by Angel Oliva Jr., Carlos went to Nicaragua and purchased an existing factory there. Three years into production the Nicaragua Factory employed 300 people and produced 18,000 cigars a day. Arturo Fuente passed away on February 11, 1973 at the age of 85 which inspired the creation of the Flor Fina 8-5-8 in 1975. Flor Fina 8-5-8 was created in memory of Arturo Fuente with his own special blend.
In 1978 the Sandinistas Liberation Front rebellion took over Nicaragua, clearing roads and burning down anything in their path including the Fuente factory. Carlos Fuente had to quickly leave Nicaragua to save his own life. The 1979, “Accidental” fire in Honduras caused the Fuente’s to lose a factory once again. During this time Carlos Fuente was able to survive producing cigars from the Ybor City location, but if nothing changed, the Fuente companies were going to face bankruptcy very soon.
January 3, 1980, Carlos met with the Oliva family to discuss a new venture in the Dominican Republic. That same year on September 4th, Carlos and his son Carlito, with their families at their side, opened Fuente LTD in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The following year the Hemingway series was first released.
The unique figurado shape was the first in the industry at the time, because it was a lost art and had not been seen since Cuba. This cigar line was soon nicknamed “fancy tails” in the industry. A few years later, in March 1984, Cigar Connoisseur Magazine wrote an article that featured Arturo Fuente’s Hemingway series, which helped to put the company on the global map.
With the Dominican Republic factories flourishing and with the Fuente family there to oversee their operations, the Ybor City location on 22nd Street remained open as a distribution facility only. Handmade cigars were no longer made in Tampa, Florida. In 1986 the Fuente family joined in a partnership with the Newman family. FANCO (Fuente and Newman Company), now called Fuente Newman, helped contribute to increased sales in the United States.
Attempting what never had been done before, Carlito overcame the challenges of growing Dominican wrapper and in 1992, “Project X from planet 9” was born. When Cigar Aficionado was first published in September 1992, the magazine brought a revival to the industry until the late 90’s called the cigar boom. This was the perfect time for the release of Fuente Fuente OpusX. In 1996, Mondovi Opus One sued the Fuente Family for trade infringement for using the word “Opus”. The Fuente Family fought a three year battle and won, “David beat Goliath”! Everyone, wanted to get their hands on this rare, perfectly constructed, full bodied Dominican cigar. In 1997, over 40 million cigars were produced.
August 25, 2011 – A fire burned down two large tobacco warehouses of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., the manufacturer of Fuente Fuente Opus X and Arturo Fuente cigars. The fire in Villa Gonzalez, near the company’s main offices in Santiago, Dominican Republic, completely destroyed large inventories of aged tobacco and possibly caused smoke damage to some other nearby storage facilities.
February 2012 – Cigar Aficionado Features Carlos Fuente, Jr and Carlos Sr. on the front cover of the publication. This is the first time a Cigar Manufacturer Family was featured on the cover of the magazine.
In 2012, the Fuente companies celebrated 100 years of hard work, dedication and family tradition. When A. Fuente & Company was established in 1912, Arturo Fuente would have never dreamed his passion for cigars would become a global benchmark for the cigar industry. He 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.” Says Carlos Fuente Sr. 100 years later, a burning passion for cigars continues to inspire the Fuente family, as they pass down to their children the culture and traditions of Arturo Fuente. The Fuente family will continue to make the world’s finest cigars for generations to come.
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.
The Fuente and Newman families are pleased to announce that Fuente & Newman Premium Cigars Limited, Inc. will be renamed the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company effective January 22, 2018. Formed in 1990 as FANCO International before becoming Fuente & Newman in 1995, the company distributes Arturo Fuente cigars to premium cigar retailers throughout America. Only the company’s name is changing; its structure and operations will remain the same.
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.