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.
Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. president of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Compania, surveys his family's tobacco fields with a watchful and knowledgeable eye, His skill is one honed from 43 years spent as the grandson of family patriarch, Arturo Fuente.
With a dozen thatched drying houses as a backdrop. Fuente makes his way through the fields with master grower Danilo Mocada at his side. Exercising passion and experience. Carlito tenderly inspects a leaf, and smiles. Together, he and his long-time grower, whom Carlos Fuente Sr. himself brought from Nicaragua to oversee the family's Dominican growing operations, carefully examine the plants, ensuring that each has
grown to earn its place in a Fuente cigar.
“In order to really understand this business, one needs to touch the tobacco, walk around and sense the vibrations." Fuente says, his voice is filled with conviction and sincerity. “There is a culture and history that comes with cigars." He pauses for a moment “It is my life," he continues, not minimizing the claim.