The History of Arturo Fuente Cigars offers readers a brief look into the introduction and influence of one of the most influential names in the cigar industry.
The History of Arturo Fuente Cigars
Arturo Fuente, born November 8, 1887, left his hometown of Güines, Cuba in 1902 in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. In 1912, year 24-year-old Cuban émigré Arturo launched A. Fuente & Company in West Tampa, Florida. At that time the original three-story wood cigar factory was one of approximately 200 cigar-making facilities in the city of Tampa. The companies imported their tobacco from Cuba to craft their cigars.
In 1924 the expanding A. Fuente & Co. was incorporated and employed nearly 500 employees. However, late in 1924 tragedy struck and the factory burned to the ground. It wouldn’t be till 1946, after the Great Depression, that cigar production would resume at the company.
Arturo Fuente, Sr. had originally envisioned passing the small family cigar business on to his eldest son, Arturo, Jr., yet it was his younger son Carlos that spent the most time working for the company. In 1958 Carlos Fuente, Sr. bought the business for $1.00. Seeking the company to venture into and grow in new markets, including New York City, Carlos saw slow growth due to brand loyal customers.
Before the 1962 United States Embargo on Cuba, cigars in America were typically made of imported Cuban tobacco. The importing of the prized Cuban tobacco finally ceased and caused cigar manufacturers to change their blends. Carlos Fuente, Sr. later recalled:
"In the old days, people were very brand true. Brand loyal. ... I feel the embargo put everybody level. People had to shop around to find a different taste that they liked."
Fuente began sourcing tobaccos from Puerto Rico and Colombia hoping to appeal to cigar smokers who became accustomed to the classic Habano flavors. Due to increasing labor costs in America and a lack of experienced rollers, Fuente made an attempt to move production to Puerto Rico and Mexico. However, the quality of the factories was not satisfactory.
In the 1970s, another effort was made to move the company to the cigar booming area of Estelí, Nicaragua, located in the Northwestern part of the country in that region of Central America. But once again, in 1979, disaster struck when the Fuente’s Nicaraguan factory was burned to the ground during the Revolution in the country.
Carlos Fuente, Sr. remortgaged his home and his son, Carlos, Jr., contributed what he could afford to move the family business to the Dominican Republic. On that decision Carlos Fuente, Sr. recalled:
"When I first started in the Dominican, all our profit, we stuck it back. All our profit was always invested in tobacco. And aged tobacco is the most important thing that you can have. We always had a lot of aged tobacco. And as we started aging more and more, we started doing better.”
Tabacalera A. Fuente opened a 12,000 square foot factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic in September 1980. With the success of Fuente’s Hemingway line, the company began to see growth and eventually started to farm their own tobacco leaf in the Dominican Republic. This led Fuente to grow their own wrapper leaf.
Upon its release in 1995, Fuente Fuente Opus X revolutionized the Dominican cigar industry. Few in the cigar industry believed the Dominican Republic could grow quality wrapper tobacco, but the Fuentes planted Cuban seeds, grew them under shade, and ended up with beautiful, premium product.
Aside from their signature brand, including the Fuente Fuente Opus X and Hemingway line, Arturo Fuente manufactures cigars for Ashton. A brand which was established in 1985 by Robert Levin in Philadelphia. Fuente also makes some of the cigars sold by the J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Tampa, FL.
As of 2010, Carlos Fuente, Sr. and his son Carlos Fuente, Jr. oversaw Tabacalera A. Fuente producing over 30 million cigars annually. At the age of 81 Carlos Fuente, Sr. died August 5, 2016, in Tampa. In 2016, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the City of Tampa gave a Proclamation making November 19, 2016, Carlos Arturo Fuente, Sr. Day. He was a giant in the industry and shall forever be remembered as such.
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