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Cigars: At 24-Years Old Arturo Fuente Created His Brand in 1912

The Arturo Fuente cigar brand was born in 1912 in West Tampa, Florida. It was in that year that the brand was launched by a 24-year old Cuban émigré named Arturo Fuente as A. Fuente & Co. Fuente had come to the United States in 1902, leaving his hometown of Güines, Cuba in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. The original factory used by the company was a three story wooden building, one of nearly 200 cigar-making facilities in the city of Tampa alone. All of these manufacturers would import tobacco from nearby Cuba for production into finished cigars.


The company was incorporated in 1924, by which time A. Fuente & Co. had grown to the point that it employed 500 workers. However late in 1924 disaster struck the company and their building burned to the ground. Production of the brand was halted; it would not be until 1946, 22 years later, that production of the brand resumed. By the end of World War II Arturo Fuente had finally recovered from the catastrophic losses suffered in 1924 fire and the Great Depression had abated, making a return to cigar manufacturing again conceivable.


Fuente relaunched his brand “in the garage,” so to speak — adding a few rolling tables to the 160 square foot back porch of his home in Ybor City, Florida. Production was a family affair at the time of the 1946 restart, with Arturo and his wife rolling full-time, joined by a few other hired torcedores. Arturo’s sons — Carlos and Arturo, Jr. — were soon drafted into the enterprise, sweeping the floors and helping with the rolling after school.


Because the cigar business struggled during the 1940s and 1950s, Carlos, Sr. took a job as a baker to help make ends meet, while his wife worked full time in another factory while both moonlighted at Fuente. Throughout the 1950s Fuente remained exclusively a local Tampa brand, with the company’s entire production sold in that city on a cash-and-carry basis. Arturo Fuente, Sr. had originally envisioned passing the small family cigar business on to his eldest son, Arturo, Junior, but it was his younger son Carlos that spent the most time working in the firm, so it was to him that it was offered in 1958. Carlos Fuente, Sr. bought the business from his father for exactly $1 — purchasing $1,161 in assets and zero debt. At the time the company made only a few thousand cigars a year.

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In the 1970s contacts were made between Carlos Fuente, Sr. and a representative of the blossoming Nicaraguan cigar industry and the company soon moved its production to Estelí in the Northwestern part of that Central American country. Disaster again struck in 1979, however, when the Fuente factory was burned to the ground during the Nicaraguan Revolution.

With Nicaragua a total loss, Carlos Fuente, Sr. mortgaged his house to raise capital and his son Carlos, Jr. added whatever money he had available and the family moved to the Dominican Republic to begin anew. Carlos Fuente, Sr. later recalled the decision to build inventory investing all their profits and learning that aged tobacco is the most important thing that you can have. In September 1980 Tabacalera A. Fuente opened a 12,000 square foot factory in Santiago Dominican Republic.


The company scored its first success of its “Dominican Period” in the middle 1980s with the launch of the medium-bodied Hemingways line — an attempt to break new ground in the market through the use of special shapes. At the end of the 1980s the company began to grow its own tobacco on a substantial scale for the first time, investing in roads and curing barns. The company even took on the challenge of growing its own wrapper leaf — the most difficult and risky component of a cigar to produce.

As of 2010, Carlos Fuente, Sr. and his son Carlos Fuente, Jr. oversaw an operation which produced more than 30 million cigars per year.


Fuente Cigar Brands

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