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Cigars: Nick Perdomo Jr. Honoring Tradition Using Innovation and Technology

“Building a Worldwide Brand”

Nick Perdomo Jr:
TABACALERA PERDOMO

Honoring Tradition Using Innovation and Technology

Nick Perdomo Jr. President and CEO of Tabacalera Perdomo sits down with SGDGmagazine to share what’s new, innovation, and his vision for the future of Perdomo Cigars.

You pour a glass of finely aged single malt whiskey, ready to relax, feeling that at the end of the day a job is well done, but not yet. When only the best will do for your reward, you open up the humidor and without question, you reach for a Perdomo Cigar. It doesn’t matter the blend because with Perdomo every cigar is made with the highest quality tobacco and handcrafted with the greatest of skill and passion for the leaf.

We had the incredible privilege of sitting down with Nick Perdomo Jr., father, husband, son, Founder, President and CEO of Perdomo Cigars, to discuss his historic and legendary rise in the tobacco industry. Nick and his team built a worldwide brand while honoring tradition using innovation and technology. Nick is a pioneer and a visionary in the cigar culture and has given SGDG Magazine the honor of sharing the journey of Perdomo Cigars, then, now, and the future, through his eyes.

Please enjoy the following interview:

SGDG:    Welcome to SGDG Magazine Nick. Thank you for spending time with me and for sharing the brilliance of Perdomo Cigars with our SGDG Family.

Nick: Thank you so much for having me. It is my honor to talk to you and share my passion which is Perdomo Cigars!

SGDG: Please allow me a moment to be just thrilled that I am speaking with you! Nick, you are a living legend to cigar Aficionados around the globe. I believe that I speak for myself, John, and our readers in saying that we are all deeply humbled and truly honored to be speaking with you. Thank you.

Nick: That is so kind of you Terri! I am so proud of our loyal employees worldwide. I am truly a blessed man.

SGDG:  Nick, your family history and its legacy is known to many and has been well documented in the historical bedrock of the cigar industry. The strength and perseverance of the Perdomo Family under the Cuban dictatorship and at the hands of a tyrant and terrorist is beyond extraordinary. You are an inspiration to people around the globe and I am very sorry for the suffering that you and your family have endured.

With that being said, I would like to take the focus of this conversation into the present and future of Perdomo Cigars.

Nick: Well Terri, it has been such a wonderful experience throughout these last 24 years. Starting out of a garage and following my father’s advice, he always told me that me that we live in the greatest country in the world and if you work hard enough, you can attain anything in life. My mom instilled in me the knowledge to always respect your customer and to always make a great product, because it takes 10 years to get a customer and 3 seconds to lose one. I will never forget that. I still love what I do now more than ever. The future for Perdomo cigars is sky high and we are one of the bestselling premium cigars in America. I am so proud to say that Perdomo cigars are taking off in Europe also. As my mom would say, quality always prevails! I am also so humbled to meet our customers and to hear of the enjoyment that they get from enjoying Perdomo cigars!

SGDG:    Let’s talk about the dream. Share with us how the dream of Perdomo Cigars became a reality?

Nick: I started out of my garage in Miami Lakes Florida in 1992. I sold 9,460 cigars my first year. You have to start somewhere. It was the start of our dream! Three years later, I called my dad and told him that I sold one million cigars. My father was so proud of me. He came on to work with me soon after. It was awesome to be able to work with my hero. My father was a great businessman, not to mention the best cigar maker that I have ever met. His experience in Cuba making cigars was so helpful. We always made full-flavored cigars and it really made us different at the time. Everyone knows my Grandfather and my late fathers experience in Cuba as Cigar manufactures, not to mention my grandfather’s brother was the Minister of Tobacco in Cuba. My family and our great workforce deserve all of the credit for our success. I must mention my wife Janine and our children who have been with me through thick and thin. One of the most truthful statements I live by- behind every good man is a great woman.

SGDG:    You made the decision to relocate your operations from Florida to Nicaragua. Why?

Nick: In August of 1995 my father and I were talking, and he said the greatest tobacco in the world comes from Nicaragua. It was becoming too expensive to make cigars in Miami and Tampa and I was also staying in the same price point as the Dominican Republic and Honduras at the time, so as you can imagine it was a struggle, but it was the greatest move that we ever made. When we came to Nicaragua there were only three cigar factories, a huge difference from today. When I saw the grounds, the valleys, and the wonderful tobacco let’s just say that my dad was right again. Today we proudly provide jobs to over 2,000 people in one of the most dedicated and fierce workforces that anyone could have. In fact, our typical worker in Nicaragua has been with Perdomo cigars for an average of 16.3 years. Many of our employees there as well as in Miami have been with us since day one! Yes, I am very proud of that and we treat our employees like family. My wife, my mother, my son and my uncle still work with the company. Arthur Kemper our VP is like my brother and our operations manager, Nelson Cuba, has been my friend since we were eleven years old. I was just with Chris Harper, our national director of sales, in Atlanta with Janine having drinks and smoking Perdomo cigars. We have such a special team. So yes, I love my career!

SGDG:    You have team loyalty on a scale unmatched by many. Leadership is directly related to the happiness of those who choose to work with us. Your father Nick Perdomo Sr., played a critical role in the management and operations in Nicaragua. Share with us his influence on you and your leadership style?

Nick: Let me say that my father and I worked so well together because we not only loved each other, but he always put his family first. This is something I will never forget. My father treated every employee no matter what position with the upmost respect. I always and still do follow that mentality. People see me load a container or work on the farm and ask me, why? The answer is you have to lead by example and our employees respect me for it. I love to stay active and help in any way that I can because we are a team.  My dad left a lasting mark on me and his influence and leadership were paramount. I honor him each day by leading from his great example.

SGDG:    When I think of you and the way you have always gone against the status quo, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, comes to my mind. Steve was an innovator who did everything outside of the box of average thinking and expectations. I see you this way. They told you a bold cigar would never sell.  You said let the customer decide and you blended one anyway. Share with us your philosophy on “quality over quantity”?

Nick: In June of 1999 we made a sound decision to become vertically integrated and to control our own journey in every aspect. We wanted to control everything down to the seed, so we brought in the very best geneticist, who is still with us, and has developed over seven seed strains for us that have worked wonderfully. Today we are one of the largest farmers in all of Central America. We manufacture all of our own cigar boxes. We even sort and grade our cedar. This attention to detail is the difference. We don’t like the status quo and are always going against the grain to be the best that God will let us. Our strict blending techniques, our ability to pinpoint quality control and quality over quantity mantra, our use of innovation and technology with traditional ways of farming, all lead to richer, bolder yet extremely smooth cigars. That is what I mean of going against the grain in giving the Perdomo customer the very best that money can buy. Being completely vertical gives us that and it is what leads us to keep pricing so fair. People talk about it all of the time and I am proud of that. Our dream is that there is a Perdomo cigar for everyone and that is why our growth has been so amazing.

SGDG:    Your factory operates using efficient environmental technology. You have installed a water saving drip system to conserve water. Speak to us about your decision to marry innovation in tobacco farming with the traditional ways that you were taught by your father, grandfather and others?

Nick: We worked with a fantastic company in Israel that is a leader to water conservation and that makes a more healthy and lush tobacco plant at the same time. Filtered clean water for our tobacco plants using a special water drip system and the same time fertilizing the plant at its optimum levels using an eco-friendly water conservation system. This process is very expensive but better for our tobacco. I am all in and the tobacco speaks for it. The merging of traditional farming with new technological advances has really set us apart and made for an even more bountiful crop that our consumers have been enjoying for years and we promise to continue improving with new advanced equipment.

SGDG:    Perdomo has beautiful graphics and attention to detail in its presentation. You said that every box of cigars is special. What makes every box of Perdomo cigars special?

Nick: A box of cigars is very special. I want every box of Perdomo cigars to feel and look very special because we all know the cigars are outstanding. Remember they are given out at special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations. Our customers deserve the very best and packaging starts the celebration, look, and feel. Arthur Kemper, our Vice President, and his team, which includes me, looks at every aspect and Arthur is second to none at this with his years of experience at Perdomo and retail. At the end it must breathe special because that is exactly what a box of Perdomo cigars is!

SGDG: How have the new FDA regulations effected Perdomo Cigars and the tobacco industry? What is the current status of the regulations with regards to production, sales, promotion, etc.?

Nick: Anytime the government gets involved in regulation it hurts the employee, future employment, and the company. This new FDA regulation is just that. I urge all to call your local senators and congressmen and tell them to stop this nonsense. Of course, it will impact the industry. But I promise you one thing, we will survive and fight this all the way!

Many regulations that are imposed on business hurt and stifle growth and employment. Government intervention on the cigar industry has been punishing but I have a positive attitude. I believe that as a proud American we will fight the government and things will turn around.

SGDG:    Why is there confusion between cigarette tobacco and cigar tobacco? And what can the cigar industry do to separate itself from this misconception?

Nick: This is all about taxes and more government intrusion. Americans are tired of it. Unlike the contents of a cigarette, Perdomo cigars consist of three things: Air cured and aged tobacco, water, and pectin. No chemicals.

SGDG:    There is a new edition to the Perdomo Family called “Perdomo Estate Seleccion”. What is new with Perdomo Cigars?

Nick: This is our newest brand that features the top one percent of our crops. These tobaccos are estate grown and come from our 2011 crops in Estelí, Condega and Jalapa. We have invested a lot in our packaging and our retailers have been very receptive to this product. We have some great new products coming in the future, but we will be keeping them close to the vest due to the FDA.

SGDG:    Perdomo Cigars now has a distribution center in Frankfurt, Germany. How has this effected your ability to accommodate your European market?

Nick: It’s been incredible for us. The concept works like a “spoke and hub” concept. Frankfurt Germany is right in the middle of the European Union and because of that when we ship any Perdomo cigars through Europe, the average time that retailers will get their shipment is within 48-72 hours, which is very quick. All of the stamps and labels are put on by our team in Frankfurt and then shipped. It’s been a really great thing for us.

SGDG: You just finished a European Tour. Perdomo Cigars seems to connect well with customers there. How do you feel about that?

Nick: It’s an honor. We’ve been in the European market for a little over 15 years and our growth has been quite expediential there. We are happy to be able to showcase Perdomo Cigars in Europe. It seems that the customer base really enjoys our cigars and their construction so it’s great for both parties.

SGDG:    Perdomo Cigars is family owned and operated. You shared with me that your mother, Senora Perdomo, bless her heart, still comes to work every day. Your beautiful wife Janine, is Vice President of Operations and has been by your side from day one. You still work with the original team that you started with. Tell us about the Perdomo business as a family?

Nick:  Yes, we’ve always run our business like a family. Our employees are extended members of the family.  One of the things that I’m blessed with is not only having a great workforce but the amount of longevity.  In Nicaragua the average Perdomo worker has been with the company for over 16.1 years. Here in Miami I still have several workers who have been with me since day one. Our sales team has been with us for double digit years as well.  A lot of it has to do with our family concept with quality and the way we treat our workers. It’s been a blessing for us.

SGDG:    The Perdomo Family Legacy lives on through your son Nick III and your beautiful daughter Natalie. What is next for Perdomo Cigars? Will there be more expansion of the brand in the future? If so, what will that expansion look like?

Nick: Today is my sons 25th birthday as you know and to answer the first part of your question, he’s doing phenomenal. He’s not the boss’s son. He’s his own man and he’s doing a great job. We’ve always followed the concept of “you have to walk the walk before you talk the talk” and he follows that philosophy.  My daughter is about to graduate from the University of Alabama in December.  She will be attending law school here in the Miami area. It’s nice to have a law degree because I believe that it always helps in business.

As far as growth, we’ve always believed that quality brings quantity. We foresee more and more growth at an even keel where we are doing it systematically with quality. The company continues to grow year in and year out. We will continue that phase but never at the expense of quality.  We believe that the reason we continue to grow is because our consumers worldwide respect our quality.

SGDG:  You have accomplished so much and of course you are elevating in the European Market. Is there anything else you would like to share with us that is in the works for Perdomo Cigars?

Nick:  A lot of our growing operations are becoming more state of the art. Together, with the traditions that I learned from my father and my grandfather, we’re producing better and richer tobacco in Nicaragua. We would like to start seeing federal regulations being lifted by the FDA so that we can bring some of the incredible new blends to the market. With the FDA restrictions it’s been an issue. As you know we have a class action law suit pending that we hope will lift some of the restrictions so that we can bring some of these new cigars to market.

We still see our growth in Europe expanding however we are really trying to grow here in the United States of America because this is our baby. My priority is and will always be here in the United States. Although we have grown vastly over the last 25 years, America is our number one priority.

SGDG:  Have you considered expanding the Perdomo brand in other markets such as distilled spirits, coffee, or any other market?

Nick:  Sure. That’s a great question. We have been working together with different liquor companies on pairings with our cigars. We have a brand that pairs well with special craft beers and we are looking to expand that market into single malt scotches, vodkas, red wines, bourbon, rum. Another reason why I think your question is great is because I love coffee.  We are looking to pair with a good roaster in Nicaragua and come up with a Perdomo brand of coffee that pairs well with our cigars. That’s probably something that no one really knows about that we’ve been working on. When I find the right combination, that’s when we’ll start releasing that.

SGDG:    The Drums! I understand that you were in a band years ago and that you have a collection of drums. What is your relationship with music?

Nick: I love music and at my age the drums have become a big stress reliever and more of a hobby. I’ve been playing the drums for over 40 years and I have three sets in my office.  I love to play and again, at this stage in my life, I get together with some friends and we jam in my office. We do a lot of classic rock, 70’s, and 80’s music. I’m originally a trained jazz drummer and I still love jazz music. Unfortunately, because of my travel schedule I don’t get a chance to play as often as I would like to however I still try to get in one or two hours a week of playing and it’s still a lot of fun for me.

SGDG: What would you like people to know about you and Perdomo Cigars that hasn’t been shared? What are you most proud of?

Nick: In business I’m most proud of producing a quality product at a fair price point. My father always told me that if you’re fair to your consumers and you give them the best quality that you can get, you can’t fail.

What I would like people to know is that my favorite title in my life is not President or CEO; it’s being a dad and a husband. I told someone recently that I work harder now than I ever have and it’s because I still love it. Not only do I love cigars, I love what I do. I look forward to coming to work, and I know that it sounds like an old cliché, but it’s a blessing. I got up at 4:00am this morning after flying in last night from Birmingham, Alabama. I was spending time with my daughter. I’ll be on the road again tomorrow morning, but I flew into Miami because I wanted to spend the day with my son and celebrate his birthday today. To me those are the most special times. I would like people to know that we’re good people and we work really hard and we’re humbled by all of the cards, letters, emails, and the kind words that we get out there on the road. I’m a blessed guy.

SGDG: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are taking that leap of faith and following their dreams?

Nick: The first thing they need to realize is not to be afraid to work. You will be surprised at what you can do when you work hard. A lot of it has to do with my faith in God. God has been very good to me. I’ve been fortunate and lucky. When you work hard and have faith and you pick the right people to assist you, and you treat them like family, you can’t lose.  We have so much opportunity here in the Unites States. I wouldn’t say that entrepreneurship is easy, by any stretch of the imagination and especially with the government, but I think if you are really determined, work hard, and you’re focused, it’s a risk—but if you’re willing to take that risk you can do it.  A lot of the times people see the iceberg on top, but they don’t see that on the bottom are the sleepless nights, the risk, and so on.

I don’t begrudge those that don’t want to do it but it’s something that you have to work really hard at. People look at business people and say “Wow why do they have this and that” and I say it’s because they worked really hard. I talk to a lot of young people and I get asked this question a lot. I’ve been blessed. I have a motor inside and my wife asks me “when does it stop?”, and I say it doesn’t because I really like it. It’s not easy but if you’re willing to take the shot and bust your butt like you never thought you could, the human being can do amazing things, the sky is the limit for any young entrepreneur.  I’m certainly not the smartest guy but I was determined and raised by a father and a mother who really pushed me, they always believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. I am relentless.  I believe that if you have all of those attributes that I just mentioned anyone can do it.

SGDG:    Nick thank you so much for you time, for sharing your journey and for producing some of the most incredible cigar blends in the world! Remember to always Smokegood cigars and Drinkgood spirits. SGDG…It’s a Lifestyle.

End of interview

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  1. Fantastic interview with Nick Perdomo!! You could feel his PASSION for family, friends and cigars.Love his cigars and will be a customer for life!
    #SGDG

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