Padron Cigars lost their patriarch in 2017, when Jose Orlando Padron passed away. Many legendary cigar houses began with the story of a young, ambitious man who built an empire from nothing, but Padron’s story continues to be one of the most inspiring of all.
In the mid-1800s, Damaso Padron, grandfather of Jose, moved from the Canary Islands, Spain to Cuba. Like many young men of that time, Damaso took a job working in the tobacco fields to aid in the growing tobacco market of Cuba. Before long, he saved up just enough money to purchase a small farm for him and his family in Pinar Del Rio, where he began to cultivate tobacco himself. Over time, he acquired more farms in the area, and eventually purchased one in Piloto.
The farm in Piloto proved to be a successful one, which allowed Damaso to create the Piloto Cigar brand, which would eventually become Padron Cigras. Piloto cigars became a family business. In 1926, Jose Orlando Padron was born, and as soon as he came of age, he assisted his family in the cigar business.
In 1961, the Piloto farm became nationalized under Fidel Castro’s regime, a fate which altered the course of many tobacco houses of the day. Like many others, Jose Padron had no choice but to immigrate. First, he went to Spain, followed by New York, and eventually settled in Miami, Florida.
When Padron became a Miami citizen, he was one of many who came from a successful cigar family, with no option but to start over. The government, in an effort to support Cuban refugees, gave Padron, now 36 years of age, $60 each month. While the money was spent wisely, Padron wouldn’t settle for government aid as his lifeline. For a while, he searched for work, unable to find anything substantial. Besides that, he maintained one dream, which was to continue his family’s cigar business.
At last, a friend offered Padron work as a carpenter. He offered him a small hammer, which has since come to symbolize his grit and ambition. With that small hammer, he earned himself $600 as a carpenter, which would be used to launch Padron Cigars in 1964, thus allowing him to fulfill his dream at last.
Before long, Padron was crafting 200 cigars per day using a single roller. His limitations held him back from turning Padron Cigars into a highly successful business, but things changed when a Nicaraguan tobacco company approached him, offering to take him on. Padron visited Nicaragua and fell in love with the tobacco. In 1967, the company officially made the switch to Nicaraguan tobacco.
But one man could not meet the demands of the customers who were beginning to seek out Padron Cigars over its competitors. So, Padron moved to Nicaragua in 1970 and built a factory that would give him the resources to churn out cigars at a faster pace. In 1978, the factory was burnt down as a casualty to the country’s civil war. Fortunately, Padron had just completed a second factory in Honduras, where he was able to maintain production. The farm in Nicaragua was rebuilt shortly after.
Meeting with Castro
During this time, Padron was one of several Cuban refugees who met with the Castro regime in an effort to aid in the release of political prisoners in Cuba. This proved to be controversial, as Cubans living in Miami who were against Castro saw this move as indication that Padron was a political traitor. They burnt down Padron’s Miami headquarters in response, and it had to be rebuilt.
The Banning of Nicaraguan Imports
In 1985, the United States put an embargo on Nicaraguan imports, which stifled Padron’s ability to sell his cigars to Americans. In response, Padron had to swiftly move all of his operations to Honduras and Tampa. The embargo was lifted in 1990, and Padron was able to resume operations in Nicaragua at last.
Freedom at Last
From 1990 onward, Padron was able to maintain his operations without politics getting in the way. Padron Cigars grew and grew, becoming one of the most recognized names in the industry. Now that Jose is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through the cigars produced by the brand, and his story continues to inspire, as it tells the tale of a man who overcame decades of turbulence to continue making his dream come true.