The Perdomo family is living out a classic American success story
Perdomo Cigars projects such a sprawling presence in the cigar world, and presents such a complex story, that it is difficult to know how we can do it justice in a brief magazine treatment. Nicholas Perdomo Jr., president and CEO (people call him Nick), started his company in 1992 in Miami, in his garage, as Nick’s Cigar Co.—this, while holding down a full-time job as an air traffic controller, a vocation he had learned while in the U.S. Navy. Perdomo and wife, Janine, who is now COO of the company, oversaw three rollers while handling the packaging and shipping themselves, and in their first year of business they sold 9,000 cigars.
By 1994 Perdomo was out of the garage and into more capacious facilities, first in Miami and then additionally in Tampa. Soon enough the company found itself selling a million cigars, whereupon Perdomo’s father, Nick Sr., came out of retirement to help guide the growth. In 1995 the father urged a move of production to Estelí, Nicaragua, where the company built its own large factory.
That’s one nutshell view of developments. But to get down into the nitty-gritty and see the details is to appreciate the seriousness with which Perdomo Cigars approaches product development, quality control, numerical analytics, strategic product merchandizing, and a careful balance of technology and tradition. Their formula obviously works: Today Perdomo Cigars is one of the largest cigar makers in the world, a vertically integrated business machine employing several thousand people, offering dozens of product lines, everything humming along under the watchful eye of the Perdomos and their trusted staff.
Nick says: “It’s a blessing to be able to work so well with your family. It certainly doesn’t hurt having such a dedicated and loyal workforce who really are an extension of our family. Our workforce, we’re proud to say, has averaged over 19 years with our company, and surely that makes our team very special.”
The Perdomos pursue a philosophy that asserts, “Quality will always bring quantity.” But keeping tight control of that quality meant retaining in-house ownership of production in every detail. Today Perdomo Cigars has its own agronomy department to manage water and soil on its farms. They hybridize their own seed lines. They monitor and record the weather conditions on their farms. They filter and precisely fertilize their irrigation water using the most advanced Israeli water-treatment technology—all this, while retaining use of simple ox-and-plow methods for turning the volcanic soil, which they regard as a sacred gift of Nicaraguan tectonics. They fabricate their own boxes and packaging. Before each Perdomo cigar is sealed in its box, it undergoes 17 quality checks, including draw testing.
Achieving excellence in any cigar line is one thing; achieving it consistently throughout a full portfolio is more than a step beyond. And Perdomo Cigars is known and appreciated for the product consistency their process brings to market, and for top value for the price. Nick says formulating a vision of mastering and owning every step of the production process, from genetics to final product, amounted to a real turning point for the company.
Another turning point was the move of production from Florida to Estelí—Nick Sr.’s idea. The soils, climate and abundance of water he had found in Nicaragua, and the powerhouse tobaccos that country can produce, all coincided perfectly with the cigar boom of the 1990s and the changing consumer tastes the boom fostered. It was Nicaragua’s turn to shine—and it was really the Perdomos who led the industry’s big push into that country. The timing seemed perfect to make something big happen, but Nick says they “started meager” in Estelí. “There were only three cigar factories in the entire town. But we worked very hard and pushed on. In 1999 we built the largest cigar factory in Nicaragua and we began our vertical integration efforts. That gives us assurance that only the very best quality goes into everything Perdomo does, because it is under our total control.”
Today, the Perdomo Cigars Nicaraguan factory and facilities occupy 14 acres, with the cigar factory, box factory and warehouse complexes encompassing more than 700,000 square feet of space. The 35,000-square-foot aging room is a wondrous place. “The company’s agricultural operations reside in three of the most fertile regions in Nicaragua: the Estelí Valley, the Condega Valley and the famed Jalapa Valley, with more than 1,200 acres of tobacco grown yearly,” Nick says. And the company continues to develop additional farms, the newest named Finca Janine after Nick’s wife, and Finca Natalie after his daughter, who is now attending law school at the University of Miami.
Continuing the family tradition is a more recent employee, Nick’s 27-year-old son, Nicholas III, himself a graduate of the University of Miami.
Trade show attendees have been seeing Nicholas hanging around in his father’s shadow since he was 14. Nicholas started working at Perdomo sweeping floors and worked his way up. (Nick wouldn’t have it any other way.) Today Nicholas is in his second year as director of sales. It was he who championed the idea for Perdomo to offer samplers in humidified bags, and they have proven successful as an impulse add-on buy. Nicholas says: “I knew that I would be working alongside my dad since I was a kid. There was never a time in my life where I considered pursuing any other career. This business, this industry, is all I know. I was born for this job.” Nicholas says his parents routinely took both him and his sister to cigar business functions. “So I knew how to interact with adults from a very young age,” he says. “Our retailers are like family to me, since I grew up around them. I also feel the same about our salesmen. We are all family.”
Arthur Kemper, company vice president, brings news that some new Perdomo products are in the offing this year. “We are very proud to introduce the new Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Box Pressed Sun Grown and Maduro,” the 20-plus-year company veteran reports. “The leaf selection was meticulously hand-selected by our team. The blend is very precise. Not only did we select tobaccos from our very favorite regions in Nicaragua, we carefully picked each leaf from specific lot numbers from each of our farms so the blends would be exact.” Kemper says he is very proud of the flavor profile Perdomo achieved in these blends. “We worked extremely hard to not only produce a very rich and smooth cigar, but we also wanted a cigar that had a little more natural sweetness and roundness. And we accomplished this by using tobaccos from our farms with higher mineral content, located in the Jalapa Valley,” Kemper says. “The Sun Grown and Maduro wrappers are all hand-selected and bourbon barrel-aged to perfection, and they pair beautifully with the 6-year-aged Nicaraguan fillers and binder tobaccos.” Both blends will be available in the following sizes: Figurado (4 ¾ x 56), Robusto (5 x 54), Epicure (6 x 54), Churchill (7 x 54), Torpedo (7 x 54), and Super Toro (6 x 60) with a retail price point ranging from $7 to $10.
The COVID-19 pandemic makes these difficult times in the cigar business, as much as any other industry. But Perdomo Cigars is, thus far, weathering the storm without undue dislocation. As of this writing, no COVID-19 cases have been reported anywhere near the factory. “We pray for everyone’s health during these tough times. The cleanliness of our facilities and our top-shelf health record give us great pride. We have also been resolute in supporting our brick-and-mortar shops around the world, now more than ever,” Nick says.
Young Nicholas agrees: “During the pandemic, my main concern has been concentrated toward the safety of our salesmen and our business partners. The main challenge is for us to help our retailers and assist them any way we possibly can. Our team has done their best to help, even helping retailers with their curbside service. I hope everyone will support their local brick-and-mortar stores.”
Nick Jr. says about the enterprise he has nurtured for nearly three decades: “We always live by the Golden Rule. Our greatest asset is certainly not Nick Perdomo, but our people. I truly believe that. We treat our entire work staff, whether it be here in the United States or in Nicaragua, like family. That’s the way it should be, because they are our family.” Summing up, he says, “Our story is pretty well-known, and it’s really the American dream, the vision and drive starting out of a garage. Having Janine, my wife of 31 years, supporting me through thick and thin, I know I am the luckiest man alive.” We should all be half as lucky.
Merchants wishing to become a part of the Perdomo family of retailers can reach the company by calling (305) 627-6700.