Unto the Next Generation
Nick Perdomo Jr. prepares the next generation to continue his family’s cigar-making legacy.
In 1992, Nick Perdomo, Jr. experienced two life-changing events. In August, the air traffic controller at Miami International Airport established his own business— Nick’s Cigar Co., with his father, Nick Sr. Just two months later, Nick Jr. and his wife, Janine, welcomed their first child, Nicholas III. In the 26-plus years since then, both the business, now known as Perdomo Cigars, and the family, have grown.
Back in 1992, Nick Jr. and Nick Sr. started making cigars out of Nick Jr.’s garage, and Nick Jr. obtained the various tobaccos for his blends by the pound, telling his tobacco sources that one day he hoped to buy the tobacco by the bale. In the first year, Nick’s Cigars sold almost 10,000 cigars—not bad for a fledgling cigar company that was established just before the Cigar Boom of the mid-1990s. When UPS started delivering tobacco bales and dumping them in the Perdomo family’s driveway, Nick Jr. and Nick Sr. knew it was time to look for a larger place to make their cigars, so they moved their production into a 1,000-square-foot building in Hialeah, Florida. It was the start of the Perdomo family’s pursuit of achieving the American dream.
Growth continued at a rapid rate, and Nick Sr. convinced his son that strengthening the company’s future meant moving its cigar production to Nicaragua. In 1995, the Perdomo family opened their first Nicaraguan factory. A few years later, they built what was at the time the largest cigar factory in Nicaragua and began their own farming efforts. Today, Perdomo Cigars’ Nicaraguan facilities are truly a mightily impressive operation. Built on 14 acres, the factory and warehouse complex contains over 750,000 square feet of space. The company grows tobacco on over 1,200 acres of land in Esteli, Condega and Jalapa, and it continues developing more farms. At both the farms as well as the factory, Perdomo Cigars has embraced cutting-edge technologies to accentuate traditional tobacco growing and cigar-making methods to ensure that every Perdomo Cigars product meets the strictest quality-control standards. In all, the company employs approximately 4,800 people and sells its premium cigars all over the world.
“We’re up 11 percent in the U.S. for 2018,” Nick Jr. explains. “In Europe, we’re up even higher. People are learning about Perdomo Cigars in Europe. From 2016 to 2017, growth was over 6 percent. The numbers are really good. “So far in 2019, January through May have all been record months. We are very blessed. That is why we opened two new production facilities to help with demand last year. With the growth that we’re having, we’ll eclipse over 5,000 employees very soon. Our company supports approximately 20,000 Nicaraguans, and that doesn’t include the purveyors who support the industry. Perdomo Cigars has become a very important factor in many peoples’ lives.”
This is why Nick Jr. and Janine wanted to ensure that their children grew up appreciating the hard work and the positive impact that running a successful company can have on its employees. Less than three years after Nicholas III’s birth, the Perdomo’s welcomed their daughter, Natalie, into the family. Like so many other children born into cigar-making families, Natalie and Nicholas III grew up around the business. As toddlers they spent time sitting on employees’ laps and watching them make cigars. They ran and played hide-and-seek in the factory and in the fields, and they spent their summer vacations working in the Nicaraguan factory, where they learned every aspect of the family business, step by step.
“We have always instilled the importance of faith in God and in family in our children,” Nick Jr. explains. “We taught them to always respect others. Life always works itself out if you follow the golden rule of treating others as you would want to be treated.”
Nicholas III started working full time at Perdomo Cigars four years ago after earning a degree in business at the University of Miami. Having already earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Alabama, Natalie is now studying law at the University of Miami and has plans to use her legal education to protect Perdomo Cigars and the premium cigar industry from overregulation in the future.
Recently promoted to Perdomo Cigars’ national director of sales, Nicholas III manages the company’s 13 sales representatives and spends approximately half of his time on the road, traveling with the sales team to visit shops and meet retailers face-to-face. The other half of his time is spent working inside Perdomo Cigars’ headquarters in Miami Lakes, Florida, where he helps the inside sales team and develops sales programs that will benefit both his family’s company and its vast network of retail partners.
“I believe a business relationship should be a partnership,” Nicholas III explains. “On my end, I must make sure that our partners are extremely successful with every product we place on his or her shelf. We will never look at our business partners as someone to dump product on for a short-term sale. That is a total disservice. It is all about quality over quantity, and trust is the most important thing we can earn from business partners. Those are philosophies that I learned firsthand by watching my father and my grandfather work.”
On the Shoulders of Giants
In a letter dated Feb. 5, 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote his contemporary physicist Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” to explain that his scientific breakthroughs could be traced back through the contributions of others before him. While not using the exact same terms that Newton used, Nick Jr. attributes Perdomo Cigars’ success to the work previous generations in his family put into learning the premium cigar business and tobacco growing.
“My father was a great businessman who was also a great cigar-maker in Cuba,” reflects Nick Jr.. “My uncle was a great businessman, and he was in the tobacco business, too. My grandfather’s brother was the minister of tobacco in Cuba for over 44 years. Our family had this heritage in cigars that I wanted to continue.”
It was those previous generations who inspired Nick Jr. to chase his own dream of being in the premium cigar business. In those early days when he was still working as an air traffic controller, Nick Jr. arose at 5 a.m. and went to work at his factory by 6 a.m. He worked there until 3:15 p.m., when he had to leave for the airport to work his 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. shift. Worn out from his workday, he staggered home to get a few hours rest before waking up to do it all over again.
“The biggest moments in my life were whenever my father told me that I was blessed to live in the greatest country in the world and that if I worked hard enough I could attain anything I wanted,” Nick Jr. explains. “It was a dream to establish my own cigar company, but I had some advantages in pursuing my dream. I was around cigar smoking all my life, and I loved cigars. I was always frugal when I was in the military, so I had savings to set aside. When I got married, I decided to follow that dream. I was blessed that my family supported me.”
Like his father before him, cigars and tobacco also enamored Nicholas III at an early age. Rather than resenting that his family spent their summer vacations at the factory in Esteli instead of taking an exciting trip to a theme park or spending the summer playing sports or attending camp, Nicholas III relished the time he spent at the factory.
“My best memories were with my dad and my grandfather during my summer vacations in Nicaragua at our factory and our farms,” Nicholas III recalls. “The experiences were priceless.
“I have been very blessed in my life, and I always thought I was the luckiest kid around. Spending the summers with my family in Nicaragua and learning the only thing that I ever wanted to do in life was incredible.”
Nicholas III formed an especially strong bond with his grandfather, who passed away more than a decade ago. Nicholas III refers to Nick Sr. as “The Man!” and says that he thinks about his grandfather every day. Obviously, Nick Sr. had a profound influence on Nicholas III. His parents, of course, also greatly influenced the young man and encouraged him to be the best he could be. His immediate family has inspired him to pursue his dreams, but the extended family—the employees in both Nicaragua and in the United States—have been the ones who have taught him the lessons in patience and determination to fulfill his dreams.
There is Aristides Garcia, Perdomo Cigars’ pre-industry manager, who has 74 years of experience in the industry and who has passed on his tobacco knowledge to Nicholas III, especially the invaluable secrets about fermenting tobacco. Sarah Gonzalez, Perdomo Cigars’ factory production manager, was once the top cigar roller at H. Upmann. She taught Nicholas III the proper way to construct cigars from forming the bunch to applying the wrapper. Miguel Rivera and Silvio Loaisiga, Perdomo Cigars’ general manager and assistant general manager, respectively, spent a lot of time with Nicholas III when he was a teenager, taking him through each department and training him thoroughly in every aspect of making cigars and taking care of tobacco.
“In addition to those very important people, I would have to say that Arthur Kemper [Perdomo Cigars’ vice president] is a man who has influenced me tremendously for many years,” Nicholas III continues.
“Arthur has invested a lot of time in me over the years because he knows how much I love our company. We are a great team, along with my dad. It is an honor to work with them both. I believe that the common factors between my grandfather, my father, my mother and Arthur is that they are all extremely dedicated, hardworking and passionate to be the best. The impact that they have made in my life is tremendous.”
Indeed, while Nicholas III gained a valuable education about the art of making fine cigars during summer vacations spent in Nicaragua, he also received tremendous tutelage in the craft of customer service from his father and Kemper at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailer Association (IPCPR) trade show and conventions. Augmenting those experiences at trade shows were visits to retailers in their shops—learning firsthand their concerns and then their needs and figuring out the best solutions to benefit them and their customers.
“My father always tells me that character counts and that it takes a lifetime to build and only a few seconds to destroy,” Nicholas III says. .“He tells me that it takes 10 years to gain a good customer and just three
seconds to lose one. We don’t want to lose any customers, so we’re going to do everything we can to keep them. I think that’s why people in the industry respect us. Retailers know that we make top-quality cigars that they can feel comfortable recommending to their customers.
After nearly 27 years, I see Dad working as hard as he ever did because he has consumers’ enjoyment of our products first in his mind. There’s never good enough for him—he’s always trying to make our cigars and our company even better.”
At 54 years of age, Nick Jr. is still far from retirement and enjoys being in the premium cigar industry today as much as he did when he started the company out of his home nearly 27 years ago. While Nick Jr. doesn’t plan to step away from Perdomo Cigars anytime soon, he’s becoming more comfortable with the idea of someday handing over the company’s daily management to Kemper and his son and daughter. After all, the two youngest Perdomo’s have been preparing for the task of continuing the family legacy almost from the moment they were born. While they’ll have to work all the harder extending the heritage, Nick Jr. feels confident that they’ve been given all the tools and experiences to succeed. They’ve had an excellent teacher.
“My goal is to maintain what my family has created,” Nicholas III concludes. “I take pride in what my family has accomplished from how my father started our company in a small home in Hialeah to now being one of the largest manufacturers in the premium cigar industry.
As the fourth generation of our family to be in the cigar business, I am excited for what the future holds. We have big plans at Perdomo Cigars, and the best is yet to come.”
The Decision to Move to Nicaragua
Nick Perdomo Jr. established Nick’s Cigar Co. out of the garage at his house in Hialeah, Florida, in August 1992. In the first year, Nick Jr. sold nearly 10,000 cigars, and within the first few months, it became clear to him that he would need a larger space to make enough cigars to keep up with the growing demand as the Cigar Boom began. He moved the company to a 1,000-square-foot building on Flagler Street in Miami, and sales continued to rise. To fill all those orders, the Perdomo family knew it needed to make a big step forward. Nick Perdomo Sr. had the answer.
Nick Sr. learned the art of making cigars from his father, Silvio, who worked at the H. Upmann factory in Cuba before moving into a management position at the Partagas factory. Nick Sr. started working in the Cuban cigar industry in the late 1940s and eventually joined his father at the Partagas factory. With the regime of Fidel Castro taking power in Cuba in the early 1960s, both men suffered—Silvio experienced 12 years of imprisonment before coming to the United States, and Nick Sr. suffered gunshot wounds fighting against the Communists before coming to the U.S. While the Perdomo’s were separated from their homes, they never were separated from their passion for cigars. On a trip to Nicaragua to buy tobacco, Nick Sr. saw things in the country that made him think that it could be an excellent place for the family business to continue
its growth. More than 20 years later, Nick Sr.’s vision is now stronger than ever. “Moving to Esteli, Nicaragua, was the greatest thing we did for our company,” Nick Jr. recalls. “There were only two cigar factories when we came here, and now there are more than 80. My father said this was the greatest soil in the world for growing the finest cigar tobacco. He was correct. Heck, my dad was always right! There was no infrastructure in the country at that time, but Dad said it would get better, and he was right. We kept growing the business, and it didn’t take us long to sell our first million cigars annually after coming to Nicaragua. The first bale we bought cost $382, and today we have over 20,000 bales of well aged tobacco at our factory. I’m proud of what we have been able to do, and we have Dad to thank for it.” TB