Erik Espinosa: First Generation Cigar Maker, Industry Young Gun
Written by Frank T Flores III

Friday, 17 April 2009

User Rating: / 52

erik espinosaprofiles
rolling and growing


Frank: How did you get into the cigar business?


Erik: Hanging out in a cigar store. Starting working at the cigar store. I have done everything in this industry believe it or not. I have been an independent rep, and I have had my own store, and now I’m a manufacturer. So I have done retail, owning my own store, and now a manufacturer. So I know a lot of angles. That doesn’t mean I know everything, but I have done a lot of things in this industry.


Frank: At what age did you start working in the industry?


Erik: I was 30. I had my store in Plantation, Florida.


Frank: Did you have any relatives in the cigar business?


Erik: Well, my dad smoked cigars all his life. Back in Cuba my family gr ew tobacco, they still do. Of course they don’t own it, the government owns it. But my dad has been smoking since he was about eight (laughs).


Frank: Who has taught you the most about cigars? Maybe someone you would call a mentor?


Erik: Yeah, Saul Fontana. He works with Camacho. He is like a sales manager. Have you ever heard of La Fontana cigars? He taught me a lot of ropes.


Frank: Seeing you and Eddie Ortega together I can tell you have a good friendship. Can you tell me what it is like working with him? Is it a love and hate type of thing that brothers would have?


Erik: Well, he handles all the in-house work, advertising. I am more of the guy on the road for the company. He does pretty much everything else which is a huge task in itself. He does advertising and ordering. I work more with the blending, and I like to go more to Nicaragua and he goes too when he can break away. Eddie handles everything else as far as computer work, all the ordering and such. We get along great; I let him do his thing and he lets me do mine. In close to four years, we have never gotten into an argument. He stays out of my way, and I stay out of his, and we are fine with that.


Frank: How did you and Eddie meet?


Erik: He ran Puros Indios, was married to Rolando Reyes’ daughter. We meet when he worked for a distributor called Real Smokers. I have known him basically since I have been in the business for like 12 years. He has a good work ethnic, and we put it together.


Frank: Over the last few years there seems to be an influx of younger blood in the industry; I like to call them the “Young Guns.” Including you and Eddie, other guys like Pete Johnson, Sam Leccia, Ernesto Padilla, Dion Giolito, and others are putting out great cigars. How important do you think that is in the industry?


Erik: I think it is great for the industry because we bring something different. We are bringing tradition but are also innovative. We design different boxes. We are on par with what the older generations are doing. Pete has done incredibly with his brand. We brought back numbers not just names like our 601 brand line of cigars. Where Padilla has his numbers like Padilla 1932 and Padilla 1968, you know we came back with numbers. It just gives a little twist to it. You know these guys are getting up there in age. I try to grasp as much information as I can. I’m good friends with Pepin, with Ernesto Carillo of La Gloria, and all I do is listen to them because they know a lot more than I do. We are “Young Guns,” but they have forgotten more than what we know. Just being with Pepin, I don’t talk much ar ound him. I just try to gather as much information as I can from him.



0 # Mi Barrio, 601 and Cubao are, for me, amoung the best cigars out there.Ana and Miguel 2009-04-27 09:29
Love the whole interview plus the cigars from United tobacco and Erick and Eddie. Keep going guys putting a Yough Flavor to the industry. I also love your poster....

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0 # Well said!Stephen Parks 2009-09-13 06:38
Great interview and you touched on something I've been saying throughout the SCHIP pursecution, to fellow cigar smokers AND politicians.

I wasn't against SCHIP, at least not the cause which would supposedly benefit from the tax. But, with such an important cause, why should cigar smokers carry the brunt of the burden. With such a worthy cause, why shouldn't much more funds be raised and shared among some of the industries that actually contribute to the problem?

A smaller tax spread out among the fast food and high fructose beverage industries would have made much more sense. These are industries that are not only contributing to the health problems in children, but they are also allowed to specifically target a child audience with packaging and advertising. When's the last time you saw fine, hand-rolled cigars target a child audience?

Yet another stupendous act against our freedoms that we have allowed are government to infringe upon.

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0 # Great Article= 2009-12-18 02:37
I really enjoyed Eric's views and opinions! there's nothing like a man who
speaks his mind!This article also gave me a greater level of respect for
Jose Pepin!

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0 # I congratulateJoswar 2012-05-29 22:31
Congratulations on your success Erik. Tobacco Jewel of Estelí

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