Theo Rudmann Named "Cigar Man of the Year"

South African author Theo Rudman (center) was elected the Cigar Man of the Year for 2002 in the category of Communications by Habanos S.A. The award was presented at this year's Habanos Festival dinner in Havana, Cuba, celebrating the 510th Anniversary of the Havana cigars to the old world. "I consider this to be recognition for the cigar industry in South Africa, as this is the first time this award has been made to anyone from Africa or the Southern Hemisphere," said Rudman. Individuals can only receive the award once in their lifetime.

El Credito Celebrates 35th Anniversary

Miami, FL - The City of Miami declared Friday, March 28, as "El Credito Day" to celebrate the renowned cigar factory's 35th anniversary and to thank El Credito for its commitment to the Little Havana district in Miami, where the factory is located.

To coincide with its 35th anniversary, El Credito unveiled its cigar factory and retail store which have been restored to their Cuban-inspired glory. In addition, El Credito made a donation to "Friends of Little Havana" to help the organization continue its rejuvenation and revitalization of Little Havana.

"In memory of my late father who established El Credito in 1968, we allocated considerable resources to restore the factory which is enjoying international recognition for handcrafting cigars of exceptional quality," said Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the company's cigar master. "My father felt at home in Little Havana and I know he would have been very proud to see how much the restored factory adds to the community."

The day-long celebration included a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local dignitaries. In addition, the rollers of El Credito, many of whom are Cuban expatriots who bunched and rolled cigars for the best known Cuban cigar factories, gave demonstrations on the art of cigar making.

Festival Marks Puros Santa Clara's 35th

Veracruz, Mexico - In March, Puros Santa Clara celebrated the company's 35th anniversary under the management of Jorge Ortiz. The festivities began early in the day with soccer games - a quadrangular tournament with all of the workers and staff of the factory competing on four different teams. Ladies had a separate volleyball competition. The winning teams from each competition each received a trophy from Ortiz and his son Jorge Jr. during the celebration.

Afterwards, a dinner banquet for all 450 employees of Puros Santa Clara was served, followed by an evening of dancing. Ortiz also presented the company's new Santa Clara 1830 Gran Reserva. This new cigar will be packed in a beautiful diamond shaped, matt finished chest. A special Capa Fina aged wrapper, special blend, and the unique taste of this new brand will be enjoyed soon by the most discriminating smokers around the world.

Attendance Up at 2003 AWMA Real Deal Expo

Washington, DC - The 2003 AWMA Real Deal Expo, sponsored by the American Wholesale Marketers Association, showed an upswing in the number of buyers on the floor compared to the previous year. Buyer attendance at the 2003 show, which was held Feb. 26-28 in Las Vegas, was up about 28 percent over last year's Real Deal Expo in Dallas. Overall, attendance at the Expo was up about 12 percent.

Attitudes about the 2003 show were upbeat among exhibitors and buyers. This year, AWMA offered a special program to encourage exhibitors to offer show deals. This show-deal program, in which the association acts as a middleman, was popular with the exhibitors, as it helped ensure that only attendees at the show could take advantage of the discounts.

"It's not about the quantity of buyers at this show, it's about the quality," said George Petrides of European Cigarette Imports. "Plus, it's a nice opportunity to reinforce relationships with customers."

AWMA packed a lot into three days, according to AWMA President Scott Ramminger. "The show opened with a morning welcome, numerous workshops and roundtables, and then a reception," he said. "Then the next two days were basically reserved for the Expo floor. Feedback from participants and exhibitors indicate the two-day, condensed schedule worked well for both sides."

Ramminger addressed attendees at the opening session, stressing the many facets of the industry, especially tobacco, that are experiencing tremendous changes. "We want our members to survive and prosper in a tough environment," he said. To that end, Ramminger suggested members take advantage of the many services and resources available through AWMA such as updates provided in conjunction with the Tobacco Merchants Association, the new online university (www.awmauniversity.org), research reports, and e-mail newsletters.

Also at the opening session, Wall Street financial analyst Bonnie Herzog with Salomon Smith Barney presented her view of the tobacco industry, discussing the impact on manufacturers and distributors of price gaps, the decrease of MSA payments this year, and pending regulation such as "fire-safe" laws.

During a luncheon, Peter Levin, economic counsel to the tobacco project of the National Association of Attorneys General, explained new model legislation designed to increase the ability of states to take action against tobacco companies that are not in compliance with the escrow requirements of the Master Settlement Agreement. This model statute, according to Levin, requires the MSA non-participating manufacturers to make annual payments into a qualified escrow fund based on the number of NPM cigarettes sold in the state.

SMOKESHOP - April, 2003