The Industry That I’m Proud To Be A Little Part Of…
The Cigar Industry
On Friday December 8, 2017, a sea of people, turned out to the Biltmore Hotel in Miami Florida for a night of celebration, to honor the life of the patriarch and founder of a family owned and operated company. It was a who’s who of the industry. Industry leaders, including competitors, from just about every company came to pay their respects. Also included were customers, retailers from throughout the United States, to honor the life of an icon in their industry.
Just 3 days prior, Jose Orlando Padron, owner and founder of Padron Cigars passed away at the age of 91, surrounded by his family, but on this night, his life was to be celebrated by whom ever wanted to attend.
Upon entering, a Padron Anniversary 1964 was handed out along with a gold hammer lapel pin. The cigar signifies the year Padron began selling his brand and the gold lapel pin of the little hammer signified the start of the Padron business. It was a little hammer, handed to him by a Cuban Refugee Official, to put to good use, earning him the $600 that was used to open a small cigar factory in Miami. I was personally touched as this was replicated from one that my mother, Angela Garofalo gave to Padron many years ago when she first learned of the story of the little hammer.
As I walked upstairs into the outside where everyone had congregated due to the smoking ban indoors, it was amazingly uplifting to see the massive crowd, many of which I knew. You see, when an old man dies, most time the attendance is small. The old man’s friends have passed away and all they have left is their immediate family…certainly not in this case.
Served were his favorite foods, wine and cocktails exclusively, and the event was set up I am sure, as he wished. If you know Jose you know it might have been him, that inspired Frank Sinatra with the song My Way… as Padron did it his way, always.
Jose Orlando Padron died at 91 but lived his life as a young man, working hard every day as this was his purpose. He operated his company like others, filled with family but did not compromise his beliefs no matter what. For this and many other reasons he gained tremendous respect and you could see it loud and clear that night.
His competitors were all there to show respect, including most who call him a friend, despite being a fierce competitor. Some of them even took to the mic to tell stories like Ernesto Parez Carrillo from EPC Cigars who said he was required to call him when he gets back to Miami. Litto Gomez from La Flor Dominicana who told us it was Padron who helped him to buy tobacco when he started. Rocky Patel who was always thanked by him for his political fighting and Cynthia Fuente, who lost her father Carlos Fuente from Fuente Cigars last year, and how Jose would call her father while he was sick, urging him to fight. Marvin Shanken, owner and founder of Cigar Aficionado Magazine explained that he was most impressed by what he did to raise his family.
Lots of stories were told on stage but more stories were told people to people in the audience. A video presentation from Jose Padron (in Spanish)… was the highlight of the evening. I don’t understand Spanish, but you still knew what he was saying.
The following day a beautiful church service took place where the priest began his service with a Padron #4 in his mouth at the altar. The priest was a friend and fan of Jose and the Anniversary #4. He told stories of Jose and his grandchildren spoke along with his son Jorge. It was emotional, touching and inspiring at the same time.
After mass, it was off to the mausoleum where last words and prayers were said.
On a personal level, I spent time with Jose in Miami, and I spent a week with him in Nicaragua, drinking, smoking and playing dominos, but he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish but I think he liked me. I’m sure I loved him, respected him and the tough, principled, honorable man he was.
I am so very proud of the cigar industry, who came together, united to show their respect to a true icon in our little industry. I am honored to be a little part of it. Jose Orlando Padron is gone but will live on with his family and all those who came in contact with him. We should all learn from his teachings, the old school way. I saw it this week with all the respect he and his family got and deserved.
In lieu of flowers, The Padron family asks donations be made in support of the Padron Family Foundation, funding education and healthcare programs benefitting our communities. To donate, please visit www.padronfamilyfoundation.org