It’s only been a little over a week since a fire spread to every corner of Tabacalera William Ventura, completely destroying the facility’s structure and everything inside it. There aren’t even any reference blends remaining for some of Adventura’s lineup. Given how much was lost and how little time has elapsed since, I was really surprised that Henderson Ventura was so open to publicly sharing what has been going on behind the scenes in the 9 days that have since passed.
Throughout what ended up being over 90 minutes of discussion, he shared everything he had the energy to and answered every question that was asked. The closeness and candidness of what was being said at times would have made being witness to it feel almost voyeuristic if not for how much fun everyone was having interacting with those watching. That all these friends – hosted on IG Live by Ronnie Haisha, the entertaining owner of Michigan’s Secreto Cigar Bar – would be so comfortable sharing such an intimate conversation with all of us watching was a really cool view behind the scenes into the relationships at the heart of the industry. Ronnie’s videos don’t get saved anymore because the internet is strange and some people have made a sport out of flagging them for removal – often without even watching them – but I really wish this one was available for every enthusiast to check out.
Henderson arrived in front of the burning factory at 4:30am. I’m not sure about all of you out there in Cigar Land, but my day might be all the way over at that point if that’s how it starts. That said, I’m also not supporting over a hundred employees and their families, so by 8:00am Tamboril time he’d already written and distributed a press release. By noon, he was looking at other industrial spaces in the area. Save for 30 minutes of rest to ease a headache that had been growing throughout the morning, there was no down time taken before getting back to work.
The aging room at TWV had a capacity of 1,000,000 cigars. This room was a particular point of pride, as their El Maestro factory had half that capacity. In addition to boxes, bands, and tobacco leaves, there were also at least 100,000 completed cigars at various stages of banding and boxing. All of it was lost. When asked if the loss gets to him, only half kidding, he shares that with all that needs to be done he simply hasn’t had time to get depressed about anything.
Fortunately, he’s not flying solo. Seeing so many in cigars unite and rise to meet this moment leaves me so hopeful for the future of the industry. Cigar luminaries like Henke Kelner and Jochy Blanco have provided guidance and resources, as have countless others. Pro Cigar, the Association of Dominican Cigar Manufacturers, immediately jumped into action. Even the very country itself set about making it as easy as possible for the factory to be rebuilt. Permits for the economic free zone where TWV once stood took nearly a full year the first time the factory was constructed. This time, permits were fast tracked in less than a week. Even if he didn’t repeatedly tell us how grateful he was for the support of an entire industry, it would be obvious to anyone watching.
Things are moving so quickly that they should actually be back up to 100% full speed again within 9 months. That sounds crazy quick to me, but I have absolutely no reference for how long it should take so you can tell me in the comments if it’s as impressive a feat as I’m perceiving it to be. The only thing that really frustrates Henderson is that we’ll never get to enjoy those cigars that so many people had worked to produce. Everything else can be built again, and it’s all hands on deck so even Henderson himself is doing some of the building.
While fabricating new rolling tables this week, he realized he’d already been in a moment just like that one before when building TWV. His youth compared to other brand owners makes it easy to forget that even at 32, he’s been in the industry for 17 years. Many of them spent in a building that no longer exists. It’s impossible not to learn something about yourself when shock like this occurs. He shared that he knows he can be cocky, and that it comes from his confidence in his products – as a person rather than a brand, though, he’s just like the rest of us – doing his best to be humble and succeeding at it more often than not.
In the interim, El Maestro is being upgraded. Before one saw or hammer or nail entered the facility, the aging room already had a capacity of up to 500,000 cigars. That’s a GREAT start and it only gets better from there. A common experience for cigar brands lately is having plenty of cigars and no boxes to put them. Whether by fate, luck, mere coincidence, or a combination thereof, Adventura had already placed an order for 10,000 new boxes for future cigars so they wouldn’t have boxes be a bottleneck. The full order will be delivered soon, and while It’s not going to solve everything – or even close to it – it’s nice for them to have the win and one less thing that big to worry about for right now.
Starting with 50 rollers, half the size of the force at TWV, production is to begin again as soon as possible at El Maestro. There is enough US based inventory to keep many brands on the shelves for at least a couple months, but not every cigar will start being made again right away. For example, ADV will only be making two vitolas of some lines to begin with – such as King’s Gold, which will be rolled in Corona and Toro only to begin with and will expand as resources, space and time allow. Some brands that were being made at TWV are eliminating some SKUs altogether hopes of returning some to regular production after the factory is up and running and functioning at 100%.
Perhaps most exciting for the Venturas, and selfishly for us as cigar lovers, is news that a crop will soon be ready that Henderson has been eagerly preparing to use for the past 4 years. He says it represents the future of Adventura, and though I know nothing more about it than that it certainly makes for a really fun dose of suspense while we wait to find out. One thing is clear, even now amid the chaos, a year from now we won’t be talking about a fire – we’ll be talking about what was born from one.
Please check out @secretocigarbar next time you’re in Detroit and keep an eye out for more news and updates as the Venturas, Intercigar, and all those impacted put their worlds back together.