I’m in Durham, North Carolina this week – a town steeped in tobacco history. With the American Tobacco Historic District at its core, the town was at one time built around the tobacco industry. Housing such infamous brands as Lucky Strike (think “toasted” a la Mad Men), Durham was at one time a dominant manufacturer of cigarettes. Following several anti-trust suits and endless assault on the tobacco industry (as well as mismanagement from within), Durham’s prosperity diminished with that of the tobacco industry. Luckily several years ago a project was initiated in Durham to restore much of the historic tobacco buildings into a tourist area. Old manufacturing buildings have been converted to restaurants, shops, pubs, etc.
This city is a case study in a variety of issues, in particular how to rebrand oneself in the face of adversity. Since the US’s implementation of the SCHIP tax recently, one must wonder if similar fates await some of the cigar manufacturing towns in central America. Let’s just hope that these towns never reach the state of Durham, and they find a way to survive (and continue to provide us with high-quality, hand-rolled cigars), instead of having to rebuild years down the road as Durham has done.