Cigar name is same, but cost has changed Tobacconist: After 70 years, A. Fader & Son brings back the "La Flor de Iraba" cigar to its Baltimore stores.

December 14, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Seventy years after a Water Street factory closed and ended A. Fader & Son's cigar-making days, one of the Baltimore tobacconist's premium cigars is back.

The cigar, called "La Flor de Iraba," returned this week with its colorful label and "AF" logo to A. Fader & Son's six stores.

"I wanted to do this for a long time," Ira B. "Bill" Fader, the grandson of the company's founder, said at his East Baltimore Street shop. "I thought we should have a cigar that has our name on it. I finally took the bull by the horns and did it."

The business was founded by Abraham Fader sometime before 1891. He died in 1934. Bill Fader's father, Ira B. Fader, ran the company until his death in 1959. Bill Fader's been running it since.

About four years ago, Bill Fader started thinking about bringing back the cigar, which was named for Abraham's son and Bill's father. La Flor de means "the flower of." Iraba refers to Ira. B. Sr.

The 7-foot, 175-pound fiberglass Indian outside Fader's East Baltimore Street shop is named Chief Iraba.

Fader said yesterday that he had never known the literal translation of the cigar's name. He said his desire to revive the family company's cigar dovetailed with the growing popularity of cigars. "Imports of handmade cigars are up 60 percent over last year," he said.

If Fader didn't bring back the Iraba cigar, no one else would have. Unlike his grandfather and his father, he isn't sharing the business with another generation -- his three daughters are not in the business. "I wish I could talk them into it," he said.

The Iraba was originally made in Fader's Water Street factory by about two dozen workers in the early 1900s. It was one of the most popular brands, attracting a market of prosperous men over 40.

Production of the cigar and other handmade Havana cigars stopped in the mid-1920s, when machine-made cigars forced the factory's closing.

In Fader's East Baltimore Street shop are some of the original boxes that held the Iraba cigars, and Fader has an Iraba advertisement that was posted on the side of a streetcar.

To make the smooth, mild cigar he wanted, Fader spent two years trying six different blends of tobacco leaves. "I wasn't willing to rush into something and say, just give me a cigar," he said.

The Iraba's revival does not, of course, mean a Fader return to making cigars. The cigar is handmade by Consolidated Cigar Corp., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company, in a Honduras factory.

The cigar is made of Honduran and Dominican long filler and a Dominican binder, wrapped by Connecticut shade-growth tobacco.

Getting them wasn't nearly as easy as running around the corner to a factory. "They were supposed to be here in early fall," Fader said. "But they didn't have the boxes, they didn't have the labels, they didn't have the bands."

Finally, the boxes arrived Wednesday night, making Iraba one of the 175 brands sold in Fader shops. But the boxes weren't full. "I'm glad the customs agents enjoyed my cigars," Fader said.

The first shipment was about 12,000 cigars, and 38,000 are on their way. The Iraba is available in six sizes. Prices range from $3.10 to $4.75 per cigar -- a steep increase from the original's 5 cents. "How times have changed," he said.

Pub Date: 12/14/96

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