Avanti – Quality Cigars for Over a Century

Tony Suraci Sr., left, and plant manager Andrew Rickard inspecting cigars in Avanti’s Scranton, PA facility.

Tony Suraci Sr., left, and plant manager Andrew Rickard inspecting cigars in Avanti’s Scranton, PA facility.

Avanti Cigars has a lot to celebrate as of late. In 2012, the company celebrated over 100 years of creating quality cigars in the US. Last year, Avanti moved to its new state-of-the-art facility in Scranton, Pennsylvania and is focusing on updating all aspects of the business and bringing the time-honored company to the present day.

2012 also marked new leadership at Avanti, as Tom Karam took over the helm. Tom is married to Flora Ann Keating, granddaughter of the company’s founder, Anthony Suraci. Mr. Karam is focused on building a new business and purchasing new machinery as he looks towards the next 100 years. He is implementing new foil packaging designed to attract new smokers and new outlets.

Today, Avanti is the last cigar manufacturer in America. All materials used in Avanti cigars are sourced in the United States. The company has also garnered a celebrity clientele, and has a private label brand for Francis Ford Coppola, sold exclusively at his wineries. Avanti strives to maintain the high standards set by the Suraci family over a century ago.

The joy of smoking rolled tobacco leaves began in the Americas hundreds of years ago. The custom was introduced to Europeans after Christopher Columbus’s return from his first voyage in 1492.

During the early 1900s Italian cigars, also known as Toscani (small hand rolled cigars made in Tuscany), were manufactured with U.S. imported dark-fire tobacco leaves. In Italy this cigar was closely associated with the Italian beef industry (a symbol of the Italian “cowboy”). With the Risorgimento, Italy’s cultural upswing (circa 1848) leading up to the Unification, the cigar became a symbol of the resurgence of Italian national pride.

Like Christopher Columbus, the Suraci family from the small village of Podagorni (Reggio di Calabria) arrived on American shores in search of a better life. Dominic Suraci docked in New York in 1900, followed by his brothers Anthony in 1903 and Frank in 1906. Dominic promptly began English language lessons, utilizing his new skill as a way to make a living by being a “bridge” between Italian immigrants and American English speakers.

Although in their pockets they had very little money, the brothers shared a common passion – cigars. Seeking to improve their quality of life and having a keen sense for business, the Suraci brothers created a small company to supply the immigrants with Toscani Cigars. Thus the State Leaf Company was founded.

In 1925 the family was able to purchase the Parodi Cigar Company of New York, which became their primary brand name. The Parodis were a wealthy Northern Italian family that built a cigar factory in Jersey City. Because of this acquisition, the Suracis officially changed their business name to “Parodi.”

After the Second World War, the family bought out the De Nobili Cigar Company. By 1952, the Suraci family had cornered 75 percent of the market for Italian-style cigars. The Petri brand, a family-owned wine and cigar company on the West Coast, was their only competitor.

In 1954, Anthony Suraci Sr., an Annapolis graduate and Korean War veteran, joined the family business. At that time, all of their cigars were still hand rolled. Growing product demand and an attempt by the Petri Company to acquire a larger market share through mass production, led the Suraci family to stop handrolling.

With the advent of World War II, the Alien Property Custodian Act was in place, whereby the Federal Government confiscated all foreign enemy holdings. De Nobili’s American holdings were quickly confiscated. Once full diplomatic relations were restored with Italy, the Suracis purchased the De Nobili Company in 1952 from the Alien Properties Board.

In 1973 the Suracis wanted to reach out to third generation Italian Americans by creating the AVANTI cigar. A flashier, more exciting package was created, while the cigar itself was flavored with an anisette tip. While the AVANTI (translated in Italian to mean “forward”) was launched with only a hope of mild success, the brand succeeded quite well.  It was so successful in fact that when the company reorganized in 1982, they changed the name to the Avanti Cigar Company, which became the umbrella under which to market all of their other brands.

Although the anti-smoking campaign and laws restricting smoking locations have altered the habit of cigar smokers, the company is thriving. In fact, Avanti has a strong, accepted customer base in the U.S., which has not been subject to a lot of change over the past few years. It is not surprising that the Suraci family has consistently produced a century’s worth of quality cigars.

As part of the influx of the 20th century immigrants who were forced to leave Italy due to poverty and inability to improve their lives, the Suraci family has come a long way from the small village of Podagorni.

Avanti cigars recently added a fifth flavor to its already enticing line of cigars. Café Mocha joins flavors like anisette and vanilla, which are enjoyed not only for their taste but also their alluring aroma. Visit your local tobacco store or www.avanticigar.com to purchase one of Avanti’s 100% USA made cigars, a tradition for over a century.

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