First Female Certified Master Tobacconist
Monday, September 1, 2014
Christina Fontecchio is living proof that the cigar industry is not just for the boys. The 54-year old owner of Arroyo Grande's “The Boss Cigars” broke all barriers recently when she became the first female Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) in the nation.
The CMT is the pinnacle of the certifications offered by Tobacconist University (TU), publisher of an online curriculum and repository of information, whose mission is to "build and project the credibility of the luxury tobacco industry." TU offers certifications for consumers (Certified Consumer Tobacconist), for cigar retail owners (Certified Retail Tobacconist) and for salesforce workers (Certified Salesforce Tobacconist). Receiving the CMT is a prestigious designation that puts her in the stratosphere of the cigar world and is an achievement the longtime Central Coast of California resident is proud of.
There are only 12 Master Tobacconists in the United States, and none are women, said Fontecchio. This fact was a driving force behind her decision to seek the certification. “I set a goal,” she said, “and I went out and I did it.”
Becoming a CMT is no small feat. It requires extensive research and apprenticeship in tobacco fields and factories. Before qualifying to become a CMT, the applicant must first complete one of the other certifications to serve as a base and to prepare them for the CMT apprenticeship. Candidates for the CMT must also publish an original academic work with the Tobacconist University that, among other requirements, helps further the knowledge of the industry. Fontecchio dedicated over a year in her persuit of the designation, travelling to three countries for research and studying with top industry professionals. Part of Fontecchio's internship included learning to roll cigars from Cuban cigar master, Rosa Peña.
Fontecchio's dedication to the cigar industry began in 2007 when her uncle encouraged her to make a profession of her passion. “I am Italian, and my uncle is actually my godfather,” says Fontecchio. “The theme of my store comes from The Godfather and is, 'The Boss.' I felt this was fitting because of my uncle's persuasion.”
For Fontecchio, her shop is more than just a place to buy cigars. Patrons come to listen to her stories, enjoy her humor, and now, share the knowledge of a Certified Master Tobacconist. The Boss cigar shop has become a popular gathering place for a wide variety of enthusiasts, including both men and women, who find the environment an agreeable alternative to the bar scene. Indeed, the shop is a little like being at home, with the conveniences of a retail cigar shop: leather chairs, a range of accessories and a walk-in humidor.
According to the Tobacconist University, Certified Master Tobacconists are teachers, a description that suits Fontecchio. “I'm very passionate about cigars and the history and the making of them. Cigars are part of the traditions of our country and I want to continue to promote the industry and premium tobacco and to teach my customers in the process.”
The honor comes at an opportune time; Fontecchio plays a key role in one of the largest cigar events in California, Crush & Roll West, which takes place yearly in September in Paso Robles. The 6th annual Crush & Roll West will take place on September 5, 6 at the Paso Robles Event Center.
At the event, which draws cigar enthusiasts from all over the country, Fontecchio will be in her element as she meets, greets and engages attendees about the wonderful and artful craft of premium cigars. “We're all about living the good life here on the Central Coast,” said Fontecchio. “I'm thrilled to be sharing what I believe epitomizes that—fine cigars.”
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