When we encounter difficulties and face crises, our first instinct can often be of self-preservation — to put first our needs and sense of safety above anything else. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the COVID-19 crisis began to spread more rapidly and governments all over the world were shutting down non-essential businesses, many employers fired their workers in order to curtail costs and protect their businesses. In fact, in order to guarantee themselves in uncertain times, this is exactly what several factories did in Nicaragua, but ACE Prime’s Tabacalera Pichardo in Esteli, Nicaragua, was not one among them.
Tabacalera Pichardo always recognized how imperative it was that our company empower our workers; provide them with opportunity, healthcare, fair wages, and education; and elevate the infrastructure and local economy of Esteli. It’s our belief that when we are making some of the world’s finest cigars, supporting our employees in every way is non-negotiable.
“Even when we were just coming up with the idea of what would become ACE Prime, we were certain that this brand would have to be disruptive and impactful,” Luciano Meirelles, ACE Prime co-founder, recalled, “Our work could not be merely about profit and products, about the lives we could change with our cigars–both in our factory and in the Esteli community and throughout the world.” The flavor of passion that characterizes every blend of ours can be traced back to the love found in every careful hand that makes our cigars. With this in mind, we’ve been working tirelessly on a sustainable and healthy solution for our workers and the factory.
During the less few weeks, we’ve implemented some changes, one of which is the weekly distribution of some food items to our workers on top of their hourly wages. Our team is giving each worker rice, beans, eggs, chicken, and other basic items in order to assure our employees are taken care of. Though Esteli has not seen many, if any, coronavirus cases, we have still chosen to only open our factory part-time, in order to protect our employees.
As our team was distributing the food items to our workers, Oscar, who works as a general assistant and driver at our factory, decided to donate his basket of food to another family in need. We were in awe of his generosity at a time of such uncertainty, where so many others would have taken and stored the food items instead of giving them away. “The beauty of seeing Oscar being selfless lies in how generosity breeds generosity. As we capacitate our employees and empower them, there’s so much good that rises to the surface,” Meirelles stated.
In Nicaragua much like other developing countries, COVID-19 has been widening the gap between rich and poor, shedding light on the extent of inequality and poverty that dominates its vulnerable communities. With this pandemic, the difference between the wealthy and the poor has become survival — where access to food, healthcare, hygiene, and infrastructure is limited and coveted.
Our hope as a company and factory is to always elevate our employees by providing fair wages and any additional necessary support, especially in times of crisis. “We have never been ignorant of the poverty that plagues Nicaragua, and we have always been eager to best assist our workers by going beyond wages and seeing what kind of impact we could have on the community. Now with COVID-19, it’s clear that helping our workers is indispensable,” Meirelles said.
Our team at ACE Prime was faced with an impossible situation during the last couple of months in trying to decide how we would proceed in the midst of a global pandemic. Though we did not have a clear cut plan for dealing with the current public health crisis, our first conviction was that we would do everything we could in order to support our workers and the community of Esteli.
If you’re interested in our efforts and work at our factory, Tabacalera Pichardo, in Esteli, Nicaragua, please don’t hesitate to reach out in order to find out more and become involved in our work there. As a company, ACE Prime recognizes the importance of every retailer that carries our products and of every consumer who loves our cigars as much as we do, and we are thankful for retailers and consumers both for investing in and supporting our brand. ACE Prime’s business will always be improving lives through our products, by supporting our workers and giving these artisans the opportunity to translate passion into incredible taste.
When asked about the future of ACE Prime, Luciano Meirelles did not hesitate to answer, “It’s full of uncertainty right now, but our commitment to making great cigars and improving lives and vulnerable communities remains steadfast.”