The Brangelina of cigars

Janny and Pete kept their relationship secret for a long time, but now it’s out in the open

“I remember clearly that I posted ‘Happy 7th’ last year, so it had to have been in 2010,” Pete says to Janny, with a friendly, bantering start to the interview. “I know, but you missed a year,” Janny counters. “No, it was 2010. I’m sure, because it was the second of the New Orleans trade shows,” he maintains, very convinced. “No, it was 2009. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to remember the first year?” This goes on for a while. “This reminds me of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” says Janny. “When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are seeing a therapist and they can’t agree on anything.” “Well, agree to disagree,” Pete finally says, and Janny looks at him with a loving What the heck? look. “We don’t really talk about this publicly, as you may notice,” she says to me, “but I can tell you we’ve kept it a secret for a long time.” But let’s back up for a moment. The year was 2003, Don Pepín García had just founded My Father together with his wife, María, and two kids, Jaime and Janny. It was a true family affair and the first cigar they ever made in full production was Pete’s Tatuaje Seleccion de Cazador. Since Janny was the only member of the family who spoke English at the time, she was the one Pete would talk to. They became friends and colleagues, and, even looking back, they can’t recall feeling anything other than that. “I remember noticing her blossoming into a beautiful woman, at one point, but it was nothing more than that. Then, at an event I remember telling you that you looked beautiful, at which point Jaime reacted and said, ‘Hey, man, that’s my sister you’re talking about.’ So I said: ‘What do you mean? She’s my sister too.’ Because that’s how I saw her.” “That just feels awkward now,” Janny smiles. Pete concurs, and they share one of many affectionate laughs on this afternoon in My Father’s lounge in Miami. But what Janny treasures is that they were friends first, having spent so much time together, doing events and so on. Which they started doing even more in 2009 – or maybe 2010 – after their separate life paths featured similar situations. “Let’s just say both our lives changed at the same time,” Janny states. The two started dating, and did so for about two years without telling anyone. As they weren’t sure how people would react, they didn’t want to talk about it too much. When traveling, they would get separate rooms. Soon, Janny says, some people figured it out, but it took her brother, Jaime, a while longer. “One time in Mexico, he asked me why we even wasted money on an extra hotel room. But his wife knew all along.” “Can I tell the funny story from Morton’s in Las Vegas?” Pete asks Janny. When she nods, he recounts that My Father had rented a restaurant and Pete was asked to give a speech. “Then I thought, What the heck, I’ll tell everyone. And your mom still didn’t know.” “I think she knew, but she didn’t understand what was happening,” Janny responds. “Jaime’s wife started crying because it was finally out there, and the speech was so beautiful other people were crying too, but my mom had no idea what was going on.”

Janny and Pete where they probably feel most at home, in the factory in Estelí

“We still don’t flash it around,” says Pete. “You’ll be the first to expose this completely.” “We want to keep something for us,” Janny says. “We don’t want to be in social media all the time.” After all, they have a professional relationship to uphold as well. And Pete believes that Janny’s position is worse than his, due to the fact that she is the My Father representative for Tatuaje, his first line of contact to the factory. “You have no idea!” Janny agrees. “I think I’ve learned how to handle it after all these years, but it can be complicated to separate the personal relationship from the professional.” “When there are heated moments and I’m talking to the representative of My Father, I need to be aware that I’m also talking to my partner and at least end the conversation with ‘I’m sorry, I love you,’” Pete explains. “Yeah, right,” Janny says, and they both laugh. “Let’s be clear, not all the conversations end with that. But, really, it’s been hard, and sometimes I felt I was failing.” There were times when they both questioned whether they should continue. Pete says he can be a tough customer, very picky, and if he finds that something is wrong, Janny is the first to hear it. “And he sees eeeeverything,” she laughs. “We just didn’t want to screw anything up. You never know what happens with a romantic relationship, and we had a great relationship as friends.” But the most important relationship is the business aspect, according to Pete. “I don’t want to lose a great factory and they don’t want to lose a great client.” To keep things separate they’ve agreed not to get into each other’s business. “We’ll ask each other for advice, but I won’t tell him what to do with his business, unless he asks,” Janny says. With that said, Pete does have problems separating work from private life. “Sometimes he wakes me up in the middle of the night to tell me he’s sending me an email of what he needs.” “And it’s very official,” laughs Pete, quoting himself: “Janny, please have the factory make up these samples. Thanks. Pete.” “He doesn’t use any ‘Hey, honeys,’ and I reply with a formal, ‘Dear Mr. Johnson,’ signing off with ‘Kind regards. Janny García, My Father Cigars.’” Officially, they live in different cities. Janny lives in Miami, with her parents as neighbors, and down the block from Jaime. “We’re a Latin family. We don’t like to be apart, so we all used to live together. Now we’re in different houses, but there’s no fence between me and my parents.” Pete still lives in Los Angeles. At least that’s what he tells himself. “He lives in Miami now,” Janny says. “He just doesn’t want to admit it.” “I’m in LA maybe five days a month,” Pete replies. “The rest of the time I spend with her, but I hate the weather in Miami, so I don’t want to say I live here.” Wherever they happen to live, it’s clear they live together. “She’s made me grow up,” Pete says. “I used to love parties and going to clubs, but now I’d rather relax at home with her by my side.” “He’s made me a better person,” Janny says. “Don’t copy me.” “What? I’m not copying you.” “I just said that.” “No you didn’t.” “But that’s what I meant.” “He always copies me and I tell him, ‘don’t flip the tortilla.’” “That’s true. She does, because I’ll start spin doctoring it.” This goes on for a while. “She has just made me a better person in general, even with my family and my employees,” Pete concludes. “Look, I love this man,” Janny declares. “He is my life, my everything. That’s all I care about. He made me a new me. And I’m not copying you. You didn’t say it like that. Don’t flip the tortilla.”

Since graduating with an engineering degree in surveying in 2005, Simon Lundh has preferred to follow a profession in journalism. He stumbled upon the cigar world while working for a non-governmental organization in Estelí, Nicaragua, and is now mainly making a living writing about cigars, metal music, tattoos, and travel.


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