In 1926, founding father Maurits Vandermarliere started manufacturing cigars in the attic above his cigar shop in Moen, Belgium. When demand grew too extensive for the attic production line in 1936, he opened a small cigar factory in Heestert, a nearby village. Maurits might have originally worked as a sexton, but bringing people genuine smoking pleasure proved a very good career move.
Maurits & Angèle had 8 children. Out of those, four sons (Marcel, William, Frans and Guido) and one son-in-law (Raphaël Vercruysse) joined J. Cortès, then called Ets. Vandermarliere NV. In 1965, the youngest son, Guido, came on board. Put in charge of export, he quickly took the company to the next level.
Some key moments were the acquisition of the Neos Cigar and TAF factories in 1975 and 1979 respectively, making the family proud owner of the J. Cortès brand and enabling production to skyrocket. And, last but not least, it was Guido’s idea to make the J. Cortès brand colour blue. Reminiscent of the Cote d’Azur, it was a wink to the jet-setting leisure class and a brilliant move.
With Guido firmly in the driving seat, the company decided to become a global player. In 1986 the family Vandermarliere opened its own bobbin factory, UTP (United Tobacco Processing Ltd), in Katunayake, Sri Lanka. J. Cortès moved its headquarters to Zwevegem-Moen, taking up residency in a top-notch building. The future looked bright with almost 2,000 employees worldwide, different brands sold in 80 countries globally and a strong in-house sales team for the major European countries.
The youngest generation, heralded by Guido’s son Frederik, joined the company. Just like his father, he runs the company with passion, craftsmanship, modesty and a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. But Guido is never far away, always available to offer some good advice or a helping hand.
Born wrapped in tobacco leaves,
Fred continues to fight for the industry in true Cortésien style with his core motto being: Don’t smoke but enjoy!
In 2016 Fredje fell in love with artisanal cigar company Oliva Cigars, based in the US and Nicaragua. A business marriage was set and it turned out to be the party of the year. The Cortès family business now spreads across two continents. Have a peek into the fascinating world of Oliva Cigars, renowned for their handmade cigars.