MIAMI - When you step into the iconic James Hotel on Miami Beach, you step back in time
The hotel lobby is full of sculptures, wall ornaments, unique tiles, and pictures
"My grandfather had a lot of passion. He felt everything would add something" said Nick Fusco.
Working on his Master's degree in accounting, Fusco, 23, said his grandparents Maria and Gonzalo Torre bought the hotel in 1989, after a long journey to America across four countries escaping communism.
He said his earliest memories are with his grandparents at the hotel and frequent family vacations together along with weekend barbecues
"This was my grandfather's second home. He loved to talk to people and make people happy. That was his goal in life," said Fusco.
But life changed in an instant.
Maria and Gonzalo Torre died when their Surfside home, Champlain Towers South, collapsed a year ago
They were among the 98 people who died in the disaster.
"I've been able to come to terms with it because I believe they are in a better place," said Fusco. "I can think of their memories. A lot of times I cry but I can smile, they are looking down on me and my family."
Last Christmas, Fusco made a uniquely designed box of cigars for his mother as a way to honor the memory of his grandparents.
Cigars were special to his grandfather.
"A big part of our bonding and life lessons were over a cigar," said Fusco.
But the present to his mother turned into something bigger and lasting.
"She broke down in tears. She wanted me to share their story with people. That was my objective," said Fusco.
So for the past year, Fusco has devoted nearly all his time and energy to producing El Mago cigars. He said the cigars are made from Cuban seeds and produced in Nicaragua
On the cover is a picture of his grandparents from back in Cuba and the James Hotel in its early days. He explained that the Mago name is a combination of Ma for Maria, his grandmother, and 'go' for his grandfather, Gonzalo.
"Mago means the wizard and they created magic. Their life story gives me strength," said Fusco.
Each box has a code that allows the buyer to learn more about the family's history.
For more information, go to elmagocigars.com.
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