Arroyo Grande resident becomes first female master tobacconist

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Christina Fontecchio

Christina Fontecchio

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 in the nation.

It is a prestigious designation that puts her in the stratosphere of the cigar world, and an achievement the longtime Central Coast resident is proud of. There are only 12 Master Tobacconists in the United States, and none are women. This, says Fontecchio, 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 Certified Master Tobacconist is no small feat. It requires extensive research and apprenticeship in tobacco fields and factories. Candidates 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.

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 is The Godfather, ‘The Boss,’ and I felt this was fitting because of my uncle’s persuasion.” Indeed, Fontecchio’s store is more than just a place to buy cigars.

Patrons come to listen to Fontecchio’s stories, enjoy her humor, and now, share the knowledge of a Certified Master Tobacconist. It 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.

According to the Tobacconist University, Certified Master Tobacconists are teachers, a description that suits Fontecchio.“I thought of my customers,” she said recently. “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.”

The honor comes at a opportune time; Fontecchio plays a key role in one of the largest cigar events in the country, Crush & Roll West, which took place September 5 and 6 in Paso Robles.

At the event, which draws cigar enthusiasts from all over the country, Fontecchio was in her element. “We’re all about living the good life here on the Central Coast,” says Fontecchio, “I’m thrilled to be sharing what I believe epitomises that—fine cigars.”

For more information on the event, visit


About the Author