It was in a dinghy named El Dorado that a father, hopeful for a life of freedom, hauled two teenage sons out of Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s westernmost province, in the fall of 1966. They carried with them drinking water, pork chunks and an undying optimism for what lied ahead.
Half a year later, on June 27, 1967, Manuel Capó and his boys opened a 4,000-square-foot furniture showroom on Calle Ocho, naming it after the vessel that carried them to a new life. That same day, Capó’s wife and four of his other sons arrived in Miami through the Freedom Flights.
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“We didn’t sell anything” on opening day, recalled Luis Capó, now 69 and president of El Dorado’s board of directors. Still, “the family was together,” added his brother Carlos, the company’s chief purchasing officer.
El Dorado pays it forward
The family has made it a mission to help those in need through its milestone anniversary campaigns. It started 10 years ago, when El Dorado provided 40 Florida families in need each with $5,000 worth of furniture.
It became a tradition, popping up every five years as a way to underscore the company’s appreciation of the communities it serves. The people who receive help are spread from Miami to Fort Myers, wherever El Dorado has a presence.
Now, with its 50th anniversary, El Dorado is upping the ante, spending $250,000 to outfit 50 local families with household goods and services.
“Sometimes we even help them decorate and paint the homes,” Luis Capó said. “Their need just breaks your heart.”
A family affair
Today, six of Manuel Capó’s sons steer the multimillion-dollar enterprise that their father founded. Do they argue?
“We all want the same thing, but we may differ in tactics,” Luis Capó said. “We get together once a week to discuss business. [After that,] we go to eat as brothers, no animosity between us.”
Each of the siblings leads a specific part of the business: Along with Luis as president and Carlos as CPO, Pedro is chief operating officer, Julio is treasurer, Jesus Rene is chief information officer, and Roberto is chief marketing officer. They also share larger family responsibilities, taking care of parents, insurance policies, medical issues and financial matters.
When Manuel Capó died in 2009 at age 83, his family business had already entered its third generation. At least six of his grandchildren are actively engaged in El Dorado, from managing the distribution and advertising departments to scoping out new furniture trends and inspecting the company’s dozen-plus showrooms.
The younger generation learns from the previous one while injecting new concepts, keeping things fresh. “We listen to their ideas,” Luis Capó said. “The important thing is to keep true to the value and culture.”
Consistency is also an important lesson, Carlos Capó noted, saying it provides a steady compass to those coming up in El Dorado; the same compass that helped their father find his way to Miami. Manuel Capó left his sons with a mantra that has guided them in business and in family matters: “Try to do your best.”