We live just across the bay from Tampa, Florida, known affectionately as Cigar City. But truthfully, like most people, we don’t really know much about the history of Tampa and Cigars.
The History of Cigars in Tampa
In 1886 the first cigar producer opened in the Tampa Bay area. Very quickly, hand-rolled cigars became the primary industry in the region. It quickly earned the nicknames ‘Cigar City’ and the ‘Fine Cigar Capital of the World.’
Within a few decades, there were more than 200 local factories. At its peak, Tampa was producing close to 500 million cigars a year. According to J.C Newman, in the early part of the 20th century, there were more cigars rolled with Cuban tobacco in Tampa than in Cuba.
J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
J.C Newman Cigars began in 1895, but not in Tampa. Julius Caesar Newman started rolling cigars in his family’s barn in Cleveland, Ohio. It wasn’t until 1954, at the age of 78, that Newman decided to move his operation and family to Tampa.
J.C. Newman Cigar Co
2701 North 16th Street
Tampa, FL 33605
Today, the Newman family still operates the El Reloj factory in Tampa. Additionally, they operate additional factories in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
While there are some small boutiques in the Tampa Bay area, J.C. Newman is the only full-scale factory still in operation. The family still produces some hand-rolled cigars. However, the largest numbers of cigars are ‘machine-assisted,’ with some machines dating back to the 1930s.
The El Reloj factory, which was initially designed to accommodate nearly 1,000 cigar rollers, was restored for the companies 125th anniversary. The factory, known for its clock tower, also includes a Cigar Museum, a factory store, and an interactive theater.
The event Mark attended also included a tour of their factory and the hand rolling gallery.
Neither of us is a cigar aficionado, but the J.C Newman Cigar factory visit was pretty amazing. It is filled with incredible local history. Absolutely plan a visit when you are in Tampa – the hour and fifteen-minute factory tour is well worth the $15 cost.