Cigar City History


In 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor sailed from Key West to Tampa to move his cigar factory to the area now known as Ybor City. Soon, many other cigar makers followed, transforming Tampa from a village with fewer than 1,000 residents into the city that it is today, and making Tampa known as the “Cigar Capital of the World.”

In its heyday in the 1930s, Tampa had over 150 cigar factories.  Today, the J.C. Newman cigar factory in Ybor City is the lone survivor. J.C. Newman is a four-generation, 119-year-old family-owned company. We have persevered through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban Embargo, competition from low-wage Caribbean countries, massive federal excise tax increases, and plethora of smoking bans – but FDA’s proposed regulations would be the nail on the coffin for our Tampa factory and our 130 employees.

J.C. Newman Cigar Factory

Built in 1910, J.C. Newman’s Tampa factory is nicknamed “El Reloj” (the clock) for its distinctive clock tower. Visiting our famous cigar factory is like walking back in time. Inside, we have been rolling cigars the same way for over 75 years, by using vintage, hand-operated cigar machines built in the 1930s. The cigars that we make in Tampa have an all-natural tobacco leaf wrapper and filler, are packaged in beautiful boxes and bundles, and are sold to adults in specialty cigar stores.

As shown here, the Newman family has taken great care to preserve this historical building. Beautifully restored, it sits along brick paved streets in the historic district of Ybor City.

 el-reloj SBS

Other famous, historic cigar factories in Tampa include:

Perfecto Garcia and Brothers Cigar Factory

The Perfecto Garcia cigar factory was built, according to the property appraiser, in 1917. However, the sign at the top of this factory says 1914. During its peak years of production, the company employed over 1,200 people working the fields, hand-rolling the cigars, and working in their stores. This factory is two blocks from the historic Cuesta-Rey cigar factory and is abandoned.

Perfecto Garcia

Vicente Guerra Cigar Company

This factory was built in 1899 for the Vicente Guerra Cigar Company, who at the time were also the owners of another cigar factory just down the street. From 1910 into the 1940′s it was occupied by V. Guerra, Diaz and Co. owned by Joseph Guerra.

During the 1940′s it was shared by Tampa Tiger Cigars, Haas Cigar company and John Marrian Cigars. As with Hookers Power Plant, its close proximity to the Air Force base proved useful and served as a naval barracks and training facility during WWII. In the 1970′s, it was occupied by the V. Guerrieri Cigar Company.

Today this beautiful piece of history lies abandoned. A faded sign in the front of the building offers a long forgotten promise to restore this building for use as apartment rentals.

V.Guerra V.Guerrieri Cigar Factory SBS

Balbin Cigar Factory

This factory was purchased by Samuel L. Davis & Co in 1904. On October 2, 1910, the factory suffered major damage due to arson. In 1911, the factory was purchased by Balbin Brothers. In 1915, Balbin Bros Co. was acquired by Tampa Cuba Cigar Co and became a subsidiary. Although it is hard to see in this photograph, the round circle at the top of the building has the letter "B" against a blue background.

Other cigar makers that occupied this building include Tampa Cuba Cigar Company, Gradiaz Annis, Sanchez y Haya and Diaz Havana.

This building is currently vacant and deteriorating.

Balbin-Cigar Factory

 Samuel L. Davis Cigar Factory

The 49,300 square foot Samuel L. Davis cigar factory was built in 1905. Notice the tall tower on this factory. Only two other factories have towers and both of them are clock towers. Unfortunately, this factory is currently abandoned and in bad repair.

 SamuelLDavis Cigar Co