YBOR CITY, Fla. – If you’ve ever driven along I-4 near Ybor City, you’ve probably noticed the “Home of Cuesta Rey Cigars” sign.
JC Newman Cigars is America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker.
The building is 111 years old and listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for good reason.
It is the last of Tampa’s original 150 cigar factories still in operation.
Our ABC Action News team toured from start to finish as they craft cigars right here in Ybor City.
Touring three floors gives you an idea of what it takes to put these cigars together.
The workers here use manual machines from 1931 and, in fact, on the third floor you can find men and women still rolling by hand what is considered one of the best cigars.
“We now sit on the third floor called the American Room, where we have three rollers who each make 100 cigars a day. And two of the rollers make a cigar called the American which was the first cigar made in this factory in 1910” , explained Bobby Newman.
Bobby Newman and his brother currently run JC Newman, the company their grandfather started.
“My brother and I are third generation. There are only two of us and now we have the fourth generation coming here. It’s important to leave, to leave something behind, we think, so people can appreciate the art of making cigars for Tampa,” Newman explained.
“The cigar meant a lot to the city of Tampa. And you can imagine the 700 people when Martinez-Ybor came here. And now Tampa is like one of the most popular cities,” Newman said.
A few years ago the business underwent renovations, there is now a museum inside which is free to the public.
In fact, you can do the exact same trick as our team. It costs $15 and takes about 75 minutes.
The Newmans continue to envision a bright future.
“We’re going later this year, 2022, we’re going to start hand cigar making classes. So you don’t have to go to Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic or Honduras. Come to Tampa, you don’t have to go to Tampa. you don’t need a passport to come to Tampa, here in America. And we’ll teach you how to make cigars,” Newman said.