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News: Keeping Up With What Once Made Tampa ‘Cigar City’

6 Jan 2020

Whether you’re a habitué of Tampa’s historic Ybor City, or a new visitor eager to explore, it helps to have a guide.

And if you’re interested in the iconic buildings that once housed bustling cigar factories, there’s no one better to help plan your tour that Tom Ufer, who’s probably forgotten more about those old structures than most of us will ever know.

Tom writes now about cigars and the Tampa Bay cigar scene on his blog, The Cigar Smoking Man. In the past, he also produced a terrific Baedeker about the Ybor City factories while he was writing for Examiner.com. But when that site shut down a few years ago, his work went with it.

Now, though, Tom tells me he’s been able to recreate the posts and is starting to publish them again online.

The old factories that helped make Tampa “Cigar City” seem to always be of interest.

Just last month, for instance, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about the more than 100-year-old Y. Pendes & Alvarez Cigar Factory going up for sale for $4.5 million. While it is one of the fewer than two-dozen remaining factory buildings left from Tampa’s cigar-making prime, it doesn’t have protection under a local preservation ordinance.

Also, work continues on renovations at J.C. Newman’s illustrious El Reloj factory—the last one operating in Tampa—in time to celebrate its 110th anniversary this year by making it a cigar-lover’s destination.

“In addition to an expanded museum, our public areas will also include a retail store, hand-rolling area, and many interactive experiences,” the company says. “Between our self-guided and docent-led tour options, you will be able to peek into the past to see how our family persevered through the years, learn more about the industry which built Tampa, and experience the artistry of cigar making first hand.”

So, before your next visit to Ybor City, where you’ll find a number of shops in a cigar-friendly atmosphere, check out Tom’s guide and enjoy a little history along with a smoke.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

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