JC Newman

May 21, 2024

1,000 People Attended J.C. Newman’s Founder’s Day Celebration

Last Saturday, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. celebrated its 129th anniversary by welcoming more than 1,000 visitors to its historic El Reloj cigar factory for its annual Founder’s Day festival. Visitors were able to explore J.C. Newman’s cigar museum, take a behind the scenes tour of the factory, and purchase 5-cent cigars. Exhibitors at the family-friendly festival included Hillsborough County government, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Tampa Baseball Museum, and the Ybor Misfits Microsanctuary.

“We were blown away by the turnout on Saturday,” said fourth generation owner Drew Newman. “So many visitors shared that it was their first time visiting a cigar factory and they were excited to sese how cigars are rolled and learn about Tampa’s cigar heritage.”

A highlight of the day was the inaugural Cuban Sandwich Eating Challenge. Modeled after Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition in Coney Island on July 4, world champion competitive eaters Miki Sudo and Nick Wehry competed against Drew Garabo of 102.5 The Bone to see who can eat the most Cuban Sandwiches in 8 minutes. Wehry won the competition by eating 22 6-inch Cuban sandwiches in 8 minutes.

“There is no better way to celebrate Tampa’s historic cigar tradition than with a cigar and a Cuban sandwich, the traditional lunch of Tampa’s cigar workers,” said fourth generation owner Drew Newman. “A century ago, Tampa’s Ybor City cigar district was a wonderful mixture of languages, cultures, religions, and foods of immigrants from Spain, Cuba, Italy, Germany, and who built Tampa’s famous cigar industry in the 1880s. The Cuban sandwich literally represents the diversity of our community. The Spaniards brought the ham. The Cubans added the pork. The Italians introduced the salami. The Germans included the Swiss cheese and pickles. All of these ingredients are pressed together just like the melting pot that is Ybor City.”

Founded in May 1895, J.C. Newman is the oldest family-owned cigar company in the United States. Its historic El Reloj cigar factory in Tampa is the last traditional cigar factory in the United States. Inside El Reloj, J.C. Newman handcrafts 60,000 cigars per day the same way that it did 100 years ago. In celebration of its 125th anniversary in 2020, the Newman family restored its El Reloj factory and invited the public to visit its cigar museum, tour the factory, take a cigar-rolling class, or attend an event.

“Today, we proudly roll cigars just like my great-grandfather did a century ago,” said Newman. “Our one and only goal is to hand craft cigars the same way for another four generations and 129 years. My family and I grateful to everyone who joined us at Founder’s Day this year, and we look forward to an even bigger and better celebration next year for our company’s 130th anniversary!”

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