El Reloj is the name of J.C. Newman's cigar factory as well as its signature clock tower, which has been a beacon for Tampa’s cigar industry for more than a century.
They say that no family business lasts beyond the third generation, but don’t tell that to the Newmans. Now in its fourth generation, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. turned 125 years old last year, and it’s been in the family since day one. To celebrate more than a century in business, the Newmans decided to convert more of their headquarters into museum space, as well as turn the top floor of the old brick building into a rolling gallery where a few skilled cigarmakers produce a brand called The American entirely by hand.
The storied structure is located in the heart of Tampa, and is a beautifully appointed institution dedicated to the art and craft of cigarmaking. It’s also an interactive exhibition that chronicles the Newman legacy and tells their story in full.
The majority of the cigar industry may have abandoned Tampa long ago, but the Newmans never left, and they continue to call Cigar City their home. Cigar fan or not, no trip to Tampa is complete without a visit. And yes, you’re allowed to smoke.
The fully restored lobby of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. is as welcoming as it is handsome. Notice the ghost sign of Judge Wright on the brick wall.
Like something from the pages of Jules Verne, this is the original mechanism that was installed in 1910 to power the clock tower—and it still works. The building was originally owned by cigarmaker Regensburg & Sons before the Newmans moved in during the 1950s.
A museum exhibit and timeline that chronicles the early days of J.C. Newman. Located on the ground floor, the exhibition offers a fascinating look at the history and evolution of the company.
For many years, this space on the top floor was used for storage, but now it’s a full-fledged rolling gallery where cigarmakers produce a brand called The American. It’s a new cigar brand made entirely of tobaccos grown in the United States.
Third-generation owner and company president Eric Newman can be seen in the background as cigar rollers begin the morning’s work.
Finished batches of freshly-rolled cigars sit atop a rolling table before being carted off to the aging room.
J.C. Newman also makes about 12 million cigars a year by machine, seen here on the second floor of El Reloj. These marvelous machines are a true industrial throwback, some of them made by AMF before the Second World War.
Unlike high-speed, automated machinery, these antique cigarmaking machines require a lot of human interaction. A machinist places natural tobacco leaf wrapper on the metal plate where it is die cut and ready for the next step.
Old machines like this were made to last, but can be difficult to maintain, as few people have the mechanical knowledge and nobody makes parts for them anymore.
A bit of morning light shines on the wall outside the rolling room where The Americans are made.