“For the first time, we are now opening El Reloj to the public,” Drew Newman, general counsel for J.C. Newman and great-grandson of founder Julius Caeser Newman told Cigar Aficionado. “We opened a new three-level cigar museum, interactive theater, handrolling room and factory store. We offer guided factory tours and later this year will be opening a cigar rolling and blending school.”
Tampa mayor Jane Castor and congresswoman Kathy Castor were both in attendance to cut the ribbon.
El Reloj was originally built in 1910, in the Ybor City section of Tampa. Known then as The Regensburg factory, it was said to be one of the largest cigar factories in the world at the time. “A century ago, Tampa had 150 large cigar factories just like this one that rolled more than 500 million cigars by hand each year,” said Newman.
The factory was purchased by the Newman family in 1953, which had moved from Cleveland. The Newmans first made cigars by hand in the factory, at a time when Ybor was a cigar-rolling hotspot, and later much of the handmade production was removed, as labor prices increased in the United States and most premium cigar production moved offshore. The Newmans continued to make cigars in the facility, but they were made by machine.
For the Newman family, this occasion celebrates Tampa’s long history of cigar making as well as the company’s, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2021.
“We feel that we have a social and moral responsibility to keep rolling cigars in El Reloj open and keep Tampa’s cigarmaking heritage alive for future generations. We are very excited to use El Reloj as a living history museum to tell the story of Ybor City and Tampa’s historic cigar industry,” Newman said. J.C. Newman is the last major cigar manufacturer in Tampa, though there are some small, handmade cigar factories throughout the city.
After the ceremony, the factory’s 1,500-pound bell was rung four times, representing the four generations of the Newman family and company.
The factory will be open for tours Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5:30 pm, and will be priced at $15.