U.S. Cigar Manufacturing
Thriving in Ybor City, Florida
Once known as the cigar capital of the world, Ybor City's cigar production has made a steady decrease since the early 20th century.
Is it time for a comeback?
In Tampa's prime cigar production, the city had more than 150 factories which employed more than 10,000 workers and produced over 500 million cigars annually. The city's cigar factories consisted mostly of Cubans and Hispanics. However, as cigarette production began to grow, the demand for cigars lessened. This factor combined with the Great Depression had a huge impact on Ybor's cigar industry. As cigar factories mechanized or went out of business, former workers moved away from the city. Years later, in the 1960's Ybor City underwent an urban renewal project, leveling seventy acres of the historic city. The city remained in ruins because of lack of federal aid.
Years later Ybor began its comeback. The city's obvious destruction prompted locals and civic organizations to preserve the remaining historical buildings and heritage.
Ybor City's ethnic heritage is still alive and intact. Around 3,200 people live in Ybor today, compared to more than 20,000 in the early 20th century. The city is a popular tourist destination and has become known especially for its nightlife. However, cigar production never quite picked back up. Only one factory remains other than small, storefront cigar producers. Walking down Seventh Avenue, you'll be sure to see a couple cigar shops with employees hand rolling cigars in the windows. One of which is Tabanero Cigars.
Tabanero Cigars wants to help bring back some of the glory days of Tampa's cigar industry and is dedicated to its rebirth. Tabanero believes in quality over quantity. They recognize that Tampa's most productive era featured large factories, but they envision an industry comprised of cigar boutiques. This network of boutiques will be known for the quality and precision of their cigars.
The man who crafted the idea of Tabanero Cigars is a Cuban descendant, Yanko Maceda. Yanko grew up in the outskirts of Havana and always dreamed of moving to America and fulfilling his American dream. At 16 he finally immigrated to the U.S., and years later he has found fulfillment in crafting Cuban cigars. Macedo's dream is to help make Tampa the cigar capital of the world once again.
Maceda's vision is already well on the way. His thriving brand has the best corner in Ybor City.
It is unlikely that Tampa will feature the large cigar factories that once were, but maybe Maceda is right; highly-unique, quality boutiques will be more successful in bringing Ybor back into the industry.