J.C. Newman Factory Tour and Ybor City – March 2021

For Spring Break this year, I packed up the family and with some close friends, also a BOTL, we headed to the west coast of Florida for a few days. We settled on the Treasure Island area and I knew no trip to Tampa would be complete without a stop at J.C. Newman’s El Reloj and Ybor City.

A portrait of “El Reloj” the J.C. Newman Factory

Close up of the clock mechanism

Newman has kept this sack of “pre-embargo” Cuban leaf to say that there is Cuban tobacco in the factory.

We pulled up to El Reloj a bit early and were treated with an impromptu meeting with Mr. Bobby Newman himself as he arrived to the office with his dogs. Great experience… I was so shocked to see him I forgot to ask for a photo…

The tour started at 9:30am so I worked on my list of cigars to purchase from the gift shop and the wife chose a nice J.C. Newman T-Shirt to add to her collection. There was a nice selection of humidors available and the remodel was stunning.

Carts filled with short filler waiting to be used.
The factory was buzzing with activity and we were taking in the bales of tobacco from the Dominican Republic. It was fun reading the descriptions on the packages throughout the factory. I saw Opus cuff links, Opus signs and various tobaccos.

We got to watch as the J.C. Newman staff operated hundred year old Cigar rolling machines. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and described their purpose, production quantity and lots of history. He also walked us through the production cycle of the cigars as they left the rolling floor and proceeded to banding, cellophane, and finally the packaging department.

Next stop on the tour was a quiet corner of the factory where “The American” was being rolled by a select team of torcedores. Everything about this blend is made in the USA. From the FSG tobacco, the wood used to make the boxes, the paint and even the hardware are all 100% American. Rolled onsite in El Reloj in Ybor City.

After the tour, we headed over to USF for a campus tour then came back to Ybor for lunch and to see Cigar City up close and personal. On a recommendation by our tour guide, he ate at the famous Columbia Restaurant, in operation since 1905.

We visited several cigar shops and took in the sights after lunch. The Fuente sign outside King Corona was a sight to see.

I also stopped by and visited Ybor’s newest attraction, Grand Cathedral Cigars. A fun visit to such a historic party of our beloved pastime. I can’t wait to get back and spend some more time in Ybor in the future.

By: Julian Spring

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