Long term cigar smokers should be familiar with the name Hav-A-Tampa and its association with the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Cigars come from tobacco and there are many tobacco plantations in the southern part of the US Eastern seaboard, however, apart from limited on-estate use, plantation owners often saw their tobacco harvest as a cash crop to be sold off in bulk for someone else to carry out the work of turning the tobacco leaves into salable merchandise to be retailed to the public in all the many different forms that we smoke or otherwise consume tobacco.
In 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar manufacturing business from Key West to close by to Tampa to take advantage of the new railway line linking Tampa Port to the National railway system. He could easily bring in tobacco from Cuba and distribute the cigars he made from it on a nationwide basis. He set up virtually a new city to accommodate his production and the considerable number of workers he employed – this became Ybor City. Other cigar making entrepreneurs similarly came into the area and cigar making became Tampa’s main activity to a point where the City became nicknamed as “Cigar City” and known as the “Cigar Capital of the World”.
One of these locators in Tampa hit upon the idea of naming his Company and the cigars it produced after the location. Maybe he should have called it Ybor City Cigars but, presumably did not wish to (and probably couldn’t) use a rival’s name and, thus, Hav-A-Tampa Cigars came into being sometime in 1902. Not only was this a good marketing ploy to associate his cigars with the “Cigar Capital of the World”, the Company was also one of the first to introduce mechanization to cigar making; giving them a tremendous commercial edge from volume production.
They were also credited with introducing the first “wood tipped” cigar which is, effectively, a wooden holder at one end of the cigar which can be held between the smoker’s lips when he draws smoke from the cigar. The tip is comfortable to use, the cigar does not fall off it and the cigar end does not get wet with saliva – all properties that helped to boost sales for Hav-A-Tampa.
Due to a mix of international buy-outs and mergers plus local taxation, Hav-A-Tampa Cigars ceased to be made in Tampa in 2009. However, the multinational owner still produces the brand name cigars in a factory in Puerto Rico.