The Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory is a massive brick structure at 2808 N. 16th Street, Ybor City. The factory’s fire-preventative water tower looms like a time-worn megalith for I-4 interstate travelers and beckons to them, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. The factory is a relic of Ybor city’s cigar-rolling heyday. The Cuban tobacco embargo in 1960 spelled its slow decline and it was fully abandoned in 1982. Still, the factory is the closest neighbor to the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.’s “El Reloj” factory. Thus, the Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory is the closest to Cigar City’s rebirth.
Perfecto Garcia Bros. Factory Beginnings
The story of the Garcia brothers who founded the Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory mirrors the stories of Ybor city’s other great tobacco tycoons, such as Vicente Ybor, Ignacio Haya, Angel Cuesta, Arturo Fuente, and J.C. Newman. Oviedo Garcia immigrated to Chicago from Havana in 1895 and opened his first cigar shop in 1905 with the help of his three brothers. Many more cigar shops followed.
Once the Garcia brothers established a cigar empire in the Windy City, they sought a supply of Tampan cigars rolled from the finest Cuban tobaccos.
Life in Tampa
Another parallel to the great Tobacconists of Ybor, their first Tampa factory venture burned down sometime between 1905 and 1908. After temporarily using the Sanchez & Haya Co.’s Factory #1 (“La Flor de Sanchez y Haya”), the Garcia brothers built the 16th Street Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory in 1914. The factory opened its doors in 1917 and employed 1,200 people.
The tobacco used in the Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory’s hand-rolled cigars was a mélange of Garcia family farm tobacco from Florida and Oliva Tobacco Co. tobacco imported from Cuba. Their three best-selling brands were Perfecto Garcia, La Amita, and Perla Del Mar.
Changes to the Factory
Sadly, the Perfecto Garcia Bros. were not immune to the depredations of the cigar industry during the 20th Century. The Cuban embargo of 1960, mechanization, increased wages, cigar/tobacco taxes, low demand, and collectivization forced the Garcia brothers to sell their factory to the Havano Cigar Co. The new owners brought in American Machine and Foundry (AMF) hand-assisted rolling machines to remain competitive with a daily production rate of 60,000 cigars, but even this proved insufficient. The factory was sold again to United States Tobacco who abandoned it in 1982, relocating operations to modern factories in Pennsylvania.
Rebirth on the Horizon for Perfecto Factory
Although dormant, the Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory is a Romanesque Revival brick wonder and a beautiful reminder of Ybor City’s heritage. The factory is three stories high and built east to west, a common ergonomic feature before the mass use of electrical lighting and air conditioning. The property has changed hands many times but the newest owners aspire to make the factory into a co-op space, such as the Oxford Exchange or the Tampa Armature Works. The J.C. Newman Cigar Co.’s factory renovations and new cigar history experience tour working in conjunction with the newest incarnation of the Perfecto Garcia Bros. factory would be a welcome Renaissance for North Ybor.
About Holden Rasmussen
Holden Rasmussen is a Museum Associate at the “El Reloj” Factory Museum. His duties include conservation, collection management, gift shop sales, and docent work. He is a new college graduate who has worked and volunteered at museums and archival facilities in different parts of the country. Holden enjoys the American outdoors, French electronic music, Yugoslav militaria, Japanese comics, and Cameroon tobacco.
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