Four generations and 126 years after its inception, J. C. Newman Cigar Co., is America's oldest family-owned premium cigar factory. This is his story.
The Newman family came to America from Koronc, Hungary, in 1886, and two years later settled in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1895, Julius Caeser Newman, one of five sons, barely 20 years old, opened his own cigar factory and, from then until his death in 1958, he ran it successfully.
Despite the troubled times that he had to live just a few years after creating the factory (the Spanish-American War and World War I), the young businessman found a way to make it prosper: he created his own cigar brands, made investments and managed to consolidate his business.
During the 1920s, JC Newman experienced a great challenge: the growing popularity of cigarettes overcame the habit of smoking cigars and the market fell dramatically. Such was the impact that in 1927, of the 300 cigar makers that had operated in Cleveland until recently, only two remained: J. C. Newman and Grover Mendelsohn, who in order to move forward, partnered and continued to produce under Newman's direction.
Another challenge to overcome was that the cigar market became dominated by industrial production, which meant that cigars became a mass consumer product, with the consequent drop in prices. In order to stay in the market, JC Newman made the decision to switch from artisanal production of cigars to producing them industrially, but even so, after almost 60 years of success, he was about to close his factory as a result of price manipulation by large manufacturers.
At the time, he was faced with the difficult decision to exit the market or find a niche in which to function without pressure from the big manufacturers. The premium cigar market segment was the niche he decided to return to. That decision meant moving the company from Cleveland to Tampa, Florida, called the cigar capital because it was the epicenter of manufacturing, producing more than 300 million units a year at the time. This is how, in 1954, at the age of 78, JC Newman moved to Tampa, from where the company operates today, although it is not its only headquarters.
In 1958, after the death of his founder JC Newman, control of the company was taken by his son Stanford, who had trained for it. Under his leadership, his brands were successfully sold, allowing them to gain prominence and recognition in the US market. During this period, they acquired the well-known brands Cuesta-Rey, White Heather and La Unica, owned until now by Karl Cuesta.
In the early 1960s, the Cuban embargo wiped out the tobacco industry in Tampa, due to the ban on importing the leaves from the island. Although many companies gave up on producing, Stanford, who had just learned about Cameroon tobacco, launched with a bold decision: he decided to produce the Cuesta-Rey # 95 (it was already known before the embargo) using a wrapper from that African country. This cigar was a true revolution in an industry that seemed to perish without Cuban tobacco and was an emblematic premium cigar for decades.
In 1986, almost 30 years after taking over the management of the company, Stanford and his two sons took full control of the factory through the purchase of shares from other members of the family. That same year, they partnered with Carlos Fuente, the renowned manufacturer who had recently moved from Tampa to the Dominican Republic and wanted to close down his machine-made cigar factory in Tampa. This union was one of the many wise and timely decisions that the company has made throughout these 126 years, since competition for the US market by manufacturers from Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, had begun to grow considerably. The agreement was that the manufacture of the cigars would be distributed: Newman would manufacture the machine-rolled cigars, while Fuente would manufacture the hand-rolled cigars.
The J.C. Newman and Arturo Fuente Cigar Company has been very successful and continues to this day as an unsurpassed alliance.