New owners of old Santaella Cigar factory in West Tampa have big plans for future

Mike Hettrich isn’t a big believer in fate but he’s pretty sure fate has something to with his recent acquisition of the historic Santaella Cigar factory on Armenia Avenue just north of Interstate 275 in West Tampa.

The Chicagoan and his partner, Phil Farley, purchased the century-old building about six months ago, immediately after year-long negotiations on an Ybor City cigar factory fell through. 

“This one came on the market that same day,” Hettrich says. They immediately made an offer and closed less than a month later for $3.2 million. They’ve rebranded the venue Ampersand Cooperative.

Hettrich, who is a carpenter by trade, has been overseeing the roughly $2.7 million worth of construction and renovations on the property. Additions include new windows, a paved parking lot, and a steel and glass entryway that flows into the old brick building. “We're trying to create the juxtaposition of clean and modern with the old,” Hettrich says. 

Any owner would be remiss in ignoring the 114-year-old building’s historic past. Hettrich says he and Farley are going out of their way to maintain it’s character and repurpose its materials. 

“Anything we're pulling out we're reusing,” Hettrich says. “Our insurance company made us take down the block wall around the building because it was falling into the sidewalk. We took it down surgically and then cleaned all the stones and piled them up where the walls are to rebuild with the same stone.”

Santaellla has also built a reputation as an artist’s commune, where creatives can find affordable rent. Perhaps most importantly, the new owners say they won’t raise rents on any existing tenants.  

Tenants in the 60,000-square-foot building include Spanish fashion designer Marisu Miranda Moda, 3 Daughters Brewing, and Dabble, a tech company that connects people with local events and classes. Around three dozen artists also rent studio space. Hettrich says a 6,000-square-foot event space will be used for private and community events, as well as shows and classrooms for its artists.
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Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives.