Scenes from J.C. Newman Cigar Co.'s Founder's Day celebration

J.C. Newman Cigar Company hosted its fourth annual Founder's Day block party celebration on Saturday, May 18th at its 114-year-old El Reloj cigar factory and adjacent Cigar Workers Park.

Founded in 1895 by Julius Caeser Newman, J.C. Newman is the oldest family-owned cigar maker in America. Today, it is led by the third and fourth generation of family ownership, President Eric Newman, his brother, Executive Vice President Bobby Newman, and Eric's son, Drew Newman, who serves as general counsel.

"As a child growing up in this building, I would get lost for hours exploring all the nooks and crannies," Drew Newman says of El Reloj. "There was nothing better than finding old cigar boxes and other treasures. And now, my four-year-old son, William, can do the same."

J.C. Newman rolls premium cigars by hand and hand-operated antique cigar rolling machines.

The company, Ybor City's last operating cigar factory, was initially founded in Cleveland 129 years ago. In 1954, J.C. Newman relocated to Ybor City and El Reloj. The company prides itself on recognizing and honoring the culture of cigar-making and the history of Ybor City.

Kimberly DeFalcoThe cigar lounge at J.C. Newman Cigar Co.'s Founder's Day celebrationThe Founder’s Day celebration featured food trucks, vendors, live entertainment, guided factory tours, cigar lounges and representatives from the Ybor City Baseball Museum, Ybor Misfits Microsanctuary and MOSI.

This year’s event added a new wrinkle - a Cuban sandwich eating contest featuring the "Power Couple of Competitive Eating," Miki Sudo and Nick Wehry.

"The Cuban sandwich represents the overall diversity and melting pot that is Ybor City," Drew Newman says. "What better way to celebrate that than with the multi-ethnic Cuban sandwich?"

Tampa Bay area residents, fitness enthusiasts and competitive eaters Sudo and Wehry met in the Manhattan hotel The Maxwell New York City before the 2018 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. They are ranked among the top competitive eaters worldwide.

Along with their two-year-old son, Max, whom they named after the hotel where they met, the couple travels for competitions and appearances year-round but maintains a home life of healthy living, exercise and nutritious eating. Kimberly DeFalcoThis year's J.C. Newman Cigar Co.'s Founder's Day celebration added a Cuban sandwich eating contest featuring the "Power Couple of Competitive Eating," Tampa Bay's own Nick Wehry and Miki Sudo.

During the Cuban sandwich eating contest, Sudo and Wehry competed against each other as The Bone (102.5) radio personality Drew Garabo playfully joined the competition.

Wehry won the competition by eating 22 Cuban sandwiches in eight minutes, edging out Sudo’s total of 18.5 sandwiches. 

In July, the couple is headed to the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, where Sudo won her ninth title in 2023. She also holds the women’s world record of 48.5 hot dogs, which she set at the 2020 Nathan’s competition.

For more information, go to JC Newman Cigar Co and The Hungry Couple.
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Read more articles by Kimberly DeFalco.