Make us your home page

Naviera Coffee Mills leaving Ybor City after nearly a century there

To Ybor City regulars, the aroma of roasting coffee beans from Naviera Coffee Mills defines the historic district as much as the cigars still hand-rolled here.

But while the coffee still will be sold, up and down the East Coast as well as in California and Chicago, the local aroma soon will disappear.

The company founded in Ybor City in 1921 has outgrown its 6,000-square-foot building at 2012 E Seventh Ave. So, in May, Naviera's operations — the roasting, grinding, packaging and shipping — will leave Ybor City after nearly a century for a 24,000-square-foot center at 5401 E Henry Ave. in East Tampa.

Fourth-generation Naviera owner Danilo Fernandez Jr. said the new home will provide triple the grinding and packaging space of the current location and seven times the coffee bean storage.

The family-operated El Molino Gourmet Coffee Shop adjoining the Seventh Avenue mill closed Dec. 31 and will not reopen in the new location.

"This is good and bad," Fernandez, 49, said. "It's good because even after nearly a century we continue to expand. It's bad because we couldn't find anything in Ybor that suited us and Ybor has always been our home."

Naviera is the third oldest business in Ybor City. The Columbia Restaurant opened in 1905 and La Segunda Bakery in 1915.

Still, Fernandez plans on keeping the Seventh Ave building his family owns, and once operations are running smoothly at the new plant he hopes to re-open the coffee shop and roast a few beans at the mill.

When will that be?

"I don't want to do too many things at once," Fernandez said. "Whenever we are settled in at the new place. We would always like to have a presence in Ybor. It's where we started. Ybor has been good to us."

That's welcome news for Tony LaColla, an Ybor City resident and vice-chairman of the Ybor City Development Corp.

"That smell of their coffee is a part of the fabric of Ybor," LaColla said. "People who live and work here are used to going there for their morning and afternoon coffee. It needs to stay here in some way."

Naviera Coffee Mills was established by Carlos Menendez, a Spanish immigrant who moved to Ybor City when it was cigar capital of the world.

"He was a lousy cigar maker," Fernandez said, chuckling at his great-grandfather's business history. "But he was good at making coffee."

The company was named for the shipping line that took Menendez to Florida as a stowaway. Look closely at the coffee's package and you'll see a depiction of the boat.

Naviera's first location was on 22nd Street in Ybor City. It had a half-pound roaster and a counter, Fernandez said. Some customers picked up their beans there. Others had it delivered via bike by his great grandfather.

As the business grew, it moved to a larger building on a lot at Seventh Avenue and 18th Street where people now park for La Tropicana Cafe.

In 1967, Naviera took over the space on 7th Ave, Ybor City's main drag, and in 1983, Fernandez' mother Millie Fernandez retired from teaching and opened El Molino Coffee Shop there.

"She cried when the shop closed," Fernandez said. "Even if she hasn't gone to bed in Ybor for years, it's been her home. That's why we want to come back."

Fernandez promised to roast enough there again so that the Naviera aroma once again tickles the nostrils of Ybor City.

"I live a block away from where Naviera is now. It's going to be strange to walk outside and not smell their coffee" LaColla said. "I'll miss it."

Contact Paul Guzzo at or (813) 226-3320. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Naviera Coffee Mills leaving Ybor City after nearly a century there 01/06/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 13, 2017 2:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. The FHP trooper behind quota on speeding tickets will retire Sept. 5

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol official's call for troopers to meet ticket quotas has cost him his job.

    Major Mark D. Welch, Troop Commander of Troop H, wrote an email asking his employees that he wants them to write two citations each hour. "This is not a quota," he wrote. His resignation is effective Sept. 5. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband


    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  4. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  5. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location


    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]