TAMPA — During the heyday of the cigar industry, Perfecto Garcia and his brothers employed more than 1,000 people in their fields, their stores and in the big brick factory on 16th Street where workers rolled the finest Cuban tobacco into namesake cigars.
The factory closed in 1982, victim of the Cuban embargo, mechanization, consolidation and changing consumer tastes. But the century-old Perfecto Garcia building with distinctive water tower still stands and is now on the market — awaiting a new lease on life.
"I think the city is amenable to working with anybody that wants to repurpose, it," broker Gerard Crum said Wednesday about the three-story building priced at $3.3 million. "It's unique; it's got that water tower that is noticeable from I-4."
Of the 200 or so Tampa cigar factories listed in old city records, only 25 survive. While some remain vacant, others have been reborn as offices, apartments, the Lions Eye Institute and the West Tampa campus of Argosy University. In November, a factory on North Howard Avenue sold for $1.4 million to a partnership with plans to convert it into a boutique hotel.
Located at 2808 N. 16th St., the former Perfecto Garcia factory is east of the junction of 1-275 and 1-4 and several blocks north of Historic Ybor. The 47,000-square-foot building is zoned for commercial use but comes with four vacant and cleared parcels that could be used for residences.
While the building has new windows and its brick facade remains largely intact, repurposing could require a costly interior makeover.
"I think somebody is going to have to spend some money on some serious renovations," Crum said.
Since the Garcia brothers left the scene, the factory they built in 1914 has had numerous owners. Among them was a Clearwater Beach man who envisioned turning the top floor into a luxurious bachelor pad to take advantage of the sweeping views of Tampa.
In 2002, he sold the building for $325,000 to Perfecto Garcia LLC of Hilton Head, S.C. , which then assembled other parcels. Whatever plans it had for the property apparently were dashed by the financial crash.
J.C. Newman — whose factory with clock tower is visible from the Perfecto Garcia building — is the only large factory still making cigars in Tampa. Numerous smaller shops in Ybor City and West Tampa hand roll their own cigars.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin[email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.