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  1. Business

New owner to lay off 112 and close Tampa's Thompson Cigar outlet store and distribution center

Until 2016, Thompson Cigars sent free cigars to American troops abroad for nearly a century. (Times file photo)
Until 2016, Thompson Cigars sent free cigars to American troops abroad for nearly a century. (Times file photo)

TAMPA — The new owner of Thompson Cigar is closing the 104-year-old company's outlet store and distribution center just north of Tampa International Airport and will lay off 112 workers as it consolidates operations to Bethlehem, Pa.

Scandanavian Tobacco Group, a Danish company that bought Thompson Cigar a year ago for $62 million, announced the plan in a layoff notice to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday.

Job eliminations are scheduled to begin on June 29 with the layoff of 82 employees and continue in phases through Dec. 31. The jobs to be eliminated at the Tampa store, located at 5401 Hangar Court, just off Hoover Boulevard, north of W Hillsborough Avenue, include retail and warehouse operations, information technology developers and analysts, and human resources and administrative staff.

Founded in 1915 in Key West, Thompson Cigar has a 15,000-cubic-foot humidor at its outlet store and booked sales of $100 million a year before Scandanavian Tobacco bought it. Until 2016, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tightened federal rules affecting cigars, it was known for donating cigars to American troops overseas — a practice that began in World War I. Founder M.A. Thompson moved the company to Ybor City in 1920 after a hurricane destroyed most of the cigar factories in Key West. In 1929, the company acquired Postal Permit No. 1 in Tampa and within a few years Thompson shipments accounted for a quarter of the city's postal receipts.

"A Tampa institution in a city that used to produce more cigars than anyplace else in the world," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said of Thompson Cigar at a celebration of its centennial anniversary in 2015. "That is our history. That is in our DNA. That is something that we should celebrate every day."

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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