Being in Las Vegas in July is always a delight especially when it is a balmy 116 degrees f (or 46.6 C) and nearly no humidity (8%). It makes for all cigars to taste great. Not so much. But the annual Premium Cigar Association’s trade show kicked off Saturday morning with a breakfast and election of the new officers for the board of directors, then it was onto the trade show floor.
Upon entering, the first thing you notice is the new booth for J.C. Newman Cigar Company. The company along with the Fuentes have had the same setup since 2001. This year though, the company unveiled a one of a kind booth complete with a cigar museum.
The booth is a one quarter scale model of the Newman’s factory in Tampa, El Reloj or the clock in Spanish due to the clock tower. When it opened in 1910 it was the largest cigar factory in the world. Drew Newman—the family’s fourth generation cigar maker—says the whole model is made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and will be recycled at the end of the trade show. This is a one-time only booth! There are 2000 different pieces without any glue or staples, all interlocking together to create the replica. Instead of showcasing the company’s products for this year’s show instead the Newman’s are honoring the family’s history beginning with founder J.C. Newman who founded the company in Cleveland, Ohio in 1895.
Walking into the replica building, not through the stairs but from the back, you see some of the museum pieces the family has accumulated over its 126 years. Holden Rasmussen—the company’s and quite possibly the industry’s only company historian—says there are old cigar boxes and a few other artifacts from the Newman’s legacy since 1895. Rasmussen says this and much more are located in the museum housed in actual El Reloj in the Ybor City section of Tampa. Drew says the company now is offering tours of the museum and the factory every day and even offers cigar rolling classes. The factory makes Newman’s All-American cigar, which uses only U-S tobacco, labels and boxes and now is rolling other cigars by hand in Tampa to show how important the cigar industry and its heritage is to Tampa and the United States.
Elsewhere on the show floor, you notice the wide aisles and the smaller footprint for the show itself compared to years past. Part of the reason for the contracted space is that in 2019 the big four companies—Altadis, General Cigar, Davidoff and Drew Estate/Swisher – pulled out of the then IPCPR. While the trade show floor was much smaller without the big four, there are many new companies getting attention from the retail buyers. There are no estimates on show attendees, but many booths were quite active with buyers looking for specials and new products.
Many of the cigar makers offered those specials during the first few hours of the show, making the booth jammed packed. But there still are many show-only cigars being offered. The show continues through Tuesday morning.