Written by Puff Staff

Monday, 16 May 2005

User Rating: / 3

brick and mortarmetropolitan cigars
profilesybor city

Metropolitan Cigars on 7th Avenue, in the historic Ybor City section of Tampa, Florida features one of the world's largest walk-in humidors with a history dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Two wonderful discoveries in cigars were made on the recommendation of owner Sam Capitano.

Metropolitan CigarsMetropolitan Cigars has quite an interesting history that follows the development of Ybor City into the cigar capitol of the world in the early 1900's. The atmosphere of Ybor City demands attention. Brick lined streets overlooked by black wrought iron balconies, shops featuring hand made treasures, and cuisine of Cuban and Italian decent topped off with Cuban coffee and café con leche are everywhere.

At the turning of the 20th Century, Ybor City's population was made up of mostly Spanish, Cuban, and Italian immigrants. Tampa was no more than a mosquito-ridden fishing village of some 700 people when Vicente Martinez Ybor, a cigar manufacturer and Cuban exile, came to Tampa to establish his factory.

Before long, the population of immigrants swelled to 30,000 and contributed to making Tampa the cigar capital of the world. Francisco Capitano and Company were famous manufacturers of "high grade Havana cigars" in the early years. Events leading to the Spanish-American War in 1898 led to increased world attention on this growing metropolis.

The cigar workers of Ybor City responded to Jose Marti's plea for men, money, and arms for the insurgents who opposed Spain's rule over Cuba. In 1898, thousands of U.S. troops arrived in the Tampa staging area as Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders prepared for military operations in the Spanish-American war. At the culmination of the war, the population of Tampa once again thrived.

After numerous successful years in the tobacco business, James Capitano, son of Francisco, decided to take the family in a different direction. In 1933 he opened the Metropolitan Pharmacy--named in honor of the $900 loan taken out of his Metropolitan Life insurance policy. The present Metropolitan Cigar Shop grew directly from the Metropolitan Pharmacy. The shop prospered during the era of World War II when the shipyards at the Port of Tampa operated 24 hours a day.

James Capitano's success was based in part by the expansion of the pharmacy's stock to include lunch boxes for the shipyard workers, whisky and alarm clocks - along with an extensive selection of fine local cigars.

Sam Capitano - Metropolitan Cigars
Sam "Sonny" Capitano, Owner - Metropolitan Cigars

After thriving for half a century, the cigar industry abruptly fell victim to the automated machine-made cigar. Many of the big Ybor City cigar factories closed and only a few small operators kept the art of hand rolling cigars alive. A centuries old craft was nearly lost. However, the Metropolitan Pharmacy remained.

This isn't the end of Metropolitan's story. Fast forward to the 21st century and discover a newly vibrant Ybor City - a renaissance based on its designation as a Historical District. The festive atmosphere of restaurants and clubs attract diners and dancers every evening. Cigars have made their way from the back room in this century too. Sonny Capitano closed the doors of the Metropolitan Pharmacy in 1992 to open a successful cigar shop inside the historic Columbia Restaurant. Five years later, Sonny found himself establishing another shop - the Metropolitan Cigar Shop of today on Seventh Avenue.

I asked Sam for a couple of cigar recommendations. My first request was for an inexpensive bundled smoke of medium body. He directed me to a bundle of 20 - "Cuban Leaf, Rare Connecticut Habano Torpedos" for $24. That's $1.20 per stick! I have to admit, I was skeptical at that low a price that they would be any good, but I bought them anyway. What a pleasant surprise! They were a steal. He then directed me to his own brand of "Don Capitano Maduro Torpedos" for $7.00. They were excellent!

If you are going to be in Tampa, be sure to visit Metropolitan Cigars, 2014 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605. 813-248-3304 or 800-607-3304, and tell them Kevin from Cigar review sent you. Visit their web site at

Read my cigar reviews by following the links below.
Cuban Leaf, Rare Connecticut Habano Torpedos

Don Capitano Maduro Torpedos

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