Stories, some true some not, shape who are as individuals and who are as a culture. Think about the bedtime stories you heard as a child. You loved the story and its moral molded your character. We at Tabanero love a good story too. So we thought we would share some tall tales involving tobacco.
The first is an ancient native myth that tells the take tale of how tobacco became a part of people's lives. It begins in a time long ago when there was only one tribe in all the Americas. They lived together following the buffalo wherever they roamed (‘Oh give me a home…’). To a couple was born a girl who grew up to be beautiful, just beautiful, she was the most beautiful. The original language says the she was ‘powerful beautiful.’ We can only speculate what they meant, but one doesn't have to imagine too deeply to understand the power that beauty can wield.
This child in time had children of her, twin boys to be precise. One boy had a light complexion with a head full gold hair. The other boy had a ruddy hue and dark brown hair. Everything was perfect, well except no one knew the identity of the father, including our powerfully beauty lady. Right now you're thinking…- but, no. The legend seems to dismiss that whole train of thought. Instead it tells us that two fathers stepped forward - and again you're thinking…but, no. One pronounced himself to himself to be the father of ruddy boy and the other to be the father of the fair boy.
You are probably thinking that the story is going to become one of those paternity fights, but once again, no. The twin boys legitimately had two different fathers. Umm, just roll with it. The father of the dark haired boy was Earth and he named his son Earth Boy. The father of the golden haired boy was the Night and he named his son Star Boy (you have The Weekend to think about that one).
Over time the boys grew up, of course they did. When they became older they began behaving differently than the others. Earth-Boy stopped going out with the buffalo parties and instead stayed among the reeds and flowers. Star-Boy also stopped following the buffalo. He would sleep during the day and go wandering at night. One night he discovered a mountain no one had ever found before. He climbed it and kept climbing until he almost reached the sky. Then he grew faint and fell down. A silver man appeared to him. It was his Star-Father.
He said, “Son why did you climb up this mountain?”
Star-boy said, “I was trying to reach you.”
The father replied, “My life is spent walking far beyond here and I will not return to this mountain in your lifetime. As sign of my love I’m giving you a great gift that contains the strength and colors of the sunset. Keep this plant with you wherever you go and in the springtime plant it wherever you are. Give great care to this sacred plant and when the stalks are tall harvest them.”
He then plunged his hand into his silver body. White light burst from his chest and he pulled out a tobacco plant.
“Son this plant is sacred. It will make your people strong and free, but in order to partake they must take them in as family.” He handed the tobacco plant to Star-Boy and then he was gone.
Star-Boy returned home where he found Earth-Boy. He told him the story and offered to take him in as family (yeah, we wondered that too – aren’t they already twin brothers?)
Earth-Boy said, “I didn't need to go to the top of a mountain. While you were gone my father came to me also. He taught the secrets ways of the earth and told me to tend all plants save the special star plant. My people will rise with sun and farm the land. Your people will be wanders after the sunset, but we are brothers.”
To seal their bond Earth-Boy made a pipe from rock and wood and Star-Boy prepared the tobacco plant. They smoked the medicine pipe together and pledged their love and declared the peace between them.
Here at Tabanero Cigars we affirm the moral of that story: we may have differences but we are family and there should be love and peace between us. Come on down to Ybor and let’s celebrate what we have in common.
It was an unexpected gift of beauty. It evoked the old adage: ‘take time to smell the flowers.’ How often do I? Am I aware of the beauty around me? Or do I allow the busyness of each day to hold captivate my attention and keep my focus so inside my own thoughts and concerns that I don't see the beauty around me?
Our attention this week was focused upon the draft of players into the National Football League. As I was watching the first round of the draft, while enjoying a Taba Big Daddy (it just seemed appropriate for the occasion) something occurred to me. Most of the world was watching the draft along with me, but at that same moment, the NBA was in middle of their playoffs. How discouraging it must be for them. If all American sports were a family, then Major League Baseball would be the older brother who rebelled a long time ago but now is quietly getting the right thing done, the National League Football would be the baby of the family who is always in trouble but gets all the attention, and the National Basketball Association would be the middle child who as harder as he tries just can't get the attention...Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
Anyway, the opening round was a surprise as the Bears trader only one spot to ensure that they got their man Mitchell Trubisky. Two other teams, the Chiefs, and the Texans traded up as well to garner their signal caller of the future. Were those mistakes? Add a comment and let us know your thoughts. Mistake or mad genius those unlikely picks caused several players to fall down the board.
We here in Tampa were thrilled as O.J. Howard became of those players. We were able to snatch him with the 19th pick. It was completely unexpected that the Alabama standout would be available that far into the draft. The scouts believe that he will a perennial Pro Bowler because he is accomplished not only as a receiver but also as a blocker. He gives Winston a big target as an option that will keep defenders honest in covering Mike Evans and newly acquired DeSean Jackson.
Welcome to Tampa gentlemen: Howard, Evans, Godwin, Beckwith, McNichols, and Tuikolavatu. Come down to Tabanero and enjoy the finest hand made cigars! You find a community of people sharing life as they share a cigar.
We were fortune enough today to be invited by Eric Newman and Bob Newman to a lunch in at the JC Newman factory with people in the Cigar industry that are having the same pain no matter the size of their operation with new Regulation from FDA.
Senator Bill Nelson Litsen to our concerns of deadlines approaching on the different regulations and we haven't had any success changing how drastic the regulations are.
They allowed me 60 seconds to share how these regulations will affect a small industry that I represent in Ybor. Senator Bill Nelson even spoke Spanish with me to show his symphony for our cause. Please in any way you can share our pain with the president of the United States do so. We have to rescue the novel industry of Cigars.
This cigar was given to me at the meeting by Jeff Borysiewicz owner of Corona Cigars
The first was the brainchild of Harvey Wiley who was concerned about the preservatives that were put into food. In 1902 he recruited twelve young men for an experiment. They lived on a designated compound and ate only the menu that he supplied. The twist was that his menu included increasing doses of chemicals that were at that time being used as preservatives. Over time that gang of twelve men (possibly even angry men) became known as the Poison Squad. In 1906 Wiley presented his findings on the effects of those preservatives on those men. That presentation was one piece persuading Congress to form the FDA.
The second piece was a novel that was also published in 1906: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. This novel, although fictional, realistically portrayed the struggles of an immigrant family working in the meatpacking industry of Chicago. One incident in the novel told of how a man fell into the meat grinder and the meat was packaged and sold anyway. Although it was a novel and not a news report, it persuaded public opinion and pressured Congress to be the watchdog guarding public safety in regard to food. That is the FDA’s past and I doubt there is anyone who sees those early years of the FDA as anything but good.
Today the FDA still upholds the role of a consumer watchdog and we don't dispute that most of what they do is good. However, we do question some regulations and restrictions. In particular, we have concerns about the huge net they cast in regard to tobacco. Until recently the agency recognized a distinction between cigarettes and cigars, and we think rightly so.
Now they have placed similar restrictions on cigars. The financial costs of compiling with new regulations and restrictions threaten to bankrupt artisan boutiques like Tabanero Cigars.
If the current regulations go into effect could be a sad and ugly for Ybor City. The future hasn't been written yet and there still may be time to save this beautiful dream. We invite you to be wily like Harvey Wiley and research the differences between our non-additive, all natural, handmade cigars and their cigarettes. We also ask you to stand with us to be a voice for change like Upton Sinclair so together we can preserve our business and our rich heritage.
On March 16th The Washington Post published an article written by Jason Wilson, “For Ybor City in Florida, a Historic Cigar Town Faces a Cloudy Future.” We are going to expound upon the discussion he raised concerning our town and our craft. Jason recognized that we are doing something wonderfully unique in Tampa. “Every minute of every day in Ybor City is a good time for a cigar. in Ybor City, it seems as if — whether perversely or refreshingly — one enters a parallel universe where smoking cigars is still a totally natural part of life.” This parallel universe, as Jason stated, is the rebirth an industry that was as culturally rich as the soil that produces the savory cigars that made Tampa the envy of the globe. Every renaissance is both the reclamation of the nostalgia of the past and the embrace of the hope of future prospects. As we at Tabanero Cigars dedicate ourselves to this rebirth of Tampa as the cigar capital, we harken to the past voices.
“Vicente Martinez Ybor created modern Tampa out of a marshy backwater, and the population grew from about 700 in 1880 to more than 37,000 residents in 1910. The best cigar rollers left Cuba for Tampa by the thousands. Ybor brought an expanded port, paved roads, hundreds of new homes and businesses, streetcars, insurance companies and health clinics. In the early 20th century, Tampa had been the undisputed cigar capital of the world, outproducing even Havana. In its heyday, the city had more than 150 factories, employing about 10,000 workers and rolling more than 500 million cigars each year. Now, beyond the small storefront producers still rolling premium handmade cigars, only one large cigar factory remains.”
Jason has correctly identified the nature of the past cigar industry as well as the challenge of the present. Will Ybor have the large cigar factories that once were the pillars of the industry? Not likely. However, that is not even part of the vision for the renaissance that Tabanero Cigars is helping to forge. We believe that the new cigar industry will be a network of cigar boutiques known for the quality of hand-made cigars and not for the quantity. A similar model might be the growth of ‘craft beer’ as opposed to mass produced beer.
As more people begin to catch the vision for this nascent artisan boutique in Ybor than we will all see something beautiful blossom in Tampa.
Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/for-ybor-city-in-florida-a-historic-cigar-town-faces-a-cloudy-future/2017/03/15/c6de6100-efa8-11e6-9662-6eedf1627882_story.html
“You can do whatever you dream.”
Those were the words my mother spoke to me often.
Just as the golden rays of the rising sun would greet the fertile ground of Cuba, so the words of her encouragement greeted me each morning and planted themselves in my heart. The Cuban soil produced crops of the sweetest sugar and finest tobacco. My heart produced a dream of the truest Old World values and New World optimism.
My name is Yanko Macedo and this is my story. It is a story of how my Cuban heritage and the American Dream are bringing a renaissance of the cigar industry in Tampa by providing you with the finest cigars handmade by greatest artisans who truly love the craft.
I was born in 1978 to a really poor family in the outskirts of Havana. I'm not lucky enough to say my immediate family had farms or factories; we were pretty poor. It is a wondrous thing that dreams can grow in such a situation, but the human heart is fertile ground regardless the circumstances that surround it.
Cuba is world renowned for her cigars. It is not just the tobacco that is produced there, it is also the craft of the artisan who makes the cigar. I was fortunate to witness these truths in person as a young boy. Growing up I was sent to visit a member of my extended family who had a farm in Pinar de Rio where they still grow tobacco today. It was during the summers spent amongst the fields and people of Pinar that a love for the way of the cigar was cultivated in me.
Even as a young boy I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Something that was instrumental in shaping that desire was a movie I saw when I was six or seven. The movie was Baby Boom. The main character starts a business making and selling baby food. She starts it in her home in New York. The business became a big industry. That really caught my attention. Living in Cuba I couldn’t believe there was a country in which you could do things like that. To have a dream, to start in the kitchen of your house and to become such a big industry – this is wonderful. It is amazing. I wanted to see my dreams come true in America.
In school, every time that they ask me, ‘So Yanko, what are you going to do when you finish this or that?” I always said, “I’m going to America!” They would say, “ Ah man, you always say that same thing that you are going to America.”
Well, I finally made it when I was sixteen. The first nine years I wasted in Miami by chasing the wrong dreams. I thought that what I was looking for was money, was riches and all that came with it. It took me nine years and eight different ventures, eight different ideas before I understood that what I was looking for was a purpose. The real dream was to feel that I had a purpose.
I remembered those fields from my youth and the beautiful way the artisans made the cigars. The vision of Tabanero Cigars was born. It is my American dream arising from my Cuban heritage. But how was I going to make my dream, my passion a reality?
One of my early ventures was a restaurant in the heart of Tampa, in Ybor City. I remember that on my breaks between lunch and dinner, I used to walk 7th Avenue. It was full of small boutiques. Every time I'd go into a small shop and try different cigars. I was astonished by the lack of consistency. On Wednesday it would taste like this and then on Friday it would be a different batch and it was a completely different taste. I thought, “Well, it looks like these people are treating their small business like a souvenir shop.”
So, I started to search in order to discover if there was a hand-made brand made here in Tampa. Whenever I asked someone the first word out of their mouths was Arturo Fuente or JC Newman. However, Newman stopped producing hand made cigars in the 50s and switched to machine made. Arturo Fuentes left Tampa in late 70s and moved to Nicaragua. It didn’t work out in Nicaragua and they moved to the Dominican Republic. So there was no hand made brand in Tampa, Florida. That is when I became determined to start a brand to put Tampa back on the map as the premier place for the finest hand-made cigars.
Thus began the adventure of Tabanero Cigars. The first chapter of our journey began by opening a small cigar lounge by the airport in Tampa. It only lasted a year and depleted all my money. It failed. I fell. So, I took a break and started really small with one cigar roller in a little 120 square foot space. After working with me for two weeks my only roller left because he said that I didn’t have enough clients coming through the door for me to pay him. I said to myself, “Well, what do I do now?”
But I was so sure of my dream and I was working so hard on my vision of having a hand made brand in Tampa that no obstacle was going to stop me. The feeling was so strong that God had been lining up every piece that I needed to make the dream a reality. He was putting together every piece to make the Tabanero brand the most famous brand in the world. My vision was clear. When people mention Cuba anywhere in the world, whether in Dubai, Paris, or Chicago they think of quality cigars. That is what I wanted for Tabanero. Wherever a person is located, whenever they think of fine hand-made cigars, they will think of Tampa and Tabanero.
So in that little space I grew to five rollers. I had to work outside because there was not enough room for me to work in the same place as the rollers. I realized that we needed a new location. We moved five times in a short span of time. At one location we were having our best sales when we were presented with a new opportunity. The owner of a new Cuban-themed nightclub approached me and said, “Yanko, would you like to have an opportunity to move to 7th Avenue?” I jumped at the chance. They put us in a corner of the nightclub where the patrons to the club could watch our rollers. We were doing good numbers from that corner and I thought we had finally arrived. But after six months the nightclub failed and someone called to tell me we had to be out by the end of the month. It was a difficult time.
People saw me pack all our stuff into a truck and they thought, “Well, that's the end of Tabanero.” I had to move into a house which we rented in Ybor Heights. It was a disappointing setback. So I prayed more earnestly and worked even harder on my vision. I would come to the four corners in the heart of Ybor each day for an hour and envision our store in this location. Then I would say to God, “I want to be on one of these corners. I don’t know where and I don’t know how. You know we don’t have the money, but God I want to be on one of these four corners.”
I wait patiently and patiently at the little house where we were barely surviving. One day a business owner approached me and said, “I have a place on 22nd across from the Columbia restaurant which has been in Tampa for a hundred and five years.” I said, “Well, that's better than a house!” So we moved over there and begin growing again. But I did not forget about my prayer to God to be located on one of the four corners.
My heart focused upon a storefront on Seventh avenue that was perfect. I called the landlord telling him I wanted to rent. He said, “No.” But I did not give up. I kept calling him. For four months, every week I would call him. At first, he would answer but after the sixth call he got really mad at me and said, “Please don’t call me anymore I said 'no' already.” I kept calling anyway and would leave a message saying, “This is Yanko Macedo and this is your weekly call. Please if you change your mind let me know – this is my number.”
One day I was overwhelmed by my passion for making Tabanero Cigars the best hand-made cigar boutique in the world. I called the landlord and left a voice mail from the bottom of my heart. God knows it was from the bottom of my heart. I said, “Sir, you've been saying “no” for four months, but I really, really beg you that we meet face to face and allow me to share with you how we can infuse that corner with the right clientele. There have been bars at that corner forever and it has never positively affected your surrounding neighbors. Let me share with you how my clientele is going to help make that corner a destination point.” The next day at 8 a.m. I got a phone call from the landlord saying, “Ok Yanko, I want to hear what you have to say. I'll see you at 10 am.”
We met and he believed in our dream. So we are now in that location! I love it; I'm so blessed. Customers say to me, “You have a great location.” I respond, “No I don’t have a great location. I have the best location!” From Tampa, Florida we can save the world. If we are talking about cigars, there is not a location like this in Miami, there is not a location like this in New York, there is no location like this anywhere in the world. I am so blessed. Every time I write my check to the landlord I always put a note in there: “John, Thank You. Thank you for the opportunity. I can't thank you enough.” I do it every month.
When I reflect on where we are and remember from where we came – wow. It is hard to believe that a kid from Havana, a kid with no schooling, could have such an opportunity and through hard work fueled by an unwavering belief in his dream come to this place. Well, that is my dream; this is my story.
Read the full article below and find out more about why we love what we do. The featured Maceda Press Torpedo is named after Tabanero Cigars owner, Yanko Maceda. Find out more about the Maceda Press here.
It's a reassuring feeling of our passion being recognized, and we will once again conquer the cigar industry in Ybor City just like Vicente Martinez Ybor did over 100 years ago! Find out more about our passion here.