Meet the Cigar City Boss Lady!
The owner of Cigar City talks about her love of cigars, motorcycles and the Cigar Heritage Festival!
In the sixties, Lisa Figueredo did not spend her summer days at daycare, but instead, she spent them in the home of her great-grandparents, Mercedes and Ulysses Henriquez who she affectionately calls, Abuela Nena & Abeulo Lee.
“I can remember waking up in the morning to the noise of clanking pans and the smell of soffrito (a combination of green peppers, onions & garlic cooked in olive oil). As I walked into the kitchen, there on the table sat my empty cup waiting for me to arrive. My Abuela Nena would give me a big hug as she poured steaming milk into my cup and added just a bit of Cuban coffee and two tablespoons of sugar.”
“Then the screen door to the kitchen would squeak and a giant of a man, my Abeulo Lee, would come in from outside!” Figueredo said he had to duck his head a bit to walk through the frame of the door. Dressed in his Lee overalls and hat with a white t-shirt that made him look every bit like a railroad conductor, he bent over to kiss her good morning. Then with just one swoop of his arm, he picked her up as King Kong did with Fay Wray. “Good morning,” he would say followed by a short sermon explaining how God loved her.
She would then intensely watch as he handed his wife a bag filled with leaf tobacco. She would go to the refrigerator and take out a baby jar filled with a milky gluey liquid. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she selected the quality tobacco leaves from the bag then stretched it flat on the table and started removing the stem from the middle of the leaf. More leaves would be used, but this time the leaves were bunched in her hand to make the filler. Next, the bunch would be placed on the wrapper leaf, and the rolling would begin as she formed the long cylinder that became the cigar. Then she dipped her fingers lightly into the baby jar using the gluey liquid to finish the tip. The leftover tobacco leaf at the end of the cigar was twisted and cut off.
Figueredo remembers her great-grandfather kept 4-5 small boxes behind the seat of his big old Ford truck. In each box were the cigars made by his wife. All rolled on the glass kitchen table with the smell of soffrito, Cuban coffee and the curiosity of a little brown eyed girl! “Those were my days of summer as a child,” said Figueredo. “I remember being so curious about what it must feel like to smoke one of those cigars! The smell of that burning cigar was like perfume to my soul, and I could not wait to grow up to smoke my first cigar!”
In 1976 she would move to West Tampa next to the legendary Carlos Fuente, owner of the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company. There is where she met her childhood friends Carlito, Cynthia, and Richard Fuente. “Wow, what a great family, my family! I remember always wanting to go to their house because they were the only family on the block that had an in-ground pool,” laughs Figueredo. “Anna and Carlos would always make sure we had lots to eat during those pool parties, either grilling hotdogs or getting us pizza, it’s a great part of my childhood I will never forget,” says Figueredo. Recently, the legendary Don Carlos Fuente past away. “It has been a great loss for the family, the cigar industry and myself.” Figueredo reminisces about the days of going over and smoking cigars with “The Man” who was as big as life in her eyes. “He was a giant in my eyes, and I had the privilege to know him and seek advice from him when I needed it the most,” said Figueredo. “I remember every time I walked out of that house after sitting with him for hours smoking my favorite cigar, the Casa Cuba, just feeling so inspired! For that, I will forever be thankful for the time I shared with him!” “I miss him every day,” says Figueredo.
Cigars aren’t Figueredo’s only passion! “Oh yeah motorcycles, I just love everything about them. The way they hug the road on the turns, the smell of the gas and oil, the sound they make and the power of freedom you feel while riding a bike!” Back in 1975, she was introduced to her little brother’s YZ80. Learning some off-road biking, Figueredo turned to the streets in the 1980s with her first street bike, a 1970 Indian Velo and then in the 1980s with a Harley-Davidson 1340 Wide Glide. “My Dad, I would say is the biggest lover of bikes in our family, he collects them like coins,” she laughs. “He lives in Georgia, and it’s a great place to ride!” My Dad is 79, and he still rides so I have some years to catch up,” laughs Figueredo.
Figueredo possesses another passion, Tampa history! Thinking back on all those great days spent with her family, she thought to herself, “Gosh, I wonder if people would like reading about these types of stories?” That’s when I came up with the idea of the magazine,” says Figueredo. Cigar City Magazine is the only publication on Tampa’s rich past. The first issue was released back in 2005 and is the vision of Figueredo, who feels passionately about her blended culture, history, and family. “We all have a responsibility to keep these stories alive by passing them on to our children,” says Figueredo. “By sharing the past, our children will come to know their roots and recognize the foundation of love and family they can carry with them into the future. They will become the voices of our ancestors!”
Then in 2015, the Cigar Heritage Festival came knocking at her door. This festival, first introduced by Tampa’s famous radio personality, Jack Harris of WFLA was back in 1996. Harris wanted to bring back the cigar festival from its heyday of the 1930s cigar festival called Viva La Verbena. This four-day event included a cigar making contest, a cigar factory open house where members of the community were invited to tour local factories, and a daytime parade that drew over 16,000 people. It was a celebration put on by the cigar industry to thank its workers and the Tampa community.
From 1996 -2013 the Cigar Heritage Festival has passed through a few hands. It became evident that these organizations did not have the staff to continue with such a huge event. This is where Cigar City Magazine’s event making expertise stepped in! It’s no secret the magazine is known for providing some of the best events in Tampa like the Tampa Mafia Tours, Cigars & Stars, and Bada Bing: A Killer Event just to name a few. So back in 2015, they decided to step in to save this much-wanted cigar festival. The event was a success, but they needed to add a few more things to make it bigger and better. In 2016 they did just that!
In 2016, they knocked the Cigar Heritage Festival (also known as the Ybor City Cigar Festival) outta the park with nearly 10,000 people in attendance making it the largest attended cigar festival in the world! With the leading cigar industry families, Arturo Fuente Cigar Company and J.C. Newman Cigar Company as presenting sponsors, this helped drive -in cigar aficionados, Ybor supporters, local families, history enthusiasts, and out-of-town visitors from all around the world! The cigar festival carried the “BEST” cigars from around the world, and cigar aficionados could find the most famous and the rarest cigars along with some “Boutique” cigars that they had never experienced!
This year, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles is stepping in for the first time, and they’re bringing with them some of their latest models to the festival! “Yes, I’m so excited to have Harley-Davidson Motorcycles as one of our sponsors this year! I feel like a kid, and Christmas is right around the corner! This year’s Cigar Heritage Festival is going to be fantastic, and I just hope all your readers can make it! They are not going to want to miss this one!” said Figueredo.
For more information about the Cigar Heritage Festival, please visit www.YborCityCigarFestival.com