Cuesta & Rey
    History Collection  


Cuesta Rey Cigar, Co. (Ybor)




Angel Cuesta




Peregrino Rey



Cigar makers 1924




Women boxing cigars 1947



Cuesta-Rey & Co. (W.T.)







Cuesta - Rey

By the beginning of 1896, forty-two companies, mostly from Key West , had relocated to West Tampa . The rush to take advantage of the lucrative bonuses offered by the Macfarlane Investment Company and the West Tampa Land Improvement Company was evident in the number of factories under construction and the mushrooming growth of workers houses that surrounded them.

It was on April 1896, that the Cuesta Rey Cigar, Company, employing 100 workers, was opening operations in Ybor City . The formation of this company marked the realization of the dreams of two men, Mr. Angel Cuesta and Mr. Peregrino Rey , whose concepts of how a cigar company should be run included the novel ideas of international marketing, quality control, and workers motivation and recognition. The end result was that the Cuesta-Rey Company managed to survive the hard times and to prosper in the good ones. And it was all due to the remarkable personalities of the firm's founders. But how are they ?,

__Mr. Angel Cuesta, was born in the small village of Panes , Spain , on December 21, 1858. He attended school for two years; at the age of fifteen while living in Cuba , became apprentice in a cigar factory. Soon after that left Cuba to find work un the factories in America . For some years, he practices the cigar maker's trade in Key West , New York , Chicago and Atlanta . In 1883 with some savings decide to open a small factory in Atlanta , where he worked side by side with his workers to produce quality cigars. His business flourished and soon young Cuesta was considered to be an up-and-cormer in booming Atlanta . His stature as a successful businessman made him a very eligible bachelor, and he soon married Miss. Marie Binder.

__Was 1893 when Cuesta moved his factory to Port Tampa to be closer to the supply of Cuban tobacco and to the flow of skilled craftsmen arriving to Tampa daily. A few months later, he merged his company with the Ballard Cigar, Company to form the Cuesta-Ballard Company. They moved a few months later to a spacious three-story factory in Ybor City . But two years later destiny will prepare bigger things.

__Mr. Peregrino Rey, was born in Galicias , Spain in 1863, young Rey immigrated to Cuba in 1876, as a lad of thirteen, he became an apprentice cigar maker. And in 1879, he moved to Atlanta to work for Angel Cuesta. The duo Cuesta-Rey was form, first with a very strong friendship and individual respect and second as persistence businessmen. Their partnership continued until the growing cigar industry in Tampa lured Cuesta away. Cuesta opened a factory in Port Tampa and Rey stayed in Atlanta .

__Within a few years Cuesta closed that adventure and Rey joined him in West Tampa to form a new cigar business called Cuesta, Rey y Compania. Located in a building at ( 2015) Howard Avenue & Beech Street, (see photo) that eventually became one of Tampa 's largest producers of hand made cigars. Their main labels were Ponce de Leon, La Favorita De Tampa, La Flor de Cuesta Rey and Unica. Later they add the labels El Dedicado and El Aclo.

__The high quality control, standardized production & quality to consumers were the main concern of the company. In 1905 a program to recognize and reward employees & workers at a banquet was established. In 1913, the Cuesta Rey Company began a worldwide advertising campaign that features many of their workers and the Tampa region.

__But it was in 1914, that Cuesta sent a very large special sample of company cigars to the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, and 5,000 cigars, along with 30 cases of cigarettes, to Spain Army troops stationed in Morroco. The gift had several positive benefits for the company.

__First, the Cuesta Rey Cigar, Company was named the official Purveyor to the Court of Spain. Only one in the U.S. with this honor.

__Second, Cuesta and King Alfonzo XIII became close friends, and third, both Cuesta and Rey were awarded the Cross of Isabella La Catolica, in recognition of their generosity.

__In 1913 the company acquired the labels, Rey Del Mundo and Flor the Allones. At its peak the Cuesta-Rey Cigar, Company employed more than 1,000 workers in its various operation factories in Ybor City (see top photo) and West Tampa .

__With the years the company leadership gradually passed to sons of the founders as the original partners grew older. Each of their sons under when a rigorous training program for years under the tutelage of their fathers. Each of them began at the button of the corporate ladder in their correspondence departments. The training and students were so good that the transfer of responsibilities did not diminish the firm's commitments to the original principles upon which the company was based.

_ Mr. Peregrino Rey , died at the age of 57, in Baltimore on August 11, 1920, after a long period of ill health. The city recognize his contribution when it named in 1916, a Howard Avenue park after him. Rey was involved on city politics in West Tampa , in 1900 was elected to a council seat and mayor in 1909.

_Mr. Angel Cuesta suffered a serious stroke on February 6, 1926, and, for a time it appeared that he would die. But was on July 30, 1936, at the age of 77, that pneumonia claimed him as a victim. A few days later and on his honor, the day of the funeral, all cigar factories in Tampa were closed.

The company continued its prosperous existence until 1959, when it was bought by J. Newman and the Standard Cigar, Company. The original building in West Tampa damaged by fire was demolished in 1989.

This brought an end to the decade's long association of company, community and workers who were second and third generation employees from the same families…


Ref. Synopsis: Ciudad de Cigars by Armando Mendez - Tampa Bay History Center Documents, Tampa Tribune, and JC Newman, Co. - Researcher: W. Reyes, Ph.D.

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