TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Tampa once had more than 200 cigar factories. Now, only about 20 remain -- and some of those are falling down.
One of the largest, the Perfecto Garcia factory on North 16th Street, is in bad shape, but Robert Holsopple believes he can put it back together.
"It is a big job," admitted Holsopple, who has been in the construction business since 1975, "One I never thought I'd be doing after the other cigar factory."
The other factory is the one he restored several years ago. It’s now the world headquarters of Arturo Fuente Cigars in Ybor City.
That restoration took six years. The company never disclosed the cost, but the project won numerous awards.
The Perfecto factory is much larger.
"The size of it is enormous, It's pushing 12,000 square feet on each floor," offered Holsopple, who showed us all four floors, including a basement where vintage cigar cans and an antique safe are yet to be explored.
Holsopple plans to replace all the wooden beams with steel.
The project doesn't have a price tag or a timetable.
"The one reason I agreed to do this is they kind of turned me loose," laughed the 72-year-old. “A lot of the young people moving in don't know anything about cigar factories.”
The new owner, Charlie Hettinger, plans to help change that.
"We purchased part of Tampa's history to be able to bring it back to life and let people enjoy it again,” Hettinger explained.
He says the project will help revitalize the surrounding V.M. Ybor neighborhood by providing offices, retail, and event space.