Though Ybor City does not bear their names, Ignacio Haya and Serafin Sanchez were every bit as significant to the development of the city as Vincente Martinez Ybor himself. Without the investment of these two lifelong friends, the entire history of the Tampa Bay region -- especially its economic impact and its production of world-famous cigars -- may have been drastically different.
Haya was among one of the first cigar companies to use the “Clear Havana” method of production. This process involved importing raw tobacco from their own fields and assembling the finished product itself in the United States, therefore avoiding high import taxes and fees. While most of the industry started in places such as Key West and Cuba, the move into Ybor City allowed Haya’s product to become highly popular and to generate generous amounts of business for him and his partner, Serafin Sanchez.
Ignacio Haya would frequently travel to the area that would become Ybor City during the winter. After seeing potential for this area to become successful in the cigar business, he invested by purchasing land for future use. Engaging in a little friendly competition with Vicente Martinez Ybor, Haya was determined to produce the first cigar to be manufactured in the city. Due to a worker’s strike at the Ybor factory, as well as the secret of using tobacco which had already been stripped of its stems, Haya was able to beat Ybor in producing the first cigar made in the region, a feat he achieved on April 13, 1886. Because of this, the original Haya factory was given the title of “Factory No. 1”.
Haya’s wish to relocate to a new location in the Spring of 1906 brought about the construction of the large brick building you see today. The tall, vaulted ceilings and empty spaces allowed for many workers to be placed in the same room at once, and its convenient location facilitated the shipment of mass quantities of cigars leaving the factory every day.
A variety of factors ultimately brought the end of the successful Haya business. A smear campaign, orchestrated by the makers of smaller, cheaper, and ultimately inferior machine-rolled cigars, accused the makers of finer cigars of using human saliva as a key ingredient in the production of their cigars. This, along with a slew of other factors such the rise in popularity of cigarettes and the oncoming massive economic devastation of the Great Depression, caused Haya’s factory to decline by the 1930s and 1940s.
The building itself has now been repurposed into a storage facility for the moving company U-Haul. Prominently displayed off I-4, the Haya factory building has become synonymous with Ybor City’s cigar-making heritage.