He arrived in America with his father, Vincent, and two brothers in 1886. He was still experiencing the pain of losing his mother, Sarah, the year before. His father wanted to start a new life with his sons, and America was the place to do that. They first arrived in New York but soon after that settled in Tampa, knowing there were many jobs to find.
The cigar industry was in its infancy, and many immigrants arrived each day as cigar factories continued to be built. His father, Vincent, was able to eventually open a small grocery store on Lafayette Street (now Kennedy Boulevard).
Antuono attended local schools, but as soon as he was old enough, he secured a job as a cigar maker with the producer of Tampa's first manufactured cigar–Sanchez y Haya. Later, he began working at the Pendas and Alvarez Cigar Factory.
In the early 1900s, after years of making cigars at his workbench, he decided to try opening his own cigar business. He borrowed $150, purchased a bale of tobacco, and convinced his father to let him make cigars in the back of his grocery store. He hired two to three workers, cigar production began, and Antuono was on his way to greatness!
Business was good, and he soon moved into a building across the street, made cigars in the back, and opened a cigar shop in the front. His business was known as "Val's Corner" and was a well-known and respected business for years. He developed his C.H.S. brand of cigars early in his career, and although he made other cigars, his C.H.S. cigars continued to be his best-known and most successful cigar. It was the first Tampa nickel cigar to reach prominence.
His next move took him to a loft at the corner of Franklin and Jackson Streets in downtown Tampa, and when he outgrew that space, he purchased an old West Tampa cigar factory in 1910. It was the Pendas and Alvarez Factory he had worked at as a young man. He was now prosperous enough to grow his business even more.
This same year, he decided to try something new because of labor unrest. He offered his employees interest in the business. He sold stock on credit and easy payments so they might share in the company's profits. They rewarded him by going on strike a short time later. Refusing to be discouraged, Antuono purchased back the stock from his workers.
Antuono had always advocated for an "open shop" in his factory and refused to recognize any labor union. He had for many years stood alone among Tampa cigar manufacturers in adhering to this belief. During the long 1920 general strike, all the city's manufacturers adopted Antuono's long-standing policy, and the union lost the bitter battle. It was a decisive victory in permanently establishing the "open shop" in the cigar industry.
In addition to cigars, Antuono opened a beer and wine distributorship in Tampa called "Val Antuono Distributing Company" which was located at 1310 Spring St. The company produced "Union Beer" and a California Claret wine called, "Valvino" and named after his young grandson. He also made numerous real estate investments in Tampa and Indian Rocks Beach, where he built a lavish home in 1911 that Antuono called "Valview, but the locals called it "The Castle." Antuono's favorite way to relax was taking time out of his busy schedule to fish.
Val Antuono was honored with the "Cavaliere of the Order of Italy," bestowed upon him by King Victor Emmanuel.
ABOUT: Val M. Antuono, an industrialist, capitalist, real estate developer, and most importantly, a cigar manufacturer, was born in the small Italian town of Santa Croce, near Naples, on June 14, 1874. He was twelve when he arrived in the United States in 1886. His father was Vincenzo Maestro Antuono, and his mother was Sarafina Muccaro. His mother died in Italy in 1884 when Antuono was just 11 years old. He spoke both English and Spanish.
He married Jennie Geraci, originally of New Orleans, in Tampa on April 7, 1894. She was the daughter of Domenic and Mary (Lolla) Geraci. Her father was a wholesale produce merchant. Together, they had two children: a son named Fred Maestro Antuono (1895-1951) and a daughter named Mary (later Hampton 1896-1985).
Antuono died at age 66 on April 2, 1941, at his home in Tampa. Noteworthy pallbearers included D. B. McKay and Carl and Angel Cuesta. His wife Jennie died after him at age 78.
He was well known for his small cigar shop, "Val's Corner," and later for his cigar manufacturing company producing the well-known C.H.S. cigars. By 1923, his factory was producing 110,000 cigars per day.
Tampa Historian Tony Pizzo wrote that Val M. Antuono also financed a school for young people to learn how to make cigars.
CIGAR CITY MAGAZINE- JULY/AUGUST 2007
Art & Photography Contributors: Hillsborough County Public Library, Tampa Bay History Center, The Florida State Archives, The Tampa Tribune/Tampa Bay Times, University of South Florida Department of Special Collections, Ybor City Museum Society, private collections and/or writer.
MARILYN L. FIGUEREDO
Marilyn was Cigar City Magazine's co-owner and managing editor until her passing in 2007. Marilyn was born in 1948 in Tampa, where she lived her entire life and, more specifically, her early childhood in Ybor City. After a successful 30-year career at Delta Air Lines, Marilyn embarked on what became her true passion: reinvigorating the colorful, multicultural history of Ybor City through the lives and personal stories of the families and individuals who made up the uniqueness of this Tampa quarter. She did this primarily through Cigar City Magazine, serving on various committees and organizations, and attending cultural events throughout Tampa. Her work alongside her niece Lisa Figueredo, founder and Publisher, was instrumental in producing Cigar City Magazine.
Marilyn's legacy will live forever throughout the pages of Tampa's first historical magazine–CigarCityMagazine
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