The memory of a historic cigar company continues to burn at the Shovel City Drinkery
Derek Mullins loves Marion’s story. In fact, he just loves Marion.
And that love for all things local has spilled over into the business he and his wife, Andrea, own and operate, Shovel City Drinkery. The upscale pub has been open since September 23, 2020 at 181 N. Main St. in Marion.
The building that houses the 3,000 square foot space occupied by Shovel City has been home to local bars since at least the 1950s, such as Frank’s Wunderbar, Randy’s Wunderbar and, more recently, Circa. Mullins said the building also served as a harness store in the 1910s, a Salvation Army in the 1920s, and a doctor’s office at one time.
Mullins described Shovel City Drinkery as “a craft beer bar, a wine bar, a bourbon bar, a cocktail bar, and those are the things we hold dear and want to share with the people of Marion.”
Shovel City Drinkery’s interior design intentionally features many decorations that highlight Marion’s past as well as the history of the building it is housed in, Mullins explained.
“If you look here, we’re doing a lot of Marion history,” he said. “On this side of the bar we have the original dealer’s cigarette license from 1955 for this establishment. We found an old picture of the Marion Jaycees and a customer came to tell us that his father was a member of the Marion Jaycees. So I thought that was pretty cool.
“We have an old photo of the Whitey’s (Tavern) building next door. It used to be the John F. Lust and Sons Manufacturing and Confectioners. We have an old bag of flour from the Marion Grain and Supply Company. We love the story of Marion.”
Mullins’ love of history is also evidenced by his decision to offer cigars made by JC Newman Cigar Co. to his customers who appreciate a quality stogie. JC Newman Cigar Co. was founded in 1895 in Cleveland by entrepreneur Julius Caesar Newman. Based in Ohio for several decades, the company moved its headquarters to the historic Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida in the early 1950s. Marion was the site of one of its factories.
Mullins said he sells JC Newman Brickhouse Double Connecticut Toro cigars at the Shovel City Drinkery.
“It has a quadruple cap and you get a lot of flavor out of it,” he said, noting that the cap is a piece of wrapper placed at the head or top of the cigar to secure the wrapper. “Most cigars have one capsule, maybe two capsules. Cuba is known to use triple capsules. But this is the first one I’ve had that has a quadruple capsule. It’s a very good cigar.”
According to historian Holden Rasmussen of JC Newman Cigar Co., the Marion factory opened on August 15, 1919 and was located at 280 N. Main St. The building is home to The Folks Creative Printers, Inc., which purchased the former cigar factory in 1962.
Mullins said he was unaware of this fact until he visited the JC Newman Cigar Co. in Tampa.
“My boyfriend and I went to Florida for spring break and we went to the JC Newman factory,” he said. “This is the oldest continuously operating family cigar factory. It is a fourth generation company that still makes cigars to this day. It was interesting when we went there, we saw an exhibit on Marion, Ohio, and they had a factory here. I thought, Marion, Ohio, that’s crazy.
In his blog post about the Marion factory on the JC Newman Cigar Co. website, Rasmussen wrote that Marion Area Chamber of Commerce Commissioner Josiah Bindley and then U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding “helped attract JC Newman to Marion”. Bindley and Harding were friends with JC Newman and hoped that one of his cigar factories in Marion would boost the local labor market.
Rasmussen further wrote that the successful opening and operation of the factory in Marion helped spur JC Newman Cigar Co.’s growth, allowing it to expand beyond its Cleveland headquarters and factories. in Ohio. This paved the way for an eventual 1927 merger with the Mendelsohn Cigar Co. and the company’s relocation to Tampa in the 1950s.
While few remnants of the interior of the old cigar factory exist in the building on North Main Street, some parts of the building have that vintage feel, particularly a loading dock door on the north side of the building which is shown in a photograph from the early 1900s. Folks president Christine Dickson said some doors in the basement may be original to the building or at least date from when the cigar factory was located there.
“I knew Folks Printers was in an old cigar factory, but it was really interesting to see that (JC Newman Cigar Co.) had a whole exhibit in their museum about it,” Mullins said. “They said it’s one of the only JC Newman cigar factories still standing. The others have been demolished or whatever. So even though this one has been remodeled, it’s their original building, this which is pretty cool.
“Knowing that we still have an old JC Newman factory building in Marion was pretty impressive to me. I see historical markers everywhere, I thought this building should at least be worthy of a plaque or something to designate that the factory was here.”
For more information about JC Newman Cigar Co., visit the company’s website www.jcnewman.com.
Learn more about Shovel City Drinkery by visiting their Facebook page.
Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter