J.C. Newman has announced that it has appointed Aimee Cooks the new vice president and general manager of its El Reloj factory in Tampa, Fla., making her one of a handful of women in the cigar industry to hold such a title.

Cooks joined the company in 1997 as its director of human resources, expanding her role within the company a decade ago to include quality control. Now, she will be responsible for all the factory’s operations, including tobacco fermentation, cigar rolling, aging, and packing. She will also be responsible for the warehousing and shipping of imported J.C. Newman and Arturo Fuente cigars that are distributed from El Reloj.

“Aimee has been an important and trusted member of our family for more than two decades,” said Eric Newman, third-generation owner, and president of J.C. Newman in a press release. “Bobby, Drew, and I could not be happier that she is now leading El Reloj.”

In a press release, the company said it was through her role in human resources in which she worked with every employee in the company that she learned the skill and tradition of handcrafting cigars from the ground up, helping her become a cigar connoisseur and preparing her for this new role.

“I am honored to be named vice president and general manager of El Reloj and thank Eric, Bobby, and Drew for their confidence in me and to Stanford Newman who was my first mentor,” said Cooks via a press release. “I am grateful to other cigar industry colleagues, in particular, the women in our industry whom I have learned from throughout my career. I look forward to continuing working for the Newman family in the industry that I love.”

El Reloj was built in 1910 and is the last operating cigar factory in Tampa, producing more than 60,000 cigars per day between its handmade and hand-operated machine divisions. The factory is also home to a museum, interactive theater, and event space, and hosts guided factory tours on weekdays. There are also plans to open a rolling school in 2022, where cigar enthusiasts can learn to blend and roll their own cigars.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.