A piece of West Tampa history will soon meet the wrecking ball. The West Tampa Convention Center used to be the headquarters of a civic club started by cigar rollers. The building will soon be bulldozed and rebuilt as a Dollar General.
The building was a second home to hundreds of immigrants and the headquarters of one of the oldest clubs in Tampa. Centro Español de Tampa has had three locations over its 120 year history, downsizing with each move.
Now, they're saying goodbye to the West Tampa Convention Center, which was their home base of nearly 25 years.
"Picking up the pen to sign the final documents, that pen was very heavy. It was very hard to do and sad," said Centro Español de Tampa member Joe Caltagirone.
In it's hay-day, the group had nearly 6,000 members. Most were cigar rollers. Now they're down to 60, causing them to sell off their landmark location off Columbus Drive.
"There was no way we could maintain it," member Angel Rañon said Monday.
Soon, the building will be demolished and turned into a Dollar General.
"We look for places where we can offer customers an easy and convenient shopping choice. This location was a great fit for Dollar General," spokesperson Crystal Ghassemi said Monday.
Centro members say it's the end of an era.
"It's a sad thing for the whole community," Caltagirone said.
Once complete, the site will mark the 11th Dollar General location in Tampa. It's one of 635 new stores the franchise plans to open by the end of this year.
Centro Español de Tampa has temporarily relocated to an office off Armenia Avenue.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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