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Ybor City loses well-known businessman

He helped run a family pharmacy before opening a cigar store in the neighborhood he loved.

Published July 30, 2003

TAMPA - James "Sonny" Capitano Jr., an Ybor City native and owner of Metropolitan Cigars Inc., has died. He was 68.

Mr. Capitano helped run the family pharmacy, Metropolitan Drugs Inc., until it closed in 1992. Born and raised in Ybor City at a time when the neighborhood bustled with commerce and international residents, Mr. Capitano had a special love for Ybor and always enjoyed spinning his signature red Mercedes down Seventh Avenue.

He was a family man who worked side-by-side with his kin, nearly until his death. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Antoinette Vento Capitano; his mother, Theresa "Tessie" Capitano, four children, numerous grandchildren and other relations.

"He was a wonderful father, a wonderful husband," said his wife, Mrs. Capitano. "He was a hard worker."

His family hailed from Sicily, and a young Sonny at first followed in his father's footsteps by attending pharmaceutical school. He didn't finish his studies, said his son Sam, but still joined the family pharmacy.

Nights, Mr. Capitano would make the rounds, delivering medicine to customers. They would frequently ask him to join them at their dinner tables, and Mr. Capitano would oblige, Sam Capitano said.

After he and Antoinette married, they bought their first house in Temple Terrace, Sam Capitano said. But his father remained an Ybor City fixture. He was saddened by the community's decline in the 1970s, and relished its comeback in the 1990s, even if it attracted much different crowds than those in earlier years.

"He loved to see the kids," on Seventh Avenue, Sam Capitano said. "It was nice to see life there."

After the pharmacy closed in 1992, Mr. Capitano founded Metropolitan Cigars Inc. His family still runs the business, where Sam Capitano works. About eight years ago, entertainer Bill Cosby dropped by the store and hit it off with Mr. Capitano, Sam Capitano said.

"We welcomed him like he was one of the family," Sam Capitano said. Cosby was performing that night at the fairgrounds.

"He sent the limo for us and as many tickets as we needed," Sam Capitano said. The friendship weathered the years, Sam Capitano said, and Cosby is named as one of the honorary pallbearers.

Funeral services will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. Monsignor Laurence Higgins will officiate. Entombment will follow at Garden of Memories Cemetery Mausoleum.

- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at or 813 226-3383.

[Last modified July 30, 2003, 01:33:02]

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